Looking back at 2019: Caroline and the zone Job market connection
The first year of the Acceleration Plan is over. In a series of interviews, we look back with the leaders of the zones on how their zone has fared in 2019. In this edition: Caroline van de Molen (Saxion University of Applied Sciences), leader of the zone Better connection to the job market.
What were your expectations at the start of the zone?
From December 1, 2019 I took over the leadership over de zone from Ellen van den Berg. I was already involved in the zone, because Saxion wants to play a pioneering role in improving the relationship between education and the job market when it comes to digitisation. I expected to find an enthusiastic, beautiful and interesting zone, where I would continue the course that I had started.
What has the zone done in 2019?
We looked at twelve case studies of projects and activities in which higher education and the job market collaborate on digitisation. Based on this, we distilled do’s and don’ts and carried out quality research analyses. We have also made a number of visuals of our recommendations: what criteria do you have to meet as an institution if you want to collaborate with the professional field in the area of digitisation?
Where are you working towards?
Using existing studies, we are working on a framework to screen the competences for bachelor and master programmes on skills in the field of computational thinking. We want to teach students to see what digitisation can mean for their future profession, and vice versa, what they can contribute to smart applications of digitisation from their profession. Training courses can apply this framework to review the competence profiles and adjust them if necessary. The framework is certainly also intended for study programmes in academic education.
What do you think is the biggest success of 2019?
We’ve created a solid acceleration zone. It is clear what our contribution is to the Acceleration Plan and how we relate to the other zones. I am also proud of the results of the twelve case studies.
What went different from what you hoped for?
We found out that we need to free up time or hire extra people to deliver products. Because it concerns small positions, it now takes a lot of effort to produce products. We hope that the proceeds will be deposited in our own institutions, but sometimes that turns out to be difficult to achieve.
In addition, it is sometimes a pity that we are a small zone, which mainly consists of universities of applied sciences. It is difficult to entice universities to participate. Their relationship to the job market may be a bit more distant, or they are afraid of being prescribed what to teach by the professional field. Either way, we do try to interest them more in the subject, because their role in the digital society is also of great importance to graduates of scientific education.
How do you look back on the process of the past year?
Much of the year 2019 took place before my time, but I found a nice, close-knit team with a clear focus. The embedding in the Acceleration Plan and the support from SURF are well organised. Now only putting the proceeds of the zone in the institutions is a concern.
What do you take with you in 2020?
The energy and enthusiasm of the team.
What should the team do more?
Involve other partners in time and communicate more outside the team. In 2020 we will take our ‘show on the road’ more, so to speak.
What should the team do less in 2020?
There is a tendency to talk for a long time about things that will eventually prove themselves. Incidentally, that thoroughness is also positive. I suspect that this is even more important in larger zones. The advantage of a somewhat smaller zone is that we are more decisive.
What do you hope to have achieved in 2022?
Then we will have a well-functioning framework that can serve to sharpen computational thinking. We will also have delivered a toolbox with examples of collaborations between education and the professional field, lecturers and students in the field of digital skills. If you want to start with such a collaboration by 2022, you have to find the answers to all questions about how you approach it in that toolbox and the framework.
Are you on track to achieving those ambitions by 2022?
I think so. We continue to reflect. For example, we recently adjusted our four work packages, because in practice there appeared to be too much overlap between the subjects of the different packages. You cannot think of everything in advance, some things you have to experience along the way.
What will be visible of the zone’s efforts in ten years’ time?
It would be nice if by then we would hear from the professional field: ‘Graduates from higher education have received state-of-the-art training in the field of digital skills.’ I hope that by then employers will not have to give young professionals extra training before they can get to work.