She was the dean of the Institute for Communication, Media & IT at Hanze University Groningen until last September. That Trijnie Faber (65) left behind much more than a mature institute upon her retirement was well-deservedly validated this spring with an appointment as Knight of the Order of Orange Nassau. A great occasion to look back on the creation of the IT Academy North Netherlands, which is of great significance to the regional economy.
Trijnie's impressive record began quite modestly: she went to work as an executive secretary after a Schoevers education. 'But at the age of twenty-four I decided to study law,' says the born and bred native of Drenthe. 'Because once at work, by watching and listening carefully, I soon discovered: there is more to it!' That thought is typical and forms a common thread in Trijnie's career. It was not so much about realizing personal ambitions, but mainly about vision of the big picture. Seeing how things can be done better, standing up for good ideas, bringing the right people together, building something, making progress and thus being meaningful to people, society and the economy.
Profession and need
'As an education administrator, I found it very essential to look across borders,' says Trijnie, who was active at Hanze University for almost thirty years. 'In higher vocational education you train people for a profession and then it is crucial to match the need in practice. About eight years ago there appeared to be a shortage of IT professionals in the region. As dean, I made a strong case for bringing our education closer to the business community. Together with the companies in the region, of course; you need each other to train good people for the future. The unique thing about the Northern Netherlands is that the lines of communication are relatively short; because you need each other, you find each other more easily.
It started with Samenwerking Noord, an association that connects northern IT organizations. Within that club it soon became clear that there was a common need for a good party for education and training. Close by, in the northern Netherlands, so that people did not always have to go to the Randstad. As Hanze University we decided to take up the gauntlet, provided that the business community
actively participated. We had the lecturers, experts in their field, but knowledge and involvement from the business world was just as necessary. We wanted to be accessible, but also offer high quality and be credible on content. Because in the North people don't let themselves be fooled by fancy talk.'
The IT Academy Noord-Nederland was founded in 2014, as part of the Hanzehogeschool and made possible by IBM, Noorderpoort, Samenwerking Noord and the RUG. In all that, Trijnie was an inspired booster and connecting link. 'But you never do it alone,' the former dean emphasizes. 'Besides vision and enthusiasm, you need the trust of others. Plus the right people and resources: from a good program manager and solid marketing to the support of the Municipality and Province of Groningen. Together, we have generated enormous added value for the North with the IT Academy. Thanks to a sum of links, we were able to respond quickly to new developments and thus offer quality training that matched the current requirements of employers in the region.'
'An additional advantage of the IT Academy was that professionals from the northern IT sector met in school again,' Trijnie continues. 'That networking function also led to great initiatives. This gave the Academy a flywheel function for a healthy, balanced IT labor market. Of course, you have to stay on top of things; connections require maintenance. And you have to keep developing,
look ahead. For example, I wanted to make the interplay with the business community more concrete, also with a view to innovation. The Digital Society Hub emerged from that in 2017. A place where businesses and students work on solutions to real issues and conduct practice-oriented research.'
It's buzzing here
The flag is now flying positively in the northern IT sector. 'We are training more and more professionals and the idea that good IT graduates leave the North is outdated. At least three-quarters of graduates stay in the northern Netherlands, because it's buzzing here. For students there is a future with a variety of innovative IT companies and online entrepreneurs, but also with established large organizations such as DUO or RDW. Because ICT processes are increasingly driving the northern economy, at all kinds of companies and institutions. That is why it is so important that we have put the sector so well on the map here. And we succeeded because we did it together, with respect for everyone's expertise and contribution.'
Trijnie herself was awarded a Hanze Medal last year for her entire body of work at the Hanze, including her valued contribution to the development of the North into one of the most important ICT regions of the Netherlands. In April this year, to her surprise, she was also appointed a Knight: "Because of the long and exceptional commitment to Hanze University and related ancillary functions. Through your dedication and personality, you have been of great importance not only to Hanzehogeschool, but to the entire Northern Netherlands,' reads a fraction from the accompanying letter from the mayor of her hometown of Tynaarlo.
'The knighthood feels like the crowning glory of a special period,' Trijnie concludes. 'When I stopped last year, the story was complete for me. I wanted the Institute for Communication, Media & IT to mature and I succeeded, with the bonus of a healthier IT sector.' Nevertheless, is there still more to it, as she thought in her younger days? 'That's up to my successor,' she laughs. 'And as for myself: after a period of rest, reflection and being meaningful as 'Miss Grandma' during the lockdown, I find that my head and energy are again asking for challenge ... so I'm curious to see what else is in it.'