Shortage of electrical engineers: causes, consequences, and solutions
The Netherlands is facing a shortage of 20,000 technical professionals. However, the sector is joining forces and developing ‘best practices’ that may inspire other countries…
Doekle Terpstra, president Techniek Nederland
The Netherlands is the European leader when it comes to the share of solar power in the total electricity supply. Worldwide, the country comes third, after Chile and Jordan. Electrification using heat pumps is also growing rapidly. Last year was an absolute record year with 110,000 heat pumps installed. This year, the number is expected to reach 170,000. With regard to charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, our country is also a leader in Europe.
However: the Netherlands is dealing with a shortage of 20,000 technical professionals. This has come about because working in technology has been – unfairly – underappreciated for decades. People erroneously associate electrical technology with dirty, strenuous working conditions and insufficient attention is given to the attractive career perspectives. As a result, parents have done everything they could to get their children to pursue other studies. Hard to understand since technical vocational training offers excellent prospects. A career in engineering means jobs for life!
The Technology Attack Plan (‘Aanvalsplan Techniek’)
The Technology Attack Plan is truly groundbreaking. For the first time ever, technical industries in the Netherlands are joining forces to reduce shortages. A total of one billion euros is being made available: the tech sector is investing half a billion euros over a ten-year period and the government is doing the same.
The shortage of technicians is not easily tackled, which is why unconventional measures are required urgently. This is how we came up with our ‘Gouden Poort’ (‘Golden Gate’) plan. This should become a central hub for new and experienced professionals, or people from different sectors, who are considering switching to a different technical field or further developing their skills. As part of the plan, anyone choosing a job in technology should receive, among other things, a 10-year work and development guarantee. The business community is also making 1,000 additional (hybrid) teachers available. We want to help more residence permit holders get started and attract more outside talent. Through a productivity campaign, we also want to increase robotization and digitization, prefabrication and standardization. With these measures, we aim to find people to fulfil 60,000 technical vacancies.
The roles of government, education, and business
The government and education sectors are closely involved in the Technology Attack Plan. The government can make technical education extra attractive, thereby stimulating the influx of new students. For example, by introducing favorable funding conditions or providing modern technical equipment for practical classes. In addition, it is important to further strengthen cooperation between education and business. The technology sector is already ahead of other sectors in this respect, but there is always room for improvement.
Time for a more positive image of the sector
We have allowed the image of technology to deteriorate. The idea of strenuous, dirty, underpaid work is long obsolete. The profession is becoming more broadly oriented, more innovative, and more digital. Heavy equipment is increasingly giving way to smart technology. In addition, the culture in technology companies is developing and communication skills, creativity and teamwork are more important than ever. As a result, working in technology is becoming increasingly attractive, for men as well as women. Meanwhile, the social relevance of the technology sector is also increasing rapidly. Without technology, the energy transition won’t happen, and the same applies to innovations in healthcare. There are plenty of opportunities in the technology sector for installation technicians but also, for example, for consultants, designers, and data analysts.
Ideas about working in technology are starting to change. More and more parents and children are realizing that choosing technical vocational studies is at least as attractive as opting for secondary higher education. Technical professionals can already earn more than people with higher professional education working in the financial services sector.
Companies can demonstrate how attractive working in technology is. For example, by showing their innovative projects on social media or giving proud employees an opportunity to share stories. Techniek Nederland also shows the great performances our members deliver daily on the platform ‘De makers van Morgen’ (‘Tomorrow’s Makers’). This platform showcases the technology sector through, among other things, inspiring stories from entrepreneurs and technical professionals. Techniek Nederland will also be launching an innovative labor market campaign this autumn.
Working in Electrical technology: more interesting and more rewarding than ever!
Working in electrical engineering is more challenging than ever. The energy transition revolves around electrification, so electrical engineering is becoming increasingly important. Consider solar and wind energy, heat pumps, expansion of the charging infrastructure, as well as making the energy network and roll-out of energy management systems smarter. As an electrical engineer, you’re making an indispensable contribution to the energy transition, but also solving other societal challenges, such as keeping healthcare affordable, making industry greener, and modernizing infrastructure. You get to work on new, challenging projects in teams of varying composition. Moreover, you keep developing throughout your career because technical developments are moving at lightning speed. And of course, you can count on excellent employment conditions.