Maggie Feng Stresses Students Need to Develop Both Hard and Soft Skills to Succeed
With the number of jobs in the Netherlands on the rise, the increasing datafication of society and the ageing of the Dutch working population, Wittenborg CEO Maggie Feng predicts that the country’s job market is going to experience profound transformations that will span decades.
According to Feng, this scenario is filled with opportunities for international students and professionals who wish to build a career in the Netherlands. She highlights that some of the most promising developments are taking place in technical fields, including engineering, manufacturing, finance and the technology sector.
“In our data-driven society, there are still plenty of innovations to be developed, and people need to be trained to answer to those needs. We know that solar panels are becoming widespread, but there is a lack of professionals who can store and maintain them. The same situation is happening across many data-related sectors, such as manufacturing, technology and engineering – those vacancies are simply not getting filled and they are well-paid jobs. Finance is another industry that has evolved a lot, so people who want to thrive in this field need to understand data as well,” Feng stresses.
In the CEO’s view, students who choose these careers will have a clear advantage in the future, with access to plenty of job opportunities and high salaries. “People should go for professions that are highly needed, and then they can also have other occupations on the side or hobbies that reflect their passions; one does not exclude the other. At Wittenborg, we have been shaping our specialisations and curriculums so that they meet the demands of the job market.”
Although Feng underscores that learning the basics of the Dutch language is important for professionals based in the Netherlands, she points out that being fluent in English is the most important requirement for high-skill level jobs. She adds that professionals who are willing to go the extra mile and work hard for their goals will stand out from competitors. “Many of the younger people in the Netherlands only want to work part-time jobs, between 28 and 32 hours per week – this is the case even for some high-skilled workers such as doctors or judges. When it comes to industries such as the hospitality sector, this is a problem because these businesses often need people who are willing to work long hours and companies are struggling to find them, even for high-paying positions. So, people who roll up their sleeves will have plenty of opportunities in the Netherlands.”
Promoting Student Employment
Wittenborg has various initiatives aimed at assisting students in their search for jobs. Through the online system Wittenborg Connect, the institution provides its alumni and current students with an external relationship portal that helps them find opportunities at companies.
The vacancies featured in the portal are advertised by businesses that were previously contacted by the school, and Wittenborg makes it easier for companies to hire students by helping with the paperwork and providing templates as well as other information. “Our goal is to recruit companies from all industries to offer not only work placement internships, but also job opportunities for our students and graduates. At the same time, we are trying to make the lives of employers easier by breaking the wall between their daily work and our education requirements, so that they can quickly hire our students,” says Feng.
She highlights that Wittenborg does not create call lists for internship positions, but rather encourages students to proactively seek opportunities, because this is an essential skill to learn. “We stress to students that they need to learn how to use LinkedIn and also how to network. Plus, we organise activities like CV writing workshops, networking events and volunteering initiatives, and we give students tips on what to say and how to say it when networking. All of this is not included in an accredited programme or module, but by participating in these activities, they will learn important new skills that will be part of their toolkit.”
In addition to developing technical skills, students and young professionals need to pay attention to other competences, such as those highlighted by the Council of the European Union, Feng says.
The EU’s report on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning identifies eight key competences needed for personal fulfilment and employability: Literacy, Multilingualism, Numerical, Scientific and Engineering Skills, Digital and Technology-based Competences, Interpersonal Skills and the Ability to Adopt New Competences, Active Citizenship, Entrepreneurship, and Cultural Awareness and Expression.
“The EU’s recommendation emphasises, multiple times, the increasing importance of attitude as a competence. One of our goals is to embed this into our education system, so that students can develop a better attitude. I particularly want to set up more efforts to connect our students to local communities through volunteer work, because this will be an invaluable source of learning for them,” the CEO of Wittenborg points out.
by Ulisses Sawczuk