Edition 29 November 2018, by Marla Thomson
On Monday, October 29, 2019, the IT Campus at Rotterdam’s RDM (Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij or Rotterdam Dry Docks) officially opened, bringing together businesses, academic institutions and representatives from the municipality in a joint initiative to meet the growing need for educated and skilled IT workers for the Rotterdam region. Announced earlier this year, the IT Campus aims to bring business and academia together to shape curricula for current and future students of computer sciences and IT. Over two dozen companies have partnered with the IT Campus organization to help develop the training and curricula to meet the rising demands for all things IT.
Given the history of the area, as well as the fact that Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences is located at the RDM, the historical shipbuilding yard with its ample space was the logical choice. The dry docks were once the hub for the city’s booming shipbuilding industry and have built such great vessels as the SS Rotterdam and other Holland-America Line ships. The decline of the shipbuilding industry in the second half of the twentieth century eventually led to the closing of the dry docks. The residential areas were sparsely populated. Rotterdam’s RDM area was purchased by the Port Authority in 2002 to become a location for creators and innovators in the manufacturing and shipping businesses.
The Netherlands and most of Europe are currently experiencing labor shortages and the Rotterdam area is no exception. The declining availability of educated and skilled IT workers is a particular problem, since only 3% of the area’s inhabitants obtain degrees in IT and computer science. Furthermore, the small population of newly graduated jobseekers tends to find employment in other cities, Amsterdam and Utrecht being the largest employers of Rotterdam IT grads. The region has traditionally been more industrial, which certainly accounts for the low number of IT and computer-related workers. The IT Campus aims to bring local businesses in shipping, manufacturing and distribution together with educational institutions – specifically the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences and Albeda College – to effectively educate and train new students to meet current and future IT demands in the region.
The drivers behind the IT Campus seek to build on that goal with a forum for better IT training in a city experiencing an alarming shortage of IT staff. Rotterdam is currently behind the rest of the Netherlands and Europe when it comes to computer- related innovation and must play catch-up to keep up with the economy that surrounds Holland’s great port city. An increase of almost 30 % in IT vacancies in shipping, education and healthcare in the last two years is testimony to the city’s computer-related labor woes. The digital world touches almost everything nowadays and the demand for good IT staff and knowledge is high, but very few graduates have industry-specific training. “It was high time for joint action. Hence the joining of forces,” said Ron Kooren, chairman of Albeda College and a driving force behind the IT Campus. Though the ‘why’ is crystal clear – the Rotterdam region is in immediate need of educated and trained IT personnel in order to maintain a strong economy – the ‘how’ is not as clear. What the IT Campus is exactly is still unknown, but the steering committee and nearly two dozen regional companies all agree that joining the two inter-related verticals could help shape the future of the region and its current IT needs.
The name suggests there is more to the initiative than simply bringing businesses and educational institutions together to develop curricula, collaborate and share ideas – yet at this time there is no diploma or certification. The exact definition and nature of the IT Campus may be vague, but it may be a good thing that the driving forces behind the initiative have not rigidly defined what it is. With a vague beginning but a clear problem to solve, the ‘how’ can evolve organically as the program itself grows. With regular collaboration and refinement, the IT Campus can continue to meet the region’s everchanging and rapidly expanding needs in IT. Thus, the IT Campus is meeting an urgent need, bringing to together business and education in a new, innovative way.