Recent research carried out by the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) brought to the fore important findings on what students want in their next phase in life and where they think the opportunities lie. UIF was approached by mayor of Enschede, Onno van Veldhuizen with a request to elucidate on why graduates were leaving for work in the Randstad.
The research found that in terms of employment opportunities, Enschede was lacking. Students believe that the Randstad offers more career opportunities with less barriers to internationals. There is an apparent lack of ambition in Twents companies to match the passion for innovation in the student culture. Importantly, the majority said could imagine staying here if they had a job offer.
Careers and salary were not on top of the agenda for the future work-force. Students care about initiatives that build community. A job with room for personal growth is as important as the characteristic of sustainability. There is also a feeling that integration with the international community is lacking. Cultural events like Tankstation and Robson set a valuable precedent for integration, providing an immersive and vibrant gezelligheid for all students to relax and socialise, eat good food and listen to multi-cultural music.
The most important result of this study however, is that the discussion is happening. UIF gave a presentation of their results at the Twente Top, a conference of the region’s most acclaimed to discuss the future of Twente. Titus Venverloo, ATLAS student and a member of UIF, reflects on this. “We gave the results of the research but more importantly we conveyed the story behind the research”: how the students feel about Enschede’s strengths and weaknesses. Titus said their story was warmly welcomed by the audience and even garnered a response from Thales, a big technological solutions contractor with a base in Hengelo. A Thales representative spoke to the audience, giving support to the research and acknowledging that there is indeed a problem with an intra-Netherlands migration to the Randstad. However, he called into question the practicalities of the matter. What do students actually want in terms of change? How much should a company provide if it is to attract graduates to stay? Should they entice them by investing in a gym and a Starbucks? These questions need to be asked and answered and so, as UIF rightly say, a dialogue needs to start happening.
The university culture is certainly a different kettle of fish to the relatively unappealing modernity of Enschede. The city however, undoubtedly has potential. The innovation is there with the educational institutions; not only do the UT and Saxion provide creative, fresh-thinking students with a desire to effect positive change, but AKI ArtEZ and ROC van Twente also provide wonderful talents with a mind for proliferating culture. The public transport system in the Netherlands is very good. It provides Enschede with a vital link to the rest of the country. Students like to travel to different cities for education and entrepreneurship as much as recreation. The international students however, miss out on the student travel product. The Netherlands has an historically great reputation for welcoming and collaborating with the international community and indeed has benefitted largely from it. Similarly, Enschede can also benefit if the international community is integrated.
We at ATLAS strongly believe in collaboration and a multi-perspective view on things and see a discussion between all parties who have a vested interest in keeping talent in Twente as vital. Now is the time to bring everyone together, provide the sticky-notes, group three tables together and start letting the ideas fly.
Enschede is at a critical point of reflection now. Economic growth is apparent, but inactivity and loneliness grow in the city, especially for younger people. The talents being educated have good ideas. Creativity and innovation are abundant across the board in the sciences, arts and craftmanship disciplines. This abundance needs to be recognised and the talent needs to be listened to. The companies and the government in this city have capital, resources, connections and expertise. What’s missing is a vigorous collaboration between the talents of education and the talents of the enterprises with the goal of making Enschede an important player in technological development and an attractive hub of flourishing culture.
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