PhD position: Understanding and supporting production workers’ continuous skill development in the Smart Industry

PhD position: Understanding and supporting production workers’ continuous skill development in the Smart Industry

Published Deadline Location
14 Nov 3 Dec Enschede

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Job description

The Dutch industry needs a skilled workforce to keep up with and contribute to digital and green transitions. However, finding qualified employees is challenging, and skills quickly become outdated due to fast-developing technologies (AI, VR, robots). Currently, most Smart Industry companies lack human capital and knowledge to achieve their maximum potential.

The NWO-funded project Smart Skills@Scale connects 5 universities, 3 universities of applied sciences, eleven Smart Industry communities, 450 SMEs, and several social partners and educational partners in an eight-year program to realize a major breakthrough aimed towards creating a sustainably employable workforce. In a total of four work packages, we stimulate the development of human-centric production systems, smart workplaces, jobs and careers, and (regional) partnerships. With this integrated approach, we want to empower production employees and organizations to achieve a human-centric, resilient, and sustainable Smart Industry sector. The program will kick-off at the beginning of 2024. We invite enthusiastic researchers to join our team and to work on the creation of resourceful workplaces in the Smart Industry in which production workers are stimulated to continuously update and renew their skills to keep up and contribute to quickly changing technology.

Your job
As a PhD-student in this project, you will work on the intersection of science and practice and both contribute to the understanding of how production workers engage in upskilling and reskilling activities in their daily work, and to the development of tools to create more resourceful workplace that support continuous skill development. You will set up intensive longitudinal studies in which you follow production workers’ skill development activities and their specific triggers. The purpose of these studies is to understand the key drivers (enabling and hindering workplace conditions and daily personal and contextual triggers) and processes of production workers’ up- and reskilling in their day-to-day work practices. In addition, you will also develop tools to provide actionable feedback and insights to production workers and their managers to make them more aware of additional skill development opportunities.

You will work independently on your research while maintaining close connections with other researchers in the project team, as well as with Smart Industry communities and stakeholders from small and medium-sized enterprises. You will be expected to report and present your findings for both scientific and non-scientific audiences, such as at scientific conferences, in journal publications, and during meetings with Smart Industry communities.

In this project, we embrace team science. Your homebase for your research is at the University of Twente, but you are also part of a larger research team of other PhD-students, post-doc researchers, and senior researchers from multiple Dutch universities and universities of applied sciences. Also, our research team involves experts that help disseminate findings, coordinate with our partners from practice, and build tools. You will have ample opportunities for knowledge exchange with them too. Additionally, eight world-renowned researchers - part of our international scientific committee- will provide feedback on your work and offer you international experience. Within this project, we currently have six positions open. Please, check our website for the other positions:

It is possible to apply for more than one position. We ask you to send separate letters but indicate in your letter the other position(s) you are applying for. We value diversity for our team and highly encourage minorities and candidates with a background in vocational education to apply.


University of Twente (UT)


To be considered for this position, you should:
  • have a MSc degree in Educational Sciences, Business Administration, Psychology, Human Resource Management, Human Resource Development, Organization Studies, Communication Science, or a related field.
  • have expertise or demonstrable interest in the process of continuous learning and upskilling in the workplace
  • have strong methodological knowledge (quantitative);
  • have experience or an interest in field research, specifically experience sampling or intensive longitudinal study designs
  • have an interest in the human capital challenges related to Industry 5.0 developments;
  • be able to connect with production workers and link your research to their values and interests;
  • have good social and communication skills in academic as well as non-academic contexts;
  • are fluent in English and able to understand and communicate in Dutch (hard requirement);
  • have excellent writing and organization skills;
  • have proven ability to work independently, but also to collaborate within a team and with relevant stakeholders.

Conditions of employment

A 4-year PhD-position (1.0fte), starting between January - March 2024. The gross salary is in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO NU) € 2.770,- to € 3.539,- per month for a fulltime position, depending on experience. On top of this, you receive a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and an 8.3% end-of-year bonus.

We offer excellent auxiliary terms of employment, such as professional and personal development programs; a secondary remuneration package; a dynamic environment with enthusiastic colleagues; an organization focusing on internationalization and a high degree of responsibility and independence.


The department of Professional Learning & Technology is specialised in research on professional learning in and across organisations. Researchers at our department study formal and informal learning of (future) employees, including the use of technology to measure and support professional learning. Our studies often take place in the high-tech, health, and educational sector with the intention to understand, evaluate and optimize professional learning in these various contexts. We aim to understand the interactions between learning processes on the individual, team, and organizational level and design (technology based) interventions to optimize these processes. In our research group, we combine expertise from a range of disciplines (e.g., educational sciences, communication sciences, psychology, business administration). Staff members participate in the ICO research school (the Interuniversity Centre of Educational Sciences) and the Twente Graduate School.Our department is responsible for the courses of the Human Resource Development track of the Master Educational Science and Technology, and the corresponding pre-Master program.


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • 38—40 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1473


University of Twente (UT)

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Drienerlolaan 5, 7522NB, Enschede

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