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‘An imbalance between the educational offering and the needs of the labour market’

Zakia Guernina joined the Executive Board of the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences about two years ago. From the very beginning she has been committed to improving the alignment between the range and content of educational provision and the needs of the labour market. ‘The dividing line between education and the business community needs to be further dismantled.’

When Zakia Guernina (1968) joined the board of the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences (HR) in September 2018, she did so with an open mind. In her opening speech for the previous academic year 2019-2020, Guernina spoke of imbalance. She explains: ‘We have a societal responsibility to ensure that our educational provision meets the needs of the labour market. This means that the content of our education must fit in well with the wishes of the professional field, but also, that we contribute to solving impending shortfalls in sectors such as education, healthcare and technology.’ That observation is one part, actually doing something about it is the second part. And that is the role of the university of applied sciences. ‘This can be done, on the one hand, by taking a close look at our range of courses and their content and, on the other hand, by involving the business community to a greater extent. As an educational institution, we are the lifeblood of the business community; we provide a large proportion of the potential employees for the profit and non-profit sectors.’

Future-proof crossovers

That is why the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences is designing courses in the field of Economics in a future-proof manner. From the 2019-2020 academic year onwards, the economics courses will be merged into a new business school. The aim is for all students of the HR Business School to come into direct contact with various disciplines from other sectors, such as healthcare and technology. We think that this is necessary, because healthcare technology, for example, has become an integral part of our lives,’ says Guernina. ‘The future entrepreneurs that we deliver will certainly benefit from thinking and acting in a multidisciplinary way. Throughout my life, I have been a strong believer in unconventional crossovers. Put people from different parties together and you’ll get the best innovations.’

This statement has already been proven in practice within the Create4Care concept, which HR set up together with Erasmus MC. Here, students work on solutions to problems that nursing staff encounter in their daily practice. Guernina: ‘Students of product development, engineering and economics are collaborating with healthcare students and professionals. This leads to wonderful results. For example, one of our students has devised a 3D baby scan, which makes it much easier and more accurate to measure babies in incubators. An innovative idea that has ensured improvements on all fronts and may actually be sold commercially. That’s what gives me energy.’

Think tank

As director of the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, she took the initiative, together with the directors of Albeda, Inholland University of Applied Sciences and Zadkine, for the Exploration of Future Economic Vocational Education in Rotterdam. Commissioned by these four vocational education institutions, an independent think tank is looking into the question: “How do we ensure that economic vocational education in Rotterdam remains future-proofed?” The think tank consists of Miriam Hoekstra (director of Schiphol Airport Operations), Mai Elmar (director of Cruise Port Rotterdam and chairman of VNO-NCW region Rotterdam), Barbara Kathmann (Vice Mayor for the Economy in Rotterdam), entrepreneur Laamia Elyounoussi (founder of the cleaning company Clean Business), endowed professor of educational labour market Marc van der Meer (Tilburg University) and Ludo Baauw (CEO of the Intermax Group).

The manifesto, which contained solutions about how economic vocational education can be made sustainable in the future, was handed over by the independent think tank to the directors of the four vocational education institutions in Rotterdam on 15 July. Guernina explains: One of the recommendations is that ’the dividing line between education and the business community should be further dismantled. With greater collaboration, we can both offer young professionals a good future perspective and provide the business community with a (better) qualitative connection. That, incidentally, will remain a continuous process. I am thinking, for example, of constructions in which students in the last two years of their course go to work somewhere for two days a week and complete their studies with us for the remaining three days. Once they have graduated, we’d like to keep in touch with them.  So that they can tell us about developments in the field, and we can support them in the framework of “lifelong learning”. That’s really how I see the future.’

‘Rotterdam has the right formula’

Guernina is supported by Barbara Kathmann, Vice Mayor for the Economy, who feels the same way. ‘We are a perfect match, in terms of energy and ambition. We both feel that Rotterdam offers a unique opportunity in terms of SMEs, healthcare and education. We’ve been calling out ever louder for this, partly because the infrastructure is already very good in that area. You have Rotterdam Partners, the municipality that is very active in various ways and an innovative and ever-growing life sciences and health sector. There is plenty of opportunity in Rotterdam to just try things out and see if they succeed. Doing things together instead of finding things out from each other. To me, that seems to be the right formula for moving forward.’

For more information on the exploration of the future of economic vocational education in Rotterdam, go to: www.hr.nl/toekomstberoepsonderwijs010

Bron: Hogeschool Rotterdam
16 juli