Ilse Zaal: ‘The energy transition takes more than 16,000 FTEs’

The shortage on the labor market is an urgent theme that we must all put our shoulders to the wheel. That is also what Board member Ilse Zaal, deputy of the province of Noord-Holland responsible for, among other things, the economy, inclusive education and an inclusive labor market.

Why is the more agile education and labor market also an urgent theme from a provincial perspective?

“We see major shortages in the labor market throughout North Holland. All companies struggle to find good personnel, but technical and technological personnel in particular are difficult to find. This has consequences for our business climate. With the recently established Regional Development Agency InWest As a society, we invest a lot of money in the regional and circular economy of North Holland. But we don’t just need money: we also need people. We have calculated that we need more than 16,000 FTE per year for the energy transition in our province alone. If we as a province want to remain an interesting place for companies, we must work on an agile education and labor market.”

What would such an education and labor market look like?

“It has sufficient adaptive capacity to respond to major transitions. The corona crisis is an example of this, but the energy transition and our transition to a circular economy also demand something from us. There is already a mismatch between supply and demand in the labor market and if we do nothing, it will only get worse. As far as I am concerned, we must therefore work on a labor market that is also and more focused on skills and therefore think less in terms of diplomas, certificates and titles. That already starts in education, which is why I advocate separation between the different levels. If you ask me, we can throw the whole division between secondary and higher education over the fence. The division contributes to the fact that people find it very important that their child goes to HAVO or VWO, while as a society we should value a VMBO and MBO education just as highly.”

Which hurdles do we have to remove for that agile education and labor market?

“We still think much too sectorally, just look at collective labor agreements and subsidy schemes. There are many good counters, schemes and initiatives that deal with a small part of the labor market or education. But we have to get to, sorry for the bobo word, intersectoral mobility. My ideal is that there will soon be one counter where you can go as a working or job seeker: whether you are on benefits, work in a shrinking sector or have just obtained your diploma.”

What can you, as a province, mean in this respect?

“Together with the other provinces, we are bringing this subject to the attention of the central government. We also mention the fragmentation of all kinds of regulations at different ministries and we argue for a clear structure around this. I also see an important role for us in bringing together partners from the province. We have a booster function. It Work and Development Manifesto 2030 is an example of that. We took the initiative for this, but it is everyone’s manifesto. More than 200 stakeholders from the province have already joined. The manifesto is a vision on the labor market in 2030 and contains very concrete actions to achieve that labor market. Various partners from the business community are working on these actions in development coalitions. One of those coalitions is, for example, concerned with campus building, another with technology promotion and a third with inclusiveness.”

What initiatives contribute to a flexible education and labor market?

“Using our Manifesto, we are working on campus formation in the province. Techport in the IJmond is a good example of this. Here, Tata Steel, SMEs, MBO and HBO are working on the manufacturing industry of the future. Here, companies are working on making the industry greener and with education we are investigating which skills are needed for this. In the Techport Innovation Center, companies make test setups of innovations with students, and HBO and MBO students each work together from their own role. This creates a strong network. These types of campuses will be set up in several places in the province. The promotion of technology also remains important. I recently attended the PET festival in Haarlem, where children from groups 7 and 8 were introduced to the seven worlds of technology. Companies and educational institutions showed there that the technical world is much more interesting than children and their parents often think and that a job in technology offers good future prospects. Many people think that technical professions are only about jobs where you get dirty hands, but that is absolutely not the case. The technical sector is very broad. This concerns, for example, artificial intelligence, smart farming and technical applications in healthcare. It is great that the PET festivals can be organized again and that so many educational institutions and entrepreneurs take the time to show the children all the further education and professions there are. It is very important to pass this knowledge on to them before they take the next step in their school career.”

Amsterdam Economic Board focuses on the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, which is only partly located in the province of North Holland and partly also in Flevoland. Isn’t that awkward?

“Sometimes I have to take a good look at what is going on where, haha. But I think that here too the role of connector is once again reserved for us. In the Noord-Holland Noord region, for example, all kinds of beautiful things are happening around the flexible education and labor market. That’s how we got there NHN Match, a program that supports people who want to transfer to another type of job or sector. As far as I’m concerned, this should be followed in the MRA. If I see leads for these kinds of connections, I pick them up.”

What role can Amsterdam Economic Board play in the transition to an agile education and labor market?

“Just like the province, Amsterdam Economic Board brings people together and that is precisely its strength. Alone you go faster, together you achieve more — and Amsterdam Economic Board shows that very well. There are people at the table who can make an impact in their own organization and who can get a lot done together. The labor market initiatives are working well. The initiative TOMAS fits well with the one- stop -shop idea which I mentioned earlier: that platform bundles all kinds of labor market initiatives related to retraining, further training and talent development. Organizations can find inspiration here or join existing initiatives. TechConnect I also think it is a great instrument, because the program also contributes to an inclusive labor market. The focus is on underrepresented groups in technological professions. And we see that skills approach reflected in House of Skills, where people can find out for themselves which work suits their skills.”

What is your advice to organizations struggling with staff shortages?

“I think the most important thing is that you join networks. There you can talk to other companies and with education and government about what you need in the future and about what you can contribute to the agile labor market. No one can solve this alone.”

Text: Mirjam Streefkerk

More Board Talk

The interview with Ilse Zaal is part 18 of the Board Talk series. In this series we talk with Board members about the biggest challenges for the Amsterdam metropolis. The agile and future-proof education and labor market, responsible and sustainable digitization and the tension on the energy grid. These are also the most important themes for the Amsterdam Economic Board. Below you will find more interviews from this series.

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