Hanzehogeschool Groningen • Rijksuniversiteit Groningen •

Workshop Rural Geo 2023: Keeping it real: providing young people with a better view on quality of life and career in Zeeland

For years, Zeeland’s labour market has been tightening due to dejuvination and an ageing population. In order to reverse this trend, Merel Toorop and Anouk Goense have been connecting with young people in Zeeland so they can show them the potential for a future life in the province.

Healthy economy = healthy labour market

While their jobs at the province would traditionally have no role in the Zeeuwish labour market (this was up to the local municipalities), Toorop and Goense argue that “a healthy labour market is essential for a healthy economy”.  Accordingly, they have worked for the past three years to improve the conditions for a healthier labour market, with career opportunities and life-long learning at the heart of it.

The main opportunity that Toorop and Goense recognized was young people leaving the province, usually for studies or their first job, and not coming back afterwards. These youngsters have a limited view of Zeeland, for they don’t know about the companies in the province and don’t see the innovation that takes place there. By giving young people a more complete view of Zeeland – as a place to study, work, and live – they want to “induce them to consider Zeeland for their future lives and careers”.

Hanzehogeschool Groningen • Rijksuniversiteit Groningen •
Project EEZIE brings government, business and education together to give Zeeland youngsters a vision of future life and career opportunities. -

Project Eezie

Under brand name “Eezie” (a combination of “zee” reversed and “easy” – a simple, quick, approachable, understandable connection with Zeeland) they created two network groups. The first connects business, educational institutions, and various levels of government. This group meets every month to share ideas, evaluate results, and draft policy. The second consists of a youth test group (the “target audience”) to test if their strategy and policy ideas actually resonate and make them feel heard.

Toorop and Goense also “created an online platform to fill in all the blank spaces”. On www.yp.eezie.nl they bring information about (higher) education, graduates, professionals, and living in Zeeland together in one place. Through this platform, they also create a connection with their target group and follow them on their life journey. As a result, they can see real life funnels, for example of a teen interacting with the platform and ultimately becoming a bachelor student in Zeeland.

Finally, Toorop and Goense shared their learnings for doing such a project at the provincial level:

  • Tenders: be very clear and explicit about your requirements
  • Contracting party: take time to build a relationship so you speak the same language and leave no room for interpretation
  • Target Group: “step in their shoes” and make them part of the journey (while keeping GDPR in mind)
  • Network cooperation: onboard everyone right from the start, take time to build the network connection, and make sure that you share the same values and goals (especially with commercial partners)

After the presentation there was a plenary discussion with questions from the audience where Toorop and Goense showed their campaign results, which were all very successful so far. Finally, on the question whether Zeeland had enough houses for more young people they explained that they’re motivating the higher education institutions – University College Roosevelt and HZ University of Applied Sciences – to facilitate housing for their students. This makes room for (young) professionals to come work and live in Zeeland. However, “housing does remain too big of an issue for this project alone”, Toorop and Goense admitted.