Emile Jackson | Western Netherlands region liaison officer

‘Focus on work-to-work guidance’

The industrial heart of the Netherlands beats from Hoek van Holland to Drechtsteden. It is a heart that is becoming increasingly greener, because this is set to be Europe’s green hydrogen hub, if the Port of Rotterdam has its way. ‘The main challenge involves retraining and upskilling industrial workers.’  

Rotterdam is a large, former industrial cluster that is gradually changing in character. Petrochemicals are set to make way for more sustainable activities. Increasing numbers of innovative high-tech companies are already moving in as they anticipate the energy transition, which will increase demand for highly qualified professionals.  

Green hydrogen hub 

‘The ambitions of the port of Rotterdam are particularly significant,’ says regional liaison officer Emile Jackson. ‘Rotterdam aims to be the most important port for sustainable energy imports. They estimate that the amount of green hydrogen arriving via Rotterdam by 2050 could reach as much as 18 million tonnes.’  

Potential labour force 

Ambitions of this nature have consequences for the Human Capital Agenda (HCA) in the region. ‘There is plenty of demand for professionals across all areas of hydrogen technology, such as the roll-out of hydrogen systems,’ says Jackson. ‘This is not necessarily about a shortage of workers. The issue is about upskilling, retraining and refresher courses. In cities like Rotterdam, The Hague and Dordrecht, there are plenty of workers potentially available. There is also quite an influx of people in technical professions from abroad. That includes Eastern Europe and countries like India and Pakistan.’  

Retraining and upskilling 

‘The main challenge involves retraining and upskilling industrial workers,’ concludes Jackson. ‘That applies to both migrant workers and the Dutch working population. How do we support them in moving from a job in petrochemicals to work in hydrogen technology? In the western Netherlands, this kind of work-to-work guidance is set to be an important area of focus.’  

Learning communities 

According to Jackson, the necessary additional training and upskilling cannot be resolved by mainstream education alone. ‘We also need private sector training providers and companies. We need to tackle this together, which is why learning communities have a major role to play: places that bring together learning and working, ensuring newly developed knowledge can quickly be applied in practice.’  

200 MBO professionals  

The urgency of the HCA issue became only too clear at the HCA Safari Day on Thursday, 16 March, hosted by Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, where the HRTech Centre of Expertise (CoE) is actively working on knowledge development. ‘We heard about a scale-up involving electrolysis: a company employing 50 highly qualified people that now intends to build a factory for which they aim to recruit some 200 MBO professionals. That turns out to be the exact number that our regional ROC college is capable of delivering in the space of four years.’  

‘It’s amazing to see how much is already happening across all regions’


Just like the other HCA regions, the western Netherlands will also be working on a roadmap in the months ahead, not only in order to map out the challenges, but also the opportunities in terms of the labour market issue. ‘The first step will be to identify the key areas of knowledge. What potential could we possibly be overlooking at the moment? It’s interesting to take a look at other regions and effectively align with that. In fact, that’s why I learned so much from the other Safari Days. It struck me how similar the north-western Netherlands is to our own region. That opens up the prospect for collaboration in research and knowledge development.’  

Low-hanging fruit 

‘I take an optimistic view about the transition to a green hydrogen economy,’ says Jackson. ‘It’s amazing to see how much is already happening across all regions. There’s already plenty of low-hanging fruit to take advantage of. They include places in our region where industry is a heavy consumer of grey hydrogen. That will make it possible to switch relatively quickly to the application of green hydrogen.’  



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Emile Jackson
Liaisonteam West Nederland