Brainport’s new Eindhoven talent recruitment plan inspired by the expat journey

(Editor’s note: Dispatches Media is headquartered in Eindhoven, and this post contains the observations and opinions of the author.)

Can a low-key Dutch city where humility is a guiding virtue compete aggressively for global high-tech industrial talent with super-hot cities such as Munich? That’s the 64 billion euro question as Eindhoven and the surrounding Brabant Province rebrand to attract the smartest people in the world.

On the level of quality jobs at global tech giants, Eindhoven already is more than the equal of rival cities such as Amsterdam and Berlin. But Brainport Eindhoven economic-development officials are asking how they can better position the region front-of-mind with the highly skilled internationals local firms so badly need.

The answer is finding the sweet spot where the needs of business and talent intersect.

Brainport Eindhoven officials unveiled their new Brainport Talent Attraction Program Tuesday in a 90-minute presentation to about 100 people representing Eindhoven’s business community including a number of HR directors.

BTAP includes some fairly radical digital initiatives including:

• aggregating all tech and IT job listings in the region, which will be posted on the new Brainport website.

• digital media campaigns to spread the word about Eindhoven, which has a lot of amenities including easy access to affordable housing, recreation, travel, healthcare and international schools other tech centers don’t have.

• sharing CVs from candidates that might be rejected by one employer but whose talents are needed at other local companies in order to keep talent here.

• allowing employers to use the BTAP website as well as new Brainport branding tools. Companies can create their own employer profile page on the new website.

• more access to international IT and tech trainees.

• more talent-attraction events.

‘The world is where we need to play’

Brainport Eindhoven, which includes Eindhoven and the surrounding Brabant Province, is the fastest growing regional economy in the Netherlands, up 4.9 percent in 2017. That growth has led to a large and growing shortage of talent in the form of a 7,000-job shortfall projected for 2018.

Dispatches is headquartered in Eindhoven, and our contacts tell us jobs are going begging in IT and tech, which Brainport officials acknowledged yesterday.

Twenty-three percent of all current tech and IT jobs are open, “so this is huge,” said Yvonne van Hest, Brainport program director, at yesterday’s presentation. Eindhoven attracts talent from across the Netherlands. “But now the Netherlands is not big enough for us,” van Hest said. “The world is where we need to play.”

To be sure, Eindhoven is on the radar of a lot of engineers, physicists and other highly skilled internationals because of ASML. ASML, which claims an 85 share of the photolithography market that powers the semiconductor industry, has more than 20,000 employees worldwide and is currently recruiting 3,000 more.

Van Hest noted that ASML received 100,000 CVs last year.

Through the eyes of talent

The Brainport Talent Attraction Program started with a lot of research, including detailed interviews with expats and more than a little soul-searching on the part of economic-development officials.

Van Hest said Brainport officials had started to think deeply about how highly skilled internationals are making decisions and realized that while Eindhoven has incredible career opportunities, it’s not always about the job.

“We know talent comes here for the vacancy. But they also could choose Munich … and other cities,” she said. “We need to show them what we have as a region,” highlighting international schools and housing.

Jaap Jansens with Altuïtion, the firm that did the research and conducted interviews, said Brainport looked at talent retention “through the eyes of talent.” It’s an emotional journey when internationals leave everything behind – family and friends – for a new job in an unfamiliar city, Jansens said.

Yes, there’s a huge focus on the job, said Jansens and others in the presentation. But there’s much more to it. After the job, the lure is living in northwestern Europe whether it’s Frankfurt, Copenhagen or Oslo. Then, highly skilled talents think about what the job offers in terms of challenges, impact and personal growth. It can’t be “just another job,” Jansens said.

Then, talent thinks about the negatives, which could include the pervasiveness of German in Germany’s business culture. Those interviewed said “there is really no negative thing to report” in that area, when considering language in the Eindhoven region. The Netherlands ranks first in the world’s largest ranking of countries by English skills, according to EF EPI, and English is the working language within international companies.

(Editor’s note: The Brainport event was in English.)

The consensus is, the Netherlands is a high-functioning society, organized and safe, with a sophisticated transportation matrix.

If there is a negative, it’s the perceived difficulty of integrating into Dutch society. People embrace new arrivals. “But the Dutch say, ‘Not too close, please,” making it hard to enter inner friend circles, Jansens said. “I think that’s dangerous if we want to keep talent for many years.”

As expat entrepreneurs, we haven’t experienced that. Having lived in Germany, Turkey and other countries, the Netherlands as a whole – and Eindhoven in particular  – is competitive on every level, including entry into social groups if expats make an effort.

There are also large and active expat groups including the Expat Spouses Initiative, the Holland Expat Center and The Hub.


The debut of the Brainport Talent Attraction Program was held in Natlab, which is now a movie theatre. In the 1970s, it was the building where Philips researchers invented the compact disc. While the CD was disruptive digital technology that killed the tape cassette, Philips quickly lost its advantage to Japanese electronics firms, which were faster at getting improved versions to market.

That hasn’t been lost on Eindhoven officials, who are increasingly focused on initiatives to ensure the city is competitive globally.

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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