Talent attraction

The Bilbao effect of attracting talent

How has Bilbao made itself a name in career destinations?

Even today, delegations and study visits still pour into Basque capital to understand what is the secret behind the Bilbao effect. Read more here. Even with tourism, there are many attempts to repeat the recipe.  

When it comes to attracting and retaining talent, there is a pretty clear case to be made of Bizkaia:talent, the regional organisation responsible for making Basque Country a well-known career destination.

A career destination is so much more than marketing and communications, temporary campaigns and going to career fairs. What services will international talent receive once they are there? How will their children be schooled, how can spouses find jobs? In addition, working with the private sector is vital: How can local companies team up with the public sector to take part in the hunt for talents? These are critical questions to consider.

Global recognition

The Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2018 (GTCI) has highlighted Bilbao as a success story in its own right.

According to the GTCI report, one of the key strengths of Bilbao derives from its capability to build global knowledge by leveraging its high level of tertiary-educated population and workforce. What’s more, formal recognitions, such as the best European City of the year 2018 have helped to confirm the substantial efforts that are being made to make the city a destination point.

The branding concept ‘Bilbao Bizkaia, Be Basque’ was launched in 2013 by the City Council of Bilbao, the Country Council of Biscay, and the Basque government. The main objective of the concept is to promote a positive, coherent, and stable image of the location – against the backdrop of a comprehensive strategy focusing on attracting visitors, investments, events, and talent.

This is meant to function as an invitation to join one of the oldest but arguably most innovative nodes of southern Europe—i.e. to feel part of and be proud of an authentic place.

Programmes focused on attracting, retaining or connecting international talent to the region intensively use the Be Basque motto. One example is the Be Basque Talent Network, an online platform that has more than 10 000 highly qualified professionals operating in more than 100 countries and with 320 companies from Basque, all of them whopping figures. The combination of the Be Basque message and an active dissemination of career opportunities have created a wide-reaching, inclusive network: Almost half of the network members are not Basque-born but typically professionals who would like to be professionally connected with other specialists worldwide and with Basque organisations. In addition, the Be Basque Dual Career Centre was the first centre of this kind in Spain, helping to make sure that spouses of international talent get a positive welcoming and integration into the region.

Bizkaia:talent, headed by Ivan Jiménez Aira, has been a key driver in this development and has done a lot to re-attract talent successfully from the wider world (see interview), as well as build and orchestrate the global Be Basque talent network. It offers services to international talent pre and post arrival, statistics and insights on what skills are needed and what sectors are most likely to hire as well as work with local companies that wish to attract talents. And all of this is done digitally, of course.

For more information

Explore the Basque Talent Observatory. It offers inspiration and examples on how a city and region can work with talent attraction.

Read the Financial Times about their 6th of October meeting in London.  The “Be Basque Talent Meetings & Conferences” is having their next meeting in London with about 170 Be Basque Professionals (70% of them Basque born) and 65 representatives of Basque organisations. Here’s a recap from last year.

Ivan Jiménez Aira, the Managing Director at Bizkaia:Talent, is an alumni of our training programmes Talent Attraction Management for European Cities and Regions and Change Management for Place Attractiveness.

Do you want to improve your city’s, region’s or country’s capacity to attract and retain international talent? Join the TAMEU2018 training programme in Greater Copenhagen, November 28-29!


Needless to say, the Bilbao case will be discussed more in details, as well as other European and global best practices.


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