Shortage of Engineers a Threat to the Netherlands

Shortage of Engineers a Threat to the Netherlands

Country Needs International Students and Professionals to Supply Demands of its Economy

Owing to factors such as the aging of the Dutch population and the lack of interest among students, the Netherlands is experiencing a shortage of engineers, as well as scientific and technical professionals. This issue is discussed in an opinion piece written by five rectors of important Dutch universities, recently published by De Volkskrant.  

The authors highlight that, in order to meet this demand, the Netherlands needs international students, professionals and researchers. These groups play an essential role in the transitions that the country is facing in fields such as healthcare, energy production, food supply, climate, digitalisation, safety and housing.  

Currently, Dutch politics has been marked by the proposal of policies aimed at significantly reducing the number of international students. Additionally, an anti-immigration party emerged victorious in the last parliamentary election. Nevertheless, the five rectors warn that, two years after Denmark’s government drastically reduced the number of English-taught courses in that country, the Danish Minister of Education is now calling for more international students to be admitted.  

According to Wittenborg president Peter Birdsall, the incoming government needs to understand that international students, researchers and workers are essential for many crucial sectors of the Dutch economy.  

“There's a massive shortage of technicians and engineers at all levels, and we don’t have enough young people in the Netherlands to fill these roles. What these short-term, inward-looking politicians need to be aware of is that there is a gap in intellectual skills and technological expertise that just can’t be filled, and that’s why we need internationalisation. Just promoting campaigns in schools to stimulate young Dutch people to embrace careers in the technical or scientific fields will not solve the problem.” 

Birdsall highlights that in order to maintain their high standards of living, developed countries need significant numbers of qualified people, which their populations simply cannot provide. “We have to bring people in from outside, otherwise we are going to need to take a step back and we are going to have less tech-based infrastructure around us.” 

Nevertheless, he believes that despite the current grimness of the Dutch political landscape, the country will eventually come to terms with reality and adopt sensible solutions.  

Over the last few years, Wittenborg has responded to the demand for more highly-skilled professionals by implementing various Master of Science (MSc) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) programmes in technical fields. These include specialisations in Data Analytics, Digital Transformation, Smart Industry, Clean Technology Management, Cyber Security and Applied Artificial Intelligence. Additionally, starting from August 2024, the school will also be offering MBA and MSc specialisations in Engineering Management. 

Birdsall points out that students who choose technical, scientific or engineering careers have good career prospects, including the availability of job vacancies and the possibility to have a high salary. “There are few employment perspectives for students who choose very soft subject areas, and it’s much more difficult for them. But if you choose hard tech areas and you have qualifications in that field as well as some experience, skills and competencies, then there will be plenty of jobs available for you,” he concludes.

WUP 12/02/2024

by Ulisses Sawczuk

©WUAS Press