Rising through challenges in Taiwan

Wilko de Jong, Senior Project Manager, Heerema Marine Contractors, talks to Atlas about his work in Taiwan and how the job teaches him something new every single day 

After a successful stint in Texas, Houston for four years, it was time for Wilko de Jong to move back to the Netherlands. But as destiny would have it, the moving van was sent packing off to Taiwan instead of the Netherlands. With the offshore wind investments seeing a shift from Europe to Asia, the new fulcrum of offshore opportunities lays in Taiwan. For Heerema, this was an opportunity to send Wilko to the island nation. 

Currently working on the Greater Changhua offshore wind farm project as a Project Manager stationed in Taipei, this is one of the most challenging projects he has worked on. “I have been with the company since 2004 and have been to many different countries. This has been the toughest job in my career and every day is a new challenge. Taiwan doesn’t have an offshore history, they are at a budding stage and the culture is entirely different,” he shares.

Bridging the gap 

The Taiwanese government has set the target to source 20% electricity from renewables by 2025 and offshore wind. Aiming to be a market leader in the APAC region, Taiwan’s booming offshore industry comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities. Breaking into the offshore wind industry and navigating cultural challenges on a day-to-day basis means adapting to situations constantly. Wilko is learning to tackle each day with patience striving to deliver his best on time. 

Having local talent onboard is key in the long run, Wilko shares. “Things in Taiwan are different, and they are not used to our way of working and change is slow. We have hired a lot of Taiwanese people into our team, and they are keen to learn. What I love about this culture is people are quick learners, they are extremely hard-working and have decent English skills. The main obstacle is the experience in offshore industry but that’s a growth process and they are now building onto it.”

A helping hand on-board 

Supporting Wilko in this journey is Atlas, who he agrees has been with him since day one from white-collar recruitment to blue-collar placements – Atlas has provided Offshore Field Engineers, QHSE Site Representatives, Storekeepers and many more. 

He shares, “Atlas was the first recruitment and manning agency that I connected with here in Taiwan and when I arrived, John (Atlas Professionals Business Development Manager) was among the first people I met within Taiwan, and they have been supporting all of our searches since then. They have delivered a couple capable candidates, people that we’re very happy to have on our team.”

Due to the pandemic, things are slower than usual and having a reliable, local partner has been crucial, “Working in Taiwan requires a lot of patience, and we are happy to have this support. It’s quite easy to talk to Atlas as they understand the ground situation well. The cultural barrier is probably bigger than the language barrier and we have been trying to bridge that together,” Wilko says. 

Riding the wave of change 

To meet its ambitious goals, Taiwan also needs competent professionals. The dearth of human capital is a significant challenge. Accelerating education about the industry is the first step towards overcoming this hiccup. “It’s important to educate people at institutes, universities, colleges to increase popularity about the offshore industry. Get youngsters curious to study those kinds of subjects, create a community of like-minded people and opportunities for them to meet the industry insiders. This will ensure that experience that develops in Taiwan, is retained in the country and is not diluted in any way,” he asserts. 

Atlas Professionals are currently open to host lectures at institutes all over Taiwan and have recently delivered a successful lecture at the National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology (NKUST) about working in wind. Find our latest vacancies in Taiwan here or contact John Skiller for more details.