Friday, June 10, 2005

Employability in the multimedia cluster

At the coffee this morning, a discussion was sparked about the multimedia cluster in The Netherlands. It started with the remark about students following multimedia courses. In the Netherlands there is a plethora of new media courses at university and junior colleges. The first courses date back to the beginning of the nineties. The HKU, a junior college in Utrecht, with a subsidiary in broadcast town Hilversum, was very early in adopting a course in arts and technology; they were in the first Bachelor and Masters in Multimedia programme together with the University of the Baleares and a British university. Also the junior college HvU started very early the School for Communication Systems, a more technical training, and it took them a while to get on course; they have now changed their name in the Academy for Digital Communication. But the last years, especially at junior colleges, a diversity of new media courses have been started in order to attract students. There was an attempt to synchronise some trainings, but they only have the same name: Communication and Design (C&D). The courses still attract a lot of students and that is worrying for their futures as well for the future of the multimedia cluster.

Annually more than 5.000 students graduate from multimedia trainings and try to find a job in the multimedia cluster. As the cluster is small and took care of employment for 15.000 people in 2000, every influx of 5.000 new employees creates a problem. For the graduates it will be hard to find a job. For the companies it will be easy; they will hardly have to advertise. But there is a problem.

For the students who do not find employment in the multimedia cluster, they will look for areas close to communication and media. But even then some will not find a job and will start their own company, these days with the support of the government. But are new companies always a healthy sign? Not in my opinion and certainly not in the multimedia cluster.

With some 5.000 multimedia companies around at 2000 in The Netherlands*, it meant that the average company had three people. But if we apply the 80/20 rule of small (80%) and large (20%) companies, the picture gets even worse. There are only a few large companies, meaning companies with more than 150 employees, while the rest are one person companies. Also in terms of turn-over you see that 70% of the turnover is produced by 25% of the companies, large companies.

So with the present and new output of the junior colleges, we have every year an influx of new, starting companies fighting the companies of the year before and the veterans with low prices. In this way the multimedia cluster will hardly become a mature and stable economic cluster. Add to this the ever changing software, it means that companies will never be able to consolidate properly before going into a next phase of development. So stimulating new multimedia companies by the government which originate by lack of jobs is not very healthy, in my humble opinion.

*After the GOC and EIM survey on the multimedia cluster no other survey has been performed. So the effect of Internet blow-out, the disappearance of companies and employment have not been measured up to now.

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