AMS The Future Urban Professional

Education within fast changing urban dynamics


Innovations in technology are changing our lives at a tremendous pace. In particular, various accelerating forces are changing the nature of work and employment. These changes are creating pressure on our immediate needs for education, in preparation for the future. What will jobs and employment be like in the future? Will we still have iconic jobs such as fireman, teacher, and lawyer? What will we speak of in 5, 10 and 15 years from now? And how should we prepare that now? Food for thought during the session.

Speakers included Erik Heijmans (Wageningen University & Research), Nina Tellegen (Amsterdam Economic Board), Marcus Steinig (AWECT), Arjen van Nieuwenhuijzen (Witteveen+Bos) were moderated by Kenneth Heijns (Managing Director AMS Institute) and Nina Bohm (Education Coordinator at AMS Institute) for a set of fast paced talks with intermittent surveys from the audience.

The Challenge
Jobs like AI engineer, urban farmer, offshore wind farming engineer, drone operator, uber driver did not exist 15 years ago. The job market and education that is aimed to prepare future professionals change faster than they have before. Young emerging and transitioning workers, as well as those that relocate to the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area face less secure career paths and higher stakes.

Questions at center stage to foster the discussion:

  • What is the profile of a future urban professional in a world that is urbanizing at a high speed?
  • Consequently, what skills, knowledge and experience does new and existing talent in AMA and from outside need?
  • How can we educate and empower for self-directed learning for existing and future jobs?
  • What forms of education – frontal, flipped, online, project-oriented, and so on – are most conducive to educate the future urban professional?

The Approach
The event had room for 70 interested people to attend a one-hour interactive session about the future urban professional in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (AMA) – the area that earns 20% of the national income for the Netherlands. In the audience were a dozen of AMS Institute’s first cohort Master’s students of the newly launched 2-year MSc MADE program, researchers, partners from our innovative network, academics and representatives of the institute.

The discussion was structured by a set of survey questions that the attendees answered live with their mobile devices. This participatory form of audience engagement collected expert opinions from 52 respondents – 15 students, 15 researchers and 22 researchers with a majority of 40% being 24-40 years, 20% under 25 years and 24% over 50 years of age. The leading main urban interests that attracted the attendees to the event were Circularity, Mobility, followed by Innovation, Green, Water, Energy, and various other descending self described motifs.

Opening speaker Erik Heijmans, Head of Education Support Center at Wageningen University & Research, briefly described the launch of AMS Institute’s MSc MADE master’s program and the broader educational portfolio of AMS Institute including our MOOCs and Summer Schools, explaining how we develop and disseminate interdisciplinary knowledge and skills to educate current and future professionals.

Nina Tellegen, Executive Director of Amsterdam Economic Board, framed the event as a motivating opportunity to make AMA the most adaptive labour market in Europe. AMEC addresses major transitions in energy, digital, urban and educational development and thus is dedicated to contribute to the joint challenge.

Key themes discussed during the presentations: 

Prevalence of New Work
The professional in an urban context faces the challenge of developing a sufficient understanding of the city. For him or her, urbanization and technological innovation of life are factors shaping the way of work. The term “new work” describes the distinctly new professional experience of digital natives, nomads, and the young professional generation. Marcus Steinig, Financial Director of Amsterdam Waste Environmental Consultancy & Technology Company (AWECT), represented the new work approach using waste incineration technology and outlined the ingredients of a new startup as a speaker.

Focus on Lifelong Learning and Professional Education
This challenge exists in a context where lifelong learning has become ‘mandatory’ a technologically rapidly advancing – but also aging – society. The necessity of lifelong learning for the individual was agreed upon and was seen as a necessity for the future urban professional to keep up with fast changing dynamics.

Urban Challenges as Educational Topics
Urban challenges and hence also educational topics including food security, energy transition, mobility and logistics, water and waste management, health and well-being require a smart and interdisciplinary, not just a multidisciplinary approach. These solutions can only be developed by knowledgeable, entrepreneurial and skilled professionals.

Addressing future needs now

We can’t wait for the future to arrive in order to design for it. Future jobs create thus immediate needs for training and education. Also the way of teaching, using living labs and in close cooperation with stakeholders from the broader innovation network, is a way to start addressing future urban challenges today.

How this can be done in the AMA according to the audience?

    • 39% – educating new talent in the AMA
    • 37% – educating existing professionals in the AMA
    • 23% – attracting talent from outside AMA

Education in the European market
Every education exists in the context of its macrosystem including culture, politics, and society. The challenge is set in the European labour market where AMEC stated the ambition to be the most adaptive labour market in Europe. Arjen van Nieuwenhuijzen, CTO of Renewable Energy, Water and Resources at Witteveen+Bos, connected the challenge to the 17 global goals for sustainable development as set by the United Nations in 2015.

The event was an opportunity to share broadly about AMS Institute’s MSc MADE program provided a stage for a collaborative approach to addressing the future urban professional in AMA. The presence of the MSc MADE students during the discussion allowed for direct questioning and stories on the set up of the education program.

The list of key themes during the discussion – new work, lifelong learning, urban challenges as educational topics, future needs now, and the European market as a context – in combination with the thought-provoking survey answers provided rich information for further conversations.

Together, we are facing the complex challenge of designing a successful education strategy for which awareness has been further raised and positive progress was evident. The synergy in a room filled with professionals and partners at different stages in their life and diverse backgrounds provided a resourceful network to further discussions on the topic at hand, including the invitation to jointly work on what is needed to lead the future of the urban professional for the AMA.