Finding ways to rise above the hardships of 2020

The last year proved exceptionally difficult for tech workers and businesses, including major corporations and burgeoning startups. Fortunately, different programmes and initiatives found ways to help by bringing companies and talent together.

Building a bridge between tech companies and students

Through the Hello Mentor programme, ambitious STEM students from the University of Amsterdam and Vrije Universiteit are connecting with tech professionals to give their future careers a boost. 

By participating in the programme, companies can share practical insights with the next generation and potentially find new talent. Exclusive events and workshops with partners like ING, Uber and PwC also fostered the creation of a vibrant community.

One graduate of the programme summed it up nicely: “My mentor’s work and career history are very similar to what I’d like to do in the future, so it’s amazing to hear stories from his perspective.”

Helping people find their tech calling

TekkieWorden is a project of TechConnect and the Amsterdam Economic Board and has helped young people find jobs in the industry that fit them best. By filling out an online questionnaire, users can find a matching profile – which can centre on everything from drone logistics to predicting the future through data science – and then review relevant courses and available jobs. 

The project received assistance from StartupAmsterdam during its TekkieWorden Week, which featured 40 online activities to show what the tech world has to offer. Participants enjoyed an inside look at data centres, learned how blockchain developers are transforming the financial world and received info about careers and education.
“If you don’t know what’s available in the IT job market, you miss opportunities,” says Floor Vink, the project manager behind TekkieWorden. “We help you find out what type of techie is hiding inside you, and what jobs and studies are involved. In this way, we open the tech world to everyone while taking away any related misconceptions.”

Providing financial support to help students launch tech careers

To help aspiring techies develop their skills, the TechMeUp initiative offers interest-free loans to cover courses focused on subjects like coding, data science and growth hacking. So far, six Amsterdam-based academies are involved. The loans can be repaid once a job has been found.

Like TekkieWorden, the initiative strives to reach demographics that remain underrepresented in the tech industry, an aim that makes sense from a business perspective. As TechMeUp director Nikky Hofland said in an interview: “Otherwise, you end up with a menstruation app being developed by mostly men. And if you are making a corona notifier for people older than 45, then maybe it’s good to have someone on the team who isn’t 20 anymore.”

Amsterdam bikes in bike rack CC BY-ND 2.0 Moyan Brenn via Flickr

Examining the impact of COVID-19 on tech academies

In 2020, StartupAmsterdam also made an effort to reach out through a report – The Impact Of COVID-19 on the Performance of Amsterdam-Based Tech Academies – that looked at how the pandemic affected local academies that prepare students for jobs focused on technology.

Currently, 22 academies operate in the Amsterdam Area and 18 participated in the survey. According to 89% of respondents, the most serious issue they currently face is finding positions for their students. A significant portion have also noticed diminished interest from businesses that previously hired their graduates.

However, most academies have taken steps to recover -- by transitioning to more online learning, for example – and are now playing an important role in fostering and retraining new tech talent.

Bringing digitalisation to the masses

Launched several months ago, the MKB Digital Workspace programme has been connecting tech students with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs, also known as MKBs in Dutch) to work on digitisation projects, like building e-tail shops and using AI. Over the next three years, the programme hopes to bring together 750 businesses and over 2,000 students.

Participating companies receive a subsidy of €3,000 to help cover the costs of going digital – a move designed to offer immediate benefits. "It’s important that MKB Digital Workspace works to immediately generate additional turnover, more customers or reduced costs," says project manager Ellen Spithoven. “And here was the challenge: to make busy business owners aware that digitalisation can mean increased turnover and saving time.”

And as students help SME owners embrace a new digital world, they can also experience what it’s like to work in a small company – and perhaps network their way into a future job at the same time. 

See more startup news from around Amsterdam.