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Netherlands: public-private partnerships will promote innovation in VET

The Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER) has published a report on VET, which emphasises the importance of intensifying cooperation between schools and enterprises. The aim is to be responsive to, and able to keep up with, the pace of innovation.

To keep up with innovation and continuously changing job requirements, the government and private sector have joined forces to accelerate change and invest in adjusting workforce skills. Dynamic regional and sectoral partnerships were formed: centres of expertise (in higher education) and centres for innovative craftsmanship (in vocational education).

The centres promote collaboration between local business, vocational schools, institutes for higher education and the government. Shared investments of both public and private parties help drive business models that create financial viability. Variation and autonomy are key characteristics. Each centre creates its own niche and market value. Through associations with education organisations, new insights, methods and curricula reach an extended audience.

The focus of the centres lies in:

  • building strong ties between VET schools and businesses;
  • training of professionals, craftspersons in innovative skills;
  • providing lifelong learning and just-in-time retraining facilities;
  • accelerating and improving companies’ capacity for innovation.

Katapult – the title of the community of all 160 centres - intends to increase outreach and sustainability and to explore and launch strategies to involve more regional stakeholders in the centres’ activities.

An overview of the policies and financing of the centres was published at the so-called Katapult-day, on 30 November 2017. In two years’ time the number of companies cooperating with a centre has doubled, from 3 000 to 6 000. Also, 50 000 students are currently participating in the activities of local centres.

The aims of the Katapult community for 2025 are:

  • 90% of all Dutch schools for senior vocational education, as well as of the Universities of Applied Sciences, participating a centre’s activities;
  • achieve the involvement of 25% of all VET students;
  • expand business involvement in the centres’ activities up to 20 000 companies;
  • increase teacher involvement in centres’ activities to create up-to-date curricula.

On Katapult-day, Mr. Hans de Jong, CEO of Philips Benelux, emphasised the importance of the centres and urged companies to get involved in their activities: ‘Only if many more companies are willing to cooperate with schools for vocational education, are we able to train new talents for the innovation of the labour market and innovation society as a whole.

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