In 2010, the national associations of employers and employees, the Dutch Association of VET Colleges (the umbrella organisation of VET providers) and the umbrella organisation of the centres of expertise VET – Trade and industry signed a declaration of intent for the establishment of a new foundation which started on 1 January 2012.
This new foundation, S-BB, coordinates initiatives to optimise vocational education and training at upper secondary level. For the ministry this foundation functions as a one-stop-shop point of policy contact concerning the general development of upper vocational education and training.
In this foundation, the partners work together on several themes: qualifications and examinations; work placements in enterprises; national and regional efficiency of VET provision and vocational guidance. Its work includes cross-sectoral and cross-regional approaches. All these themes are bound up with delivery of sufficient and well-qualified professionals for the labour market.
Upper secondary VET vocational training colleges and the business community play an important role. Both contribute to design of the structure of qualifications and the corresponding (school) examinations; the centres of expertise VET – Trade and industry as service organisations support execution of tasks within this field.
Students in upper secondary VET are trained in vocational practice via internships and work placements as compulsory components of the curriculum. Within S-BB, education and the labour market have reached joint agreements on work placement. The companies that want to offer work placements or internships to students need to be accredited. This legislative task of accreditation is - as in earlier times - executed by the 17 centres of expertise VET – Trade and industry; and all the accredited companies are published on www.stagemarkt.nl .
An important issue is the efficiency and effectiveness of VET provision. It has to meet the quantitative and qualitative needs of the labour market at national, sectoral and regional levels. After completion of upper secondary VET courses the majority of students enter the labour market; a small proportion of the student population continues in higher professional education. The aim is to provide an optimal minimum of qualifications and a sound and workable spread of vocational programmes at regional and national levels. It is essential that national approved qualifications maintain enough space for regional differences, so that fine tuning with regional needs can take place.
S-BB and the centres of expertise offer a wide range of support for career guidance: information about vocations/professions; information about opportunities for employment and internships; organisation of company visits; production of instruments assisting the study or work career orientation process.
Within S-BB functions an independent department for quality assurance. The tasks of this department are: assessment of all proposed qualifications to see they meet the national agreements about the output of the qualification structure process; and policy advice about further development of the qualification structure. Another department – for credential evaluation – provides policy advice about the comparability between Dutch and foreign VET qualifications. It functions as the Dutch national reference point for recognition of foreign qualifications.