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International tech talent shift focus towards Eindhoven Brainport region

International tech talent shift focus towards Eindhoven Brainport region

Today, the United States is closed to foreign tech talent. Fortunately for those who were considering careers in Silicon Valley, the Dutch Eindhoven Brainport region now offers an appealing alternative option. It is a world-class, high-tech region with exceptional innovative strength, the world’s highest patent density per capita, and above average private R&D expenditure. This technology ecosystem consists of OEMs, SMEs, suppliers, contract manufacturers and knowledge institutes that cooperate closely and have access to physical and fiscal facilities for cost-efficient development. Eindhoven is strategically located in Europe and has the second-largest Dutch airport, along with a highly educated, multi-lingual workforce. What is more, its relatively low cost of living makes it an ideal choice for both business and students.

Brainport Development is an organisation whose aim is to support the ‘innovative manufacturing industry’ of the region and to attract international talent for the tech companies in and around Eindhoven – including businesses like Philips and ASML, but also less well-known names such as EFFECT Photonics. These businesses normally ‘fish’ in the same talent pool as their large rivals from Silicon Valley. EFFECT Photonics is going through major growth and is seeking everything from apprentices and trainees to highly specialized professionals, manufacturing staff, and administrative and business personnel:

Recently, the recruitment battle suddenly changed. At the end of June, US President Donald Trump announced that his country would remain closed to foreign talent until at least the end of this year. It means that in the near future Amazon, Google and Apple will be unable or unlikely to hire employees from abroad.
Brainport decided to take advantage of the situation with a new campaign, which was launched in early July. Its messages present Eindhoven as an attractive alternative to working in Silicon Valley, using the slogan: Come to where the magic happens. A special video delivers further one-liners and battle-cries, like “pioneering spirit” and “launch your career in Europe’s most innovative region”.

These events have been a huge disappointment for many students, according to Marietje Schaake, a lecturer at Stanford and a columnist for Dutch newspaper NRC. “Top graduates could often choose between many dream jobs in the US.” Now that American dream is falling apart, European companies must seize the opportunity, she writes in a recent column. According to Schaake, students at Stanford are amongst “the world’s best” and companies should be welcoming them.Currently there are more than 1,000 vacancies for English speakers in the Eindhoven region. Unfortunately, there are not enough people graduating from technical universities in the Netherlands to fill all those positions. As a result, high-tech companies are looking for talent from abroad. The UWV (Dutch unemployment agency), which monitors shortages in the labour market, noticed a slight change in the demand for ICT personnel due to the coronavirus crisis. Now the UWV says it is “receiving signals” that the number of vacancies is picking up again – although official statistics will not be available until this autumn.

Large-scale unemployment in the US
President Trump’s decision to stop issuing certain types of work visa aims to protect the US labour market. At a time when many people are unemployed, you should not fill vacancies with people from outside, he argues.
Unemployment in the US is high due to the impacts of coronavirus. In the last week of June alone, nearly 1.5 million people in the United States claimed unemployment benefits. In June as a whole, an average of over 19 million people received such assistance. At the peak of the pandemic in May, it was even more than 25 million.
Visa categories that will no longer be issued until the end of 2020 include the one for au pairs, trainees and teachers. Another which cannot be applied for at this time is the so-called H-1B visa: the type which large tech companies rely on to bring knowledge into the US. Amazon, Google and Apple applied for most of the H-1B visas last year!
In a response to the American tech website Geekwire, Amazon said it was very disappointed with the President’s “short-sighted decision”. The company believes that hiring international talent actually “strengthens” the US economy. Top executives from Google and Apple also said they were very unhappy with the decision.

Suddenly the game has changed
Marije van der Togt is involved in the Brainport campaign on behalf of Philips. In an interview at she says that from a recent graduate perspective Trump’s decision has had a huge impact. You might have decided to work and study in the US and suddenly the whole situation is different. Making choices for the next five years of your life, or perhaps longer, involves much more than just the company where you will be working. The region is also important.

Theo Reijnen, senior recruiter at EFFECT Photonics, recognises this. The company is a young, dynamic and ambitious international business with an absolute passion for developing cutting-edge photonic technologies. It now has around 140 employees, but is “increasing production”. That means that a lot of new staff are needed. “We make the world’s first integrated photonic product, and employees who have experience within this specialised field are hard to find. The company often searches for suitable employees in other countries”, says Reijnen. “To get the required level of response from candidates who are interested and open to a change, we approach quite a large number of people internationally.”The company has been on the Brainport website since last year. “We wanted to show who we are and make ourselves visible to international talent. We may be small and less famous than the large names, but we are certainly not less attractive as far as the job content is concerned. That’s why we want to present ourselves out there. There’s quite a lot of talent in the US for whom EFFECT Photonics might just be that opportunity of a lifetime.”

If you are interested in becoming part of this vibrant tech environment and joining the cutting-edge technology of photonics, we invite you to find out what our colleagues are saying about working at EFFECT Photonics: We are sure you will soon share their enthusiasm!


This article is an adaption of a piece published in the Dutch NRC in July 2020. ©

Corlia van Tonder

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