Want to search, find or connect with talent development opportunities?

Anyone involved in talent development within the Amsterdam metropolitan region can now contact TOMAS. The b2b platform that brings together talent development initiatives and promotes strategic conversation was officially launched on 16 November.

Talent development has been high on the agenda in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (MRA) for years. Companies, educational institutions and governments have developed numerous initiatives to find and help talent — sometimes in collaboration.


TOMAS now provides an overview of the proliferation of initiatives in the MRA. And that is desperately needed, says MRA director Emiel Reiding, who took the stage with three co-initiators, moments before the official launch. “We want to become the most innovative and best-educated region. All these initiatives are certainly necessary for that. But the amount of it makes me dizzy. TOMAS curbs that dizziness.”

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Learning is important for everyone

Organizations involved in talent development can find each other and existing initiatives via www.vraaghettomas.nl. “There are still too many young people without a job who don’t know what to do,” says Jopie Nooren of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. “But learning is important for all. We need everyone if we want to be not only a smart, but also a sustainable, digitized and inclusive society.”

“Tech companies in the region are now even more likely to source talent from abroad than focus on scouting locally,” says Bas Beekman of StartupAmsterdam. “TOMAS is a wonderful platform. I hope that companies will soon find all initiatives in the region there.” “Being able to find each other is indeed the most important thing about TOMAS,” says Amsterdam Economic Board director Nina Tellegen. “I think it meets a huge need and I hope we can continue to develop and expand it soon. Also to other sectors.”

The initiators launch TOMAS with a festive push of a button and loud cheers.

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Prelude to the next level

The importance of TOMAS is further discussed in a panel discussion. “We can only complete the energy transition if we have enough boys and girls to implement it,” says Jeroen Verwordt, alderman in Velsen. “We are already working on this at a regional level in the TechPort programme. As far as I’m concerned, TOMAS is a nice prelude to the next level.”

Jopie Nooren also expects a lot from that next level. “With TOMAS, we can also see which initiatives overlap, so that maybe they can work together. And we can spot areas where too little is happening. I hope that TOMAS really becomes a learning system.”

Eric Nederhand of Olam Cocoa is committed to enthuse young people for technology on behalf of his company, but also as chairman of the board of talent initiative Techlands. “We focus too much on higher professional and university education. I think we underestimate how many people we need at the lower and secondary educational level. I hope TOMAS will help us prevent companies from taking people away from each other and ensure that we simply train more people. That we share our experiences.”

“We must indeed want to learn from each other”, responds Verwoort. “Techlands has a lot of overlap with what we do at TechPort, but has a slightly different approach. So I think we should also visit each other.”

Contribute to findability

Dozens of initiatives have already been mapped out on TOMAS. Three of them give a glimpse into their kitchen via pitches. For example, Ronald Kleijn of Make IT Work explains how, thanks to his matching initiative, 850 people have already been retrained in software engineering or cyber security throughout the country. A third of them are women.

Iffat Rose Gill started Code to Change in 2015, which helps women who are looking for work to find a job in the tech world. The initiative is now active in several countries. Yet companies do not always find Code to Change. “I hope TOMAS can help make us more easy to find.”

TechPort focuses on the manufacturing and maintenance industry in the IJmond region. “This is changing rapidly with all the digitization, sensoring and communicating networks. That demands something from those companies”, explains TechPort program manager Gerik ten Berge. The program has developed a series of master classes for maintenance technicians on smart maintenance with companies in the region, among others. “Collaboration is extremely important to our program, with TOMAS we can reach companies from all over the MRA.”

Success of TechConnect

TechConnect is also a success story. In recent years, this program has provided thousands of new tech and IT employees through various sharing initiatives. On stage, TechConnect program manager Viktor Bos and Eric Traa of Rabobank are discussing this. “We offer, among other things, training of four to six weeks in various neighbourhoods, with a job guarantee”, says Bos. “That way we keep the barrier to participation as low as possible.”

Rabobank contributes financially to the program, but not only that. Traa: “TechConnect promotes equality of opportunity and we think that is important. There is still too much talent around that didn’t get a chance. Conversely, many of our customers are SMEs who find it difficult to find IT staff. They also receive support from the program. This reciprocity makes TechConnect a wonderful platform, which I think is also very easy to copy. Our collaboration ensures that we reach more people faster.”

Still plenty to develop

A relevant group of frontrunners working on talent development in the region is present today. At round tables they discuss TOMAS with each other and it turns out that there is still plenty left to work on in the field of talent development. “Companies often speak a different language than the talent, or the organizations they have to work with,” we overheard. “They think: we have place, just come to us. But others don’t go so fast. I think that TOMAS can bring these groups together better with small meetings.”

“TOMAS must expose blind spots”, we hear someone say. And another: “Certainly, but there is also a lot that is not yet known, so TOMAS can help with scaling up there as well.” “It would be a shame if TOMAS is only a network platform”, we hear at another table. “We also just have to do it, actively make those matches and actively develop talent.”

TOMAS is a movement

TechConnect, the pitched examples and many other initiatives are now collected and can be viewed at www.vraaghettomas.nl. But what next? “This is just the beginning,” says TOMAS creator Natalija Counet of the Board. “TOMAS is not a tool, but a movement and we still have many plans. In the coming period we will have strategic discussions about this with all those involved, but above all we will also act. You can join us and co-develop, so I invite anyone who has ideas to report to us.”

Text: Mirjam Streefkerk
Photos: Brenda de Vries

24 November 2021

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