Guest column

Jol Stoffers

Senior lecturer at the Zuyd University of Applied Sciences

Employability in the Champions’ League of innovation

“In order to achieve all the ambitions of the Province of Limburg and the regions when it comes to the job market, you need people who are competent and will remain so in the future. After all, people’s qualifications are of overriding importance in making regional ambitions reality.”

“In my field we say that the professionals must be and remain employable. And this applies at every level. Most of the people working at the Brightlands campuses are highly educated. No one there can afford to stand still since everything is already moving faster in an innovative environment like Brightlands, and a lot more changes there than at an “average” place, shall we say.  New knowledge and skills are what make the difference at this Champions League of innovation. No company active in a setting like this can afford not to work on the employability of its personnel. These days, this goes much deeper than in the past when there was often a budget set aside for refresher courses or additional training, and this was usually handled via HR or the personnel department. Employees just spent some time in the classroom and that was that. These days, employees’ professional development is a much more standard element in the integrated business process and is no longer exclusively the job of HR, but is also the responsibility of employees and management as a whole. Making optimal use of someone’s capacity to learn and improve their core skills has become part of the primary process. This is done within the company itself and within the context of business processes since this is where it all happens. This is necessary if you want to stay ahead of the pack. Merely participating is not enough to win the battle with global competitors. You have to want to play the role of frontrunner and continue to play it. 

  I definitely understand that people often worry
that robots will soon take over everything,
but this won’t happen, in my view.

The impact of technological developments in a setting like Brightlands is of course huge, but it plays a meaningful role at all levels and in every sector. Take robotics in industry or the application of robots in health care as examples. Or an app that can use sensors to tell cleaners in which order they should perform various tasks to make them the most effective. What it all boils down to is that employees at all levels have to learn to work with this technology or interact with technology to achieve results. The algorithms or the robots are going to take over more and more of the predictable and repetitive work; people will be necessary when the unexpected crops up, and to maintain all this technology. A great example of this is how people work with technology to manufacture cars at VDL. I definitely understand that people often worry that robots will soon take over everything, but this won’t happen, in my view. A very large part of the reality is the unpredictable, creative and innovative, after all. Returning to the topic of Brightlands: innovation is anything but predictable, it is completely new since it has never been done before. This is therefore everything but predictable and repetitive.

I am happy and proud that my organization, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, is one of Brightlands’ key partners. Students are working on new initiatives at a few campuses and are contributing to shaping the Limburg of the future in addition to working on their own future possibilities in this beautiful province. This is why it has to become more than just a one-time experiment, and all the partners have to continue to see one another as stakeholders and keep investing in this innovative partnership with employable people at every level”.

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Nederlandse versie van deze column


Dr. Jol Stoffers MBA (1969) is a senior lecturer at the Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, specialized in Employability. He leads the Employability lectureship and his research and publications focus on themes such as the job market, employability and human resource management.

Jol Stoffers is the program manager for the Personal Leadership in Innovation and Change master’s degree program, affiliated with Neimed (socio-economic knowledge center) and is a research fellow at the ROA (Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market) at Maastricht University.

He has been affiliated with the Zuyd faculty of Management and Law since 2007, prior to which he was a senior HRM consultant in the recruitment and insurance sector for over 15 years.
Jol Stoffers got his MBA degree at Maastricht University and his doctorate at Radboud University in Nijmegen at the Institute for Management Research.

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