John Van Akkeren works for our organization in Bergen Op Zoom, where every year he trains dozens of students to become expert professionals in logistics. He has been combining this with the position of Warehouse Manager for 25 years. Last year he was personally awarded best practical trainer in the Netherlands, and this year we achieved a rewarding third place in the Netherlands as Best Learning Company, an award organized and presented by the Transport & Logistics Sector Institute. High time to meet John, who likes to talk about his experiences as a trainer and how to strike the right chord with young people.Why is internal training so important at H.Essers?
John: “The best way to bring in strong, motivated people is to train them ourselves. For this purpose, the BBL pathway (BBL stands for vocational training) exists in the Netherlands, in which you combine work for a number of years with one day of school per week. In this way, young professionals are introduced to logistics early in their careers. Moreover, at that time they know us as their first and only employer, so we can give them a solid foundation. In this way, we quickly get them into the H.Essers story we want to write.”


Where does your success as a company that develops students come from?
John: “Our philosophy is that you have to set someone free to train them well. We build on the students’ independence and intelligence, adjust where necessary, and give them the freedom to make mistakes. This is the only way to learn. Within certain frameworks and conditions, of course. One of the conditions I give is that they have to stick to agreements made. Do what you say and take responsibility. And I also attach great importance to team spirit. The students are part of a team, and so what we do here is a “team effort.”


What have you learned yourself during the training programs?
John: “That it is important to give people room to discover their passion. For example, last year a student came to me for an interview who had already stopped several courses and couldn’t find her niche. Since we at H.Essers like to offer opportunities, I let her tag along for a day. Well, after that one day, this student felt completely at home with us and resolutely chose a BBL training course. She now helps me supervise new apprentices. So you see, people can fall into completely different roles than you think. If it clicks, you’re off. For that, you first have to get into the right environment, and we provide that here.”


Are there any student stories that stand out?
John: “Annick’s story is special. Last year she came to see our company during an open evening of the regional training center. She already knew then that she wanted to become a driver, but she was still too young, so she had to bridge another two years. I then advised her to become a logistics employee first, so she would also discover how everything worked on the other side of the loading door. She joined us right after her final exams. Annick is passionate about her job. She comes in so enthusiastic that it is contagious. Next year she will become a terberg driver and after that she will go for her coveted C-driving license. I totally understand why she won the Logistics Talent 2023 award. She wants to learn, she can learn, she came in here with one goal in mind and she is going to achieve that goal. She can be very proud of that herself, and so can we.”