Tom and Miel make soft-handed robot

A robot arm which can grab products of different sizes without damaging them, bending them out of shape or dropping them. Pretty cool, right? Tom van Dijk and Miel Spreeuwenberg think so. They came up with the concept and developed it during their internship at high-tech machinery manufacturer AAE in Helmond. It just so happened that their invention helped triple production.

Helmond Intern City bridges the gap between the business community and education

Their idea for the advanced robot arm landed the two twenty-somethings an A* for their graduation project and a job at AAE. What's striking is that Miel and Tom are both dyslexic. According to the boys, a lot of people who work with technology are. It has its benefits: like other dyslexic people, they are both good at thinking in images. Tom: ‘Sometimes I'll have designed everything in my head already, without having so much as put a pencil to paper.’ Perfect for their work in the technology sector.

‘Sometimes I'll have designed everything in my head already, without having so much as put a pencil to paper.’

Tom van Dijk

Young people are the future

AAE gave Tom and Miel a free hand to work on their graduation project. Employing interns and training people is routine for the company and something they have been doing for years already. At any given time it employs around ten interns, ranging from young people currently enrolled in vocational education to university students. Under the motto ‘young people are the future’, employees give guest lectures, organise visits to the company, take part in career guidance sessions in schools and get involved in initiatives such as Helmond Intern City (Helmond Stagestad). Manon Peijnenburg, HR Manager at AAE: ‘By doing this, we want to enable young people to get to know AAE and show them the broad range of possibilities that technology offers. Professional expertise is disappearing from the technology sector. Young people are being educated differently; the real vocational schools are vanishing. In addition, it's difficult to get the younger generation interested in technology. For this reason, internships in the sector are very important. They can fill this gap in professional know-how.’

The best of both worlds

Many businesses in the Helmond region indicate that they often have a hard time finding motivated and qualified staff. Educational institutions in turn say that they do not have enough places and that they want to provide better access to the expertise that companies possess. The solution is obvious: bring these two parties together and you have got the best of both worlds. Bridge the gap between the business community on the one hand and students and educational institutions on the other. On balance, this can form the basis for a healthy local economy. And that is exactly what Helmond Intern City is striving for. How? By seeking better cooperation in the field of internships, practical assignments, advisory work and research contracts. In this project, Rabobank, local municipalities, regional business networks and knowledge institutions such as Eindhoven University of Technology, Fontys University of Applied Sciences, ROC Ter AA vocational school and the TNO research organisation are all working together.

‘We want to show young people the broad range of possibilities that technology offers.’

Manon Peijnenburg, AAE

Inspiration for a new generation

Thanks to the opportunity that AAE gave him, Miel can strive to make his dream come true: making a name for himself in the technology world. ‘I want to go all the way with this; I want to be able to see something that I've made possible. To find a solution for some big technical problem and for my name to be on it.’ The great thing is that Tom and Miel are in turn inspiring a new generation. They mentor primary-school pupils who come to AAE on excursions. Tom: ‘I really like that. It makes me think: “Who knows, that might be a budding young talent walking around over there.”’ Miel: ‘You just hope they'll actually put that talent to use; that they'll get the chance to take it all the way and will actually get there.’ Tom: ‘You hope you've managed to pass on that passion.’

Young Peoples' Agreement 2014

Rabobank is working to help young job seekers out in other places as well. For example, the bank is one of the organisations that signed the Young Peoples' Agreement (Jongerenakkoord) in late 2014. In this agreement, a number of large companies made a commitment to work towards increasing employment opportunities for young people. Among other things, they will create job openings and internships and encourage businesses in their network to make a contribution to fighting youth unemployment.

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Helmond Intern City website

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