Young Expert Programmes is kick-starting careers

Young Experts take on leading roles

Through the government-funded Young Expert Programmes, high potentials are adding value to projects and organisations in countries around the world.
Posted by Jeroen Langelaar

“I chose to become a Young Expert, because it is a great opportunity to go abroad at an early stage in my career, while being offered great support throughout my time here”, says Juliette Eulderink, Resident Project Manager on the Orange Knowledge project ‘Climate Proof Vietnam’ (see interview below, ed.).

Gaining international experience

Juliette is part of a growing group of young high potentials who are starting their career working with companies and organisations in participating countries. YEP Programmes is an initiative of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), the Food & Business Knowledge Platform and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).

The programme offers young Dutch and local professionals the opportunity to take their first steps in an international environment, in either the Water, Agrofood or Energy sector. Through placement of these young experts, the programme aims to rejuvenate these sectors and ensure the continued availability of expertise. Participating organisations receive financial support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Young Experts carry way more responsibility than they would have on a job in the Netherlands, where they’re often seen as ‘juniors’."

The YEP programme originated in 2013 in the Dutch water management sector which at the time experienced difficulties in finding young, highly-educated personnel. By the same token, young professionals that want to work abroad are struggling to get their international careers started since in the eyes of most employers they aren’t experienced enough to work abroad. After a successful pilot in the water sector, the programme has expanded to include agrofood and energy as well.

Recently-graduated students can sign up for participation in the programme. Both Dutch young professionals as well as locals can participate. When selected, Young Experts receive a three-week training course before being sent abroad. “They already have the technical knowledge to make an immediate contribution”, says Marjon Reiziger, YEP programme manager at NWP. “This training course focuses on personal development and intercultural awareness and skills.”


What separates Young Experts from young professionals starting their career in ‘regular positions’, is the responsibility they enjoy at their organisation, according to Reiziger.

“Organisations hold Young Experts in high regard. Some Young Experts get the opportunity to talk to national politicians. They carry way more responsibility than they would have on a job in the Netherlands, where they’re often seen as ‘juniors’. And when there is a match between the organisation and the professional, Young Experts are regularly offered an employment contract once the programme is over. This way YEP functions as a kick start to a young person’s professional career.”

The YEP Global Network consists of almost 500 current or former Young Experts in 41 countries. Through meetups they benefit from each other’s knowledge and network.

Young Experts work on a project for either one or two full years, although the vast majority (85 percent) opts for a two-year position. Over the course of their YEP programme, they stay in touch with a coach, provided by YEP, as well with other Young Experts working for different organisations. After a year, they receive a two-week training on subjects like leadership, entrepreneurship and strategy.

Sharing knowledge

The value of becoming part of the YEP Global Network as a young professional cannot be understated. This network consists of almost 500 current or former Young Experts in 41 countries. As young professionals that share – or have shared – the same experience, they regularly organise meetups and peer-to-peer coaching weekends. This way, they benefit from each other’s knowledge and network.

Half of the Young Experts work in the private sector, with the other half divided between NGOs and knowledge institutions. Organisations are allowed up to three Young Experts per project. In 2019, about 100 Young Experts were placed on projects worldwide.

“We get a lot of phone calls from companies asking if we have some alumni Young Experts available. They are in extremely high demand. YEP has become a brand.”

"We choose to work with Young Experts on our projects, because their fulltime employment gives projects a flying start."

Research among YEP alumni shows 50 percent ends up working and living internationally, and 40 percent gets a job in the Netherlands in an international setting.

Young Experts in Orange Knowledge Programmes

Organisations that carry out Nuffic-funded Orange Knowledge Programme projects also work with Young Experts, like Delft University of Technology in its Climate Proof Vietnam project.

“We choose specifically to work with Young Experts on several Orange Knowledge projects, because they are there fulltime during the first few years of a project, which gives it a flying start”, says Marjan Kreijns of Delft University of Technology. “In addition, Young Experts have recently graduated from our university, so they are very familiar with our curriculum. They play an important role in translating this curriculum to the local context. Young Experts are extremely helpful in giving practical courses and doing field research, and they also function as a supervisor to Dutch interns in Vietnam.”

“Normally”, Kreijns continues, “we could not permit these ‘expat positions’ in collaborative projects. Thanks to the support of YEP Programmes it is possible now.”

Reiziger agrees with Kreijns that Young Experts are very beneficial to Orange Knowledge projects. “Having Young Experts on the ground for a year or two helps tremendously with preparations and follow-ups, and makes projects way more efficient and its results more lasting.”

‘YEP helps me achieve my career goals’ - Khoa Thi, Young Expert from Vietnam

Khoa Thi

Young Expert and Lecturer at Climate Proof Vietnam (Orange Knowledge Programme)

“The goal of Climate Proof Vietnam is to enhance the quality of staff and curriculum of the Faculty of Water Resources at Hanoi University of Natural Resources and Environment. Before I became a Young Expert, it was my job to create a coherent liaison between partners in this project, which includes Delft University of Technology. I also kept track of the progress of the project. Because of my knowledge of the project, I was invited to join the YEP programme.”

“YEP is working very well in creating a global network of experts who are working in the fields of water, agriculture and energy. I want to be a member of that network to widen my outlook, find new ideas and change myself to become more adaptive and efficient. Being a Young Expert on this particular project will help me develop new skills, including project management skills and professional capacity. The training we received before becoming a Young Expert helped me get more confident and motivated.”

“I will always need creative, highly-applicable practical ideas in my future career. That is why I am developing myself in the field of applied remote sensing and water management. But I will first need to master my professional capacity to come up with such core ideas and subsequently apply it in projects. As a Young Expert, I received training, travelled to the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (University of Twente) and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, had many good discussions with experts, and accumulated experiences in managing projects. I definitely believe my position as a Young Expert will help me in achieving my professional goals.”

‘Sharing experiences with fellow Young Experts is very valuable’ - Juliette Eulderink, Young Expert from The Netherlands

Juliette Eulderink

Young Expert and Resident Project Manager at Climate Proof Vietnam (Orange Knowledge Programme)

“I chose to become a Young Expert because it seemed like a great opportunity to go abroad at an early stage in my career, while being offered great support throughout my time there."

“As part of the Young Expert Programmes I work in Hanoi, Vietnam, as a Delft University of Technology water professional for an educational capacity building project. The Orange Knowledge Programme ‘Climate Proof Vietnam’ project aims to improve educational and organisational capacity at partner universities in Hanoi in the fields of water and climate change.”

“I truly believe that education is the best investment for sustainable development in a country. It also feels meaningful to be part of a sustainable project that is trying to make an impact during our current worldwide climate change crisis.”

“As resident project manager, I am responsible for the coordination of all project-related activities on the ground. My activities include sharing knowledge, developing course material, giving trainings, supervising (Vietnamese and Dutch) student research and carrying out as well as setting up staff research.”

“Sharing experiences with my fellow Young Experts (both Dutch and ‘local’) is very valuable. There is lots of time for bonding, and I cannot wait to see them all again during our return training at the end of 2020. Until then, we have a Whatsapp group that is very active, currently on a daily basis!”

Want to know more?

Would you like to include a Young Expert in your (upcoming) project in water or agrofood? Apply through The deadline application of project proposals is on 1 March 2020, but there will be other application periods coming up. Keep an eye on the website.

Would you like to work as a Young Expert in water or agrofood? Then submit your job application through the official website between 23 March and 1 April (13.00 hrs). There will be other application periods throughout the year.

Read more about the Orange Knowledge Programme and upcoming calls.