future view

House of Skills: skills are the future of work

30 April 2018 • 5 min reading time

Various parties in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area are using House of Skills to jointly develop career programmes that will boost the long-term employment prospects for individuals with low and medium educational levels. TNO is involved as work package leader for the Matching component. In addition, it is developing ‘De Paskamer’ (‘Changing Room’). This app is intended to help jobseekers find jobs based on their skills rather than their paper qualifications.

More information?

For more information, please contact Joost van Genabeek


The labour market is feeling the impact of technological developments and an ageing population. This has created a mismatch between workers’ skills and employers’ requirements. It is a problem that mainly affects workers with low and medium educational levels. House of Skills is a research programme designed to tackle this issue. It brings together companies, trade associations, workers’ organizations, employers’ organizations, knowledge institutions, the educational sector, and administrators from the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area.

Systemic labour issue

The City of Amsterdam is managing the House of Skills programme. “In 2016, we identified a systemic labour issue in our region, says Annelies Spork, the House of Skills programme director. “Some sectors – such as the banking sector – had experienced large-scale layoffs, while elsewhere employers were complaining about shortages in the labour market. We badly need all those who are currently sitting on the side-lines. But we can’t afford to focus solely on paper qualifications and work experience.”

Taking control of your working future

A range of experimental career programmes will be launched during the next three years. These are designed to bring about changes in the labour market in the foreseeable future. They involve assessment and competency scans, careers advice, skills training, and skills-based matching. There will also be a platform designed to help employers find the workers they need, and vice versa. “A major aspect of this approach is that it will enable people to take control of their own working future, primarily through lifelong personal development. House of Skills is a ‘field lab’ that is intended to evolve into an effective, efficient and independent institute over the above-mentioned three-year period. Meanwhile,” Ms Spork stresses, “we are exploring various options to see what works and what does not.”

“We can’t afford to focus solely on paper qualifications and work experience”

Inter-sectoral matching

Within House of Skills, TNO is acting as the work package leader for Matching. This component consists of eight pilot projects involving inter-sectoral matching in various market segments, some of which are contracting while others are experiencing robust growth. TNO is also helping to monitor the entire House of Skills programme. “There have been many layoffs in some sectors, while others are experiencing shortages. Yet many jobseekers are still reticent about switching to jobs in other sectors,” explains Joost Genabeek, project leader of the Matching work package. Annelies Spork emphasizes the added value that TNO brings to House of Skills. “It is TNO’s labour market and skills expertise that makes this joint venture so valuable.”

From paper qualifications to skills

In House of Skills, TNO is using this expertise to improve inter-sectoral placement. “We have completely revamped the current approach to matching by focusing on people’s skills, rather than assessing their suitability based on paper qualifications. This helps jobseekers to see that there are all kinds of different jobs that are suited to their own individual skill sets. The ultimate goal is to list someone’s skills in a ‘skills passport’ that can be used when applying for new jobs. TNO itself is developing ‘De Paskamer’ to address skills within the Matching work package,” says Mr Genabeek.

“The evidence speaks for itself. Last year, 13 of the 15 participants had already found a job before the end of their time at Schiphol. Ultimately, every one of them got back into work”

Cash in on ageing or lose out

Together with businesses, the educational sector and the government, the Schiphol Aviation Community (LCS) is developing programmes for people who work at the airport (or who would like to), with the aim of strengthening Schiphol’s labour market over the long term. On behalf of House of Skills, LCS is conducting a pilot project entitled ‘Verzilveren of Vergrijzen’ (Cash in on ageing or lose out). The aim is to find jobs at Schiphol for people over the age of fifty who have been unemployed for a relatively short period of time. The fourteen people participating in the project will be intensively supervised for a period of four weeks. According to Karin Klaver, of the Schiphol Aviation Community, “It is often more difficult for people over the age of fifty to find work.” “Usually, by the time they arrive here, they will already have had several rejections from other potential employers, and that has an impact on people. Here, they find work that they like and that they can do, which revitalizes their prospects in the labour market. The evidence speaks for itself. Last year, thirteen of the fifteen participants had already found a job before the end of their time at Schiphol. Ultimately, every one of them got back into work.”


TNO used this pilot project as a testbed for its ‘De Paskamer’ tool which, in that context, was known as ‘Jobspotter’. “Jobseekers can use ‘De Paskamer’ to see how well any given job might suit them. You just enter details of your skill set into this app, then the tool matches this with the tasks that employers require you to carry out,” explains TNO’s Joep van den Eerenbeemt. “‘De Paskamer’ helps jobseekers understand which jobs might suit their skill set, and what learning opportunities might be appropriate for them. However, the tool is not focused solely on jobseekers. It can also help companies find well-motivated people who would be very suitable candidates for their job vacancies.”

Jobseekers list the skills they have to offer, as well as those they lack, plus any learning opportunities that might be appropriate for them (‘I’m keen to learn this’). Also, when advertising job vacancies, companies are asked to be very specific about the exact skills required. This offers them added insights, as well as the opportunity to take a fresh look at both the candidates and the jobs in question.

TNO’s Joep van den Eerenbeemt presents the first version of the app.

Involving jobseekers

Uniquely, jobseekers were involved in the development of the app right from the start. Jelle van Gelder is one of those involved in the ‘Verzilveren of Vergrijzen’ group. “I think it’s a smart idea to systematically explore the supply of – and demand for – labour in this way. You might have years of experience but, if you haven’t got the right paper qualifications, it’ll be hard for you to find work. Using skills to match workers to jobs might help to break through this barrier. Furthermore, it could show jobseekers that they might also match different types of job from the ones they initially had in mind.”

Working prototype

Mr Van den Eerenbeemt concludes by saying that “Jobspotter version 1 is now up and running. Once again, we are asking a number of jobseekers from the ‘Verzilveren of Vergrijzen’ group to share their thoughts with us, as part of the ongoing process of fine tuning. The goal is to deliver a working prototype by July. My dream is that, in just a few more years, we will be able to link the data from the app to the jobs of the future.”

More information?

For more information, please contact Joost van Genabeek

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