Invest in today’s youth!

A column by Zekiye Yilmaz, account manager at Evergreen and Onno de Jong, researcher at Erasmus University

They are two ambitious youngsters from totally different backgrounds, but with a shared passion for the port of Rotterdam. Zekiye Yilmaz, account manager at Evergreen, is Young Port Talent 2013 and Onno de Jong, researcher at Erasmus University, won this year’s title. Both have one goal: getting Rotterdam’s youth warmed up to a career in the port. In this column they share their vision.


“The port of Rotterdam is known for its skilled staff, but there are numerous vacancies. In order to fill those positions, now and in the future, we have to make sure that Rotterdam’s youth gets connected to the port and that they learn what it is about,’’ says Yilmaz. “There are a lot of misconceptions about work in the port industry,” adds De Jong. “People think that the work is dirty and rough, like in the old days.” Yilmaz: “When I decided to study Logistics at STC – the Shipping and Transport College- one of my friends thought that I was studying to become a truck driver. We have to break down these preconceptions and show Rotterdam’s youth all the possibilities the port has to offer.”

After winning the title last year, Zekiye Yilmaz has visited dozens of primary schools. “I have given lectures to approximately 1700 children. When I ask them if they would like to work in the port, they answer no. But once I tell them that their clothes, shoes, computers and phones all arrived in a container in Rotterdam, they start seeing what it is about. And when I say that steering cranes is much like a PlayStation game, they suddenly do want to work here. It would be great if more companies appoint someone to give guest lessons in schools. More importantly though, we can talk about it all day, but the best thing would be to show them on the spot. Some businesses and terminals already invite school kids to their premises, and more should follow.”

“And not just that,” says Onno de Jong. “I want to show the companies in the port of Rotterdam that all those students of the Erasmus University and the Rotterdam University of Applied Science can contribute to the port as well, even if their education isn’t specifically port related. We also need sales representatives, lawyers, economists, et cetera. We have all these talented youngsters that can make a great contribution to the biggest port in Europe, but most of them do not realise that there are great opportunities right on their doorsteps. Therefore I want to call on port-based companies to work with those great knowledge institutes in Rotterdam and see if they can offer internships, assist with theses and if research is needed, the universities are a great place to start. By doing so you are not only stimulating talented students to choose a career in the port, you are also promoting your business.”

Zekiye Yilmaz: “Companies need to act now. They need to invest in today’s youth, so they will have enough skilled staff for the future.” De Jong: “If we are able to make optimum use of all those talented young people here in Rotterdam, we can maintain and strengthen our position as the world’s best port.”

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