Work together with students to expand your innovative capacity 

Innovation is a magic word for companies aspiring to grow and safeguard their continued existence. Which skillsets does it demand? Where can you find innovative talent, and how can you make sure you will have enough in-house talent in future? Jaap Beernink, CEO of Novel-T, and Ton Beune, program director at Techniekpact Twente, take a stand for entrepreneurship-centered education and a strong connection between students and the manufacturing industry in Twente. 

“Talent is essential for successful innovation”, Jaap Beernink isn’t afraid to say. “Innovation is often bottom-up. There is good reason we see so many promising startups from the University of Twente and Saxion.” Students have a strong drive to innovate, are flexible and are least obstructed by rules and targets. ‘Think like a startup’ has become a popular slogan across the boardrooms of many large technology companies.” 

Learning new skills 

With smart industry, robotization and a growing demand for technical personnel, entrepreneurs in the Twente high tech industry are faced with a serious challenge. “Technological advances are following each other rapidly. The consequence is that half of our current jobs will no longer exist in 20 years”, Ton Beune predicts. “This means that we have to educate technical talents to not only be profession-oriented, but more importantly, to be flexible.” 

More attention for entrepreneurship-centered education 

“An entrepreneurial attitude will be a requirement for the employee of the future”, Jaap adds. “Companies expect graduates to be professionally competent, but also to have initiative and be creative, thus enabling them to contribute to the continuous innovation required in a rapidly changing society.” Education is also changing. The Saxion Centre for Entrepreneurship has been showing how entrepreneurship-centered education enriches the lives of both students and companies for several years. “Innovation and new business are central, and are driven by passion, curiosity and ambition”, Jaap explains. “That cooperation between students and companies is something we are also going to expand at the University of Twente, thus preparing students for the professions of the future.” 

Search for students 

As a company, do you wait until you have a specific vacancy to fill or do you recruit talent at an earlier stage? Jaap: “Make sure you know where to find talent and look for ways to establish cooperation. Think of graduate theses or research assignments, projects, traineeships, events and awards, student associations, creathons. Plenty of opportunities; also for vocational education and pre-vocational education. Novel-T connects students with companies in the region. “Every entrepreneur who is looking for specific knowledge or has a research question can turn to us. In this way, our Science Shop forms the bridge between entrepreneurs, the UT and Saxion”, Jaap explains. Working together familiarizes pupils and students with the companies in the region. Ton: “Twente high tech manufacturing companies are not well-known enough. How do you expect to keep graduates in the region if they’re unaware of these opportunities in the job market?” 

Keep more talent in the region 

Techniekpact Twente cooperates with educational institutes and sector organizations to increase the influx and throughflow of technical talent and to keep them in the region. “The number of secondary students opting for a technical profile has risen the highest since the start of the national program in our region”, Ton explains. Jaap also sees opportunities to attract more students. “I don’t expect the percentage of stayers to grow, but it is possible to attract more students to our region, so that the number of people flowing out into our region and getting a job in it or starting their own business there increases. To achieve this, we cooperate intensively with companies, educational institutes, Techniekpact Twente and Twente Branding. Together, we can make this region more attractive to study, work and innovate in.” 

Where can you find these bright young minds? 

Looking for talented students to work together with? The Science Shop Twente of Novel-T receives more than 75 expertise and R&D questions from SMEs per year. “For each question, we look at what knowledge is required and find the right professional expert or student researcher for the job at Saxion or the UT”, Egbert van Hattem explains. To give an example, graduating student Tom Evers researched how construction company Haafkes from Goor could make its own office buildings more sustainable. In addition to tangible and executable recommendations that have demonstrably saved energy for the company, Haafkes gained an entirely new perspective on sustainability in its own building. Egbert: “Companies are often positively surprised by the fresh perspectives provided, but more particularly, the modern way in which matters are approached.” 

Curious how they could tackle your R&D question? Direct your question to Science Shop Twente!

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