11 June 2018

EmployMaas hacks Maastricht employability

How to curb the current brain drain of highly skilled graduates from Maastricht? How to give the lower-educated a competitive edge? And how to find the perfect fit for your company when hiring new staff? These were the challenges that 9 teams of students and young professionals tried to solve in an Employability hackathon on 9 June. The winners came up with some out-of-the-box solutions.

The province, lifelong learning and individual development
The government of Limburg province is looking to increase awareness about the importance of life-long learning and individual development. In this regard, one of the most vulnerable groups of the working population are lower-educated, self-employed people who face a heavy workload and time constraints. This leaves them with less time and enthusiasm to undertake new learning activities, which has consequences for their competitiveness. This led to the following challenge: how can you make lower-educated, self-employed citizens aware of the necessity to actively participate in skills and personal development as well as life-long learning?

Meet Adam, the self-employed
The team that won the province challenge came up with a persona called Adam, a self-employed individual (ZZP’er), unaware of the necessity of lifelong learning and individual development. For Adam, and all other lower-educated self-employed people in the province, the winning team developed a platform website: LIMBURGLEARNS.com. It offers courses as well as coaching and networking events and provides information about a broad range of opportunities for self-employed people. The web platform will be maintained by the Province.

Mediaan: matching people with planning
Finding the perfect job for your skills, interests and ambitions can sometimes look almost impossible, especially for a student or young professional. At the same time, companies want to hire the perfect fit for their projects and clients. IT company Mediaan wanted to identify one common problem and stimulate not only employment, but also successful matchings between demand and potential. So, how do you make sure the right people get the right opportunities?

Gaming towards a perfect candidate for the job
FITIN was the solution the winning team came up with. One platform catering for both employers and young professionals. It starts off with a serious game, in which the student and the company get to know each other. The next step is joining the platform. Students and young professionals do that to work on real projects, assess their skills and get instant feedback, and ultimately find their best fit company. At the same time the platform offers employers the opportunity to automate their recruitment process, approach their candidates in a holistic way and find the best employees for their jobs.

The EmployMaas jury consisted of Marleen van Rijnsbergen, Provincial Deputy for the Labour market, Timo Hermans, Team Lead & Software Developer at Mediaan, Ellen Bastiaens, Project Manager Student Employability at Maastricht University and Claudia van Oppen, Project Manager of Institute of Data Science at Maastricht University.

Alicja Lais, UM alumna with a MA in Media Culture, was one of the hackathon participants:

The university that we study at or have graduated from is considered to be one of the top universities in Europe. In fact, the 5th best young university in Europe. So how is it that with such valuable skills, and such valuable experiences and diplomas most of us are struggling with finding a job?

This very question was tackled during this amazingly productive one-day event. Maastricht and the cities surrounding it attract a vast amount of students, yet less than 20% of them decide to stay in the region after graduation. How can the authorities of the province and Maastricht itself keep these young professionals in the area? How do companies in Limburg market themselves towards the students and keep them after the trial/internship period? These were the subquestions of the whole employability issue.

At the end of the hackathon, we pitched, and each team presented their ground-breaking solution to the challenge they were assigned to. The creative juices were definitely flowing – some presented their idea through personas, others used concepts, and the list goes on. Overall I found the event productive and useful but also fun. Next time when somebody invites me to a hackathon, I won’t think twice!”