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Age gap doesn’t matter, experience makes the difference

Five months ago, TMC Employeneur Dick Meeldijk was looking forward to his retirement. He still enjoyed his work, but at 64, it seemed harder and harder to find projects that met his most important criteria. It often felt as if he was being hired despite his age and experience, not because of it. At Demcon, it’s precisely the other way around: ‘I feel my experience is actually an asset, and I feel fully appreciated by my younger colleagues,’ Dick explains. ‘I don’t look forward to my retirement anymore - quite the opposite!’

Dick isn’t the only one who is enthusiastic about his project at Demcon – a high-end technology supplier of products and systems. ‘Soon after he arrived in December, Dick became a vital member of our team,’ says Group Leader Sebastiaan Boers. ‘His experience and his practical knowledge truly make a difference in our daily work. He is the oldest person in our team, by some distance: some of our team members are more than thirty years younger - but there’s no generation gap whatsoever. Dick is as much a part of the action as anyone.’

‘His experience and his practical knowledge truly make a difference in our daily work.'

Dick joined TMC almost nine years ago, after a long spell at Philips as Mechanical Engineer. ‘I was in my fifties when my time at Philips ended,’ Dick says. ‘Even then, I had a feeling that I would stand stronger with an organization like TMC behind me. Of course, ideally, age shouldn’t matter, but in reality, quite a lot of employers are reluctant to hire a slightly older candidate - even if the candidate is the most capable person for the job. TMC’s support made it much easier for me to keep finding interesting projects over the years - with my current project as a somewhat unexpected late-career highlight.’

'TMC’s support made it much easier for me to keep finding interesting projects over the years.'

At Demcon, in the role of Production Engineer, Dick’s focus is on helping develop a large robot. ‘Production begins in summer, so at the moment, the robot only exists on paper. Part of my job is to come up with solutions for a safe and efficient order for the building process. Since it’s such a large and heavy robot, safety is vital, and we have to consider every detail from every angle. The building, for instance, has got to take place in a super-clean environment (accidentally leaving a fingerprint somewhere can have all kinds of serious consequences), and the chains used to lift the heavy parts have to be tested and double-tested - to name just a few of our challenges. Of course, important parts of our kind of work can be learned during our studies and/or behind a computer - but there are certain practical matters that one can only learn by actually experiencing a project from start to finish. I have that experience, and I think that’s exactly why Demcon hired me.’

Group Leader Sebastiaan Boers confirms this: ‘One of Dick’s most valuable talents is thinking ahead and preventing problems. During his extensive career in mechanical engineering, he’s been part of so many projects that he can spot a possible setback or a potential safety issue from a mile off.’

Dick isn’t the type to boast about his knowledge or his insights, Sebastiaan adds. ‘This is what makes Dick such a valuable, highly regarded team member: the combination of his experience and his helpful, very accessible way of sharing his knowledge with a younger generation. We look forward to continuing to benefit from his insights and his many tips and tricks!’

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