Huiberdien Sweeris, Human Capital: “We need an approach that allows partners to combine strengths”

“Working together is crucial to attract the high-level talent the global transition towards a sustainable food system needs," says Huiberdien Sweeris, Human Capital. At Foodvalley NL she supports partners in the Foodvalley ecosystem to identify, attract and retain world-class talent.

Why is Human Capital crucial for the transition to a sustainable food system?

“Experts capable of developing new technologies, processes and business models; professionals who implement those innovations into their work- floor routines. Visionaries who can combine disciplines; thinking across boundaries and establishing valuable new connections and collaborations. In order to transform our food system into a sustainable, fair and healthy one, we need to draw from many different specialisms. Having said this, we do face a serious mismatch in the market for talent: employers cannot find the talent they need, which slows down the way forward. And talented people who want to start or continue their career in the Foodvalley ecosystem, often don’t know the ecosystem, let alone what it offers. The mismatch is most evident in the domain of high tech, IT and agrifood, at all educational levels.

Promising initiatives to attract and retain talent already exist in the Netherlands: tech colleges, universities of applied sciences and academia are putting efforts into renewing their educational programs in order to provide students with the right knowledge and skills and enterprises are exploring new ways to find the candidates they need. However, there is still little cooperation between the different initiatives, leaving opportunities unexploited. So we need a different approach: one that connects the different parties.”

Why is Foodvalley NL involved?

“Since 2004, we have been developing and strengthening the Foodvalley ecosystem; an international collective of organizations and companies that are jointly working on the transition to a sustainable food system. Our ecosystem offers a wide variety of career opportunities and interesting career development paths. I believe that by working together to attract talent, we help our partners become better equipped to innovate, grow and make an impact on our global food system. As Human Capital Lead at Foodvalley NL, I am strongly committed to facilitating this cooperation, carefully balancing the individual and joint interests of partners and talent.

Working as a human capital specialist for the Netherlands Water Partnership for almost ten years, I dealt with similar challenges. Despite shortages in the labor market, employers did not collaborate with each other; in their search for talent they were acting as competitors. We invested in the development of young professionals and built a strong corporate community based upon cooperation and trust. Now, almost a decade later, the impact of our efforts is visible. Our work resulted in a bigger pool of talents for companies to draw from. And through jointly investing in the development of young professionals the companies got to know each other much better, leading to new coalitions and providing new business opportunities. The young talents of that time are still closely connected with each other. Many of them are now holding key positions in the global water sector, opening the door to even more valuable collaborations. Creating structures as effective and enduring is a primary goal for me at Foodvalley NL.”

How will Foodvalley NL contribute to this transition?

“We are already supporting tech colleges, universities of applied sciences and academia when making strategic decisions in the development and improvement of research and educational programs. As we jointly work on the innovation theme’s Protein Shift, Circular Agrifood and Food & Health, everyone involved gains new insights. We also create a rich learning environment, valuable for the curriculum and serving as input for research programs.

Building a dynamic community of talent is also a focus. We do so by involving young professionals with various backgrounds in our innovation programs and offering them a kick start in their career. We also support and stimulate the exchange of talent between organizations, start-ups and scale-ups. This sharing of talent and hence knowledge and experience accelerates innovation, from concept development to implementation.”

Have you some project examples that give a flavor of your work?

“The Centre of Expertise Groen (CoE Groen), a collaboration between Aeres, Van Hall Larenstein, HAS and Inholland universities of applied sciences, invited us to help them determine key themes for their food and nutrition research. We help them with questions on, for example, converting existing equipment to be utilized for the production of plant-based proteins. Another, ongoing, project is the exchange of process operators between food companies, which we initiated last summer. The first results will follow later this year; we’ll keep you posted”

Who do you want to attract into the ecosystem?

“We invite any individual, organization or enterprise, committed to the transition to a sustainable food system that looks for new ways to attract and retain agrifood talent, to join our Human Capital approach. Contact us to discuss the possibilities.”

Want to know more?

Please contact Huiberdien Sweeris,

In this interview series, eight members of the Foodvalley NL team share their ideas, ambitions and latest milestones in the transition to a sustainable global food system. Read the previously published interviews of Edith Schippers, Chairman Foodvalley NL, Marjolein Brasz, Managing Director Foodvalley NL and Judith van der Horst, Innovation Lead Food & Health. More interviews to come in the next coming weeks.

About Foodvalley NL
Shaping the future of food together: building and strengthening the Foodvalley ecosystem so that we can realize the transition to a sustainable global food system. That is Foodvalley NL’s mission. In this interview series, eight members of the Foodvalley NL team share their ideas, ambitions and latest milestones.

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