Brightlands Young Professionals is rapidly approaching its fifth anniversary. Even though the network’s center of gravity is still located in Heerlen, the organization is spreading its wings. The campuses are joining in these efforts, and other companies and organizations are also showing interest. “We help young, ambitious professionals further their development. This is interesting for employers and for young, ambitious people throughout Limburg. And this is the bottom line we are striving to achieve: retaining talent and knowledge.”
Brightlands Young Professionals has its official “headquarters” at the Brightlands Smart Services Campus building in Heerlen. It would however be incorrect to view the network purely as being a part of the campus.
“Young Professionals has its origins in the Smart Services Hub, the predecessor of this campus,” board member Bart Gabriëls explains. “The Hub was set up in 2013 by the larger employers in this region such as APG, AZL and CBS, all of which were looking for an instrument for recruiting and obtaining the loyalty of young talent. This is ultimately also one of the objectives of the Smart Services Campus. We were actually ‘adopted’ by the Campus in 2015, but we also explicitly offer services to other organizations. At present, there are 15 organizations that are affiliated with us. We want to ensure this number grows considerably in the coming years.”
The network has a clear working model. Every participating organization pays dues, which entitles them to send employees to represent them at various activities that are organized by the board together with the organizations on a rotation basis. These organizations also appoint an ambassador to join the others in brainstorming about new policy-related developments for this target group. These activities target the young professionals present among the members, people 36 and under.
“We organize an event, workshop, seminar or other activity four times a year,” says board member Janou van de Vorst, Event and Community Manager at Brightlands Smart Services Campus. “Content is crucial at these meetings. Everyone is busy, so an event has to be worthwhile for attendees. Young professionals have to be able to learn something that will help them further shape their careers. Central themes include skills for developing networks, information on independent entrepreneurship, proper use of social media and of course personal development. The social element and “fun factor” are naturally also important. Participants get to know one another, so for the knowledge workers travelling long distances, those coming from outside of the Netherlands for example, it’s a great way to make contacts.”
“It’s also a good way to find out which opportunities this region offers,” Bart Gabriëls, a consultant for Obvion Hypotheken, adds. “The campuses are growing fast and there are a lot of very interesting job openings. We regularly see young people switching jobs. In the past they wouldn’t think twice about taking a position with an employer in the west of the country, but now they are discovering that there are attractive positions here too. And this is the bottom line we are striving to achieve: retaining talent and knowledge. We need young, talented professionals in order to continue to drive economic development.”
The network is clearly fulfilling a demand, Bart Gabriëls asserts. “Most of the larger employers have their own specific program for young professionals. They are joining our initiative, also because they want to show their people how other organizations tackle certain challenges. Young people like to look past barriers. We create connections between them, form a community, and combine this with information and challenges. The high attendance at the events is an indication that we’re on the right track. It is not unusual for us to see more and more recruiters attending our events. They know that they will be able to come in direct contact with talent.”
The board of Brightlands Young Professionals is placing a strong focus on growth for the coming years. “We already have a very close relationship with other campuses,” Janou van der Vorst says. “This is where we want to start in terms of recruiting more members and participants. Other organizations or companies are naturally also welcome, and participants can bring a guest with them to the meetings. We are also working on a plan for getting ‘high potentials’ involved in the activities. These are students in the final phase of their studies, PhD candidates and trainees. This is the audience we want to make aware of the opportunities and chances for development available in Limburg.”