Worldwide the debate is in full swing. Parents, teachers, students, educational institutions, employers and policy makers alike are asking themselves What are the skills needed for the labour market in the future?, and, Are these being taught to those who will be entering the job market in the coming years?
At ROC Mondriaan, an intermediate vocational education college based in The Hague area, the future of its graduates is the fundamental basis for all they do – in their national (Dutch) as well as international (English) streams. The three courses offered in the English language covering Hotel Management, Tourism and Business Studies offer their graduates access to Higher Education. From curriculum development and international partnerships to participating in achievement events, it is not simply teaching students today that matters, but also what the students gain for their own future. This may seem like a logical, expected element of education: preparing students for their future – but the truth is; when the future is such an unknown, unless educational institutions connect to employers and the wider world around them, how can they ‘know’ what the future is that they are preparing them for?
There was an element of serendipity to the interview I had with Fred Klingeman, Project Manager, and Marian Crone, Tutor HRM & Internships at the International Hotel & Management School of ROC Mondriaan. That same afternoon, a local paper had featured a special insert entitled Education and the Business Sector, which had been a central element of what we had only just discussed earlier that day. Not to mention the current debates surrounding public education that are taking place worldwide, and the challenges an increasingly international world places on students and education institutes alike.
Connecting Beyond the City
“Currently, the Netherlands sends less than 1% of all MBO (vocational) students on international internships; the aim is to reach 5%. We at the Mondriaan International Hotel School send almost 100%!” The pride with which Fred and Marian make this statement is clear. They are ahead of the game in many ways, this one being front and centre. But it is not only the students who gain from this international experience. The teaching and management staff at Mondriaan are also supported and encouraged to broaden their experience and exposure. Through projects which emphasise the exchange of knowledge as well as experience, Mondriaan staff is also involved with programmes in Morocco, Turkey and China. Granted, a school which offers Hotel, International Business and International Tourism & Leisure Management programmes should by necessity include international internship opportunities, but at Mondriaan the international focus goes far beyond the internship element. This is even further stimulated by the fact that, as Fred points out, in an increasingly international city such as The Hague, the demands of the local market alone are critical. For the Netherlands to attract international business and international organisations there must be an excellent infrastructure in place to ensure that an English-language education is offered at all levels for the children of expatriates. There is also a demand for this English-language programme among the Dutch community. Children of Dutch parents working abroad have often followed their education in international schools and need to continue their studies in the English language.
For many years now Mondriaan has nourished and strengthened its connections with hotels and schools beyond the Netherlands. Keeping in touch with alumni working overseas at management levels is in no small measure an effective way of ensuring challenging opportunities for its students, as is keeping a finger on the pulse of the market and knowing what it is looking for in future employees. A case in point is a soon-to-be embarked-upon partnership with the Intercontinental Hotel Group in Hangzhou in China. Such international partnerships with schools and businesses also include the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and the Caribbean.
The curriculum at Mondriaan already fits in with EU and Dutch policies of internationalisation, in that all their students are encouraged to have, and are provided with the opportunity to improve upon, their language skills. Students may choose Chinese as an optional extra, in which case they can participate in an Exchange Programme with the Hotel division of The Beijing School of Foreign Affairs. Mondriaan students visited the school in May 2011, while in January 2012 Mondriaan hosted a visit from Beijing, with 16 teachers and students. Add to this the continued search for international opportunities for students and staff alike, and it is clear that ROC Mondriaan will continue to meet the challenges of the local and European policy directives.
A more recent development to keep abreast of European developments are the efforts at Mondriaan to ensure that their students can obtain a Europass – part of an EU-initiative to allow students within Europe to ‘communicate their skills and qualifications effectively when looking for a job or training position, and to help employers understand the skills and qualifications of the workforce’. Ultimately this initiative will ‘help education and training authorities define and communicate the content of curriculums’ and thus stimulate labour mobility.
Connecting Beyond School Walls
Contributing to the development of skills, and at the same time exposing their students to the benefits of excellence and achievement, are also two of the motivations for Mondriaan to actively participate in, and pursue opportunities for, ‘competitive’ forums. The World Skills and Euro Skills competitions – the ‘Olympics’ of skills – are but two of such forums in which Mondriaan-students have competed. “To see the satisfaction of our students when meeting, interacting and competing with their peers from other countries is wonderful,” according to Marian. The World Skills Competition welcomes 1,000 candidates from 57 countries, covers 45 skill categories and aims to recognise talent beyond competence and to encourage excellence. Both Fred and Marian agree that the experience their students gain by being able to compete with others is not only of value to them individually, but also contributes to the broadening of their horizons and fosters a determination to work hard towards what they want to achieve. In 2010, a student from the International Stream of the Hotel Management School won a medal for her Front Office skills. Students from the Technical Department competed at the World Skills Competition in London 2011 and in the same year, Mondriaan hosted the annual competition of the European Association of Hotel and Tourism Schools (AEHT), welcoming more than 600 participants from 30 countries. With a Winner in the Wine Category, Mondriaan ensured the committed participation of future students in their chosen field of profession.
A Formula in Constant Evolution
At Mondriaan, teaching and management staff do not rest on the laurels of their success and achievements; they realise that in order to remain successful, and to secure achievement for their graduates, they need to keep in touch with the market and the world – in order to ensure that the students they so carefully nurture have the future they expect, and deserve. Networking beyond the confines of academia and the Netherlands, thinking ahead, being able to anticipate developments, and reviewing and renewing their curriculums based on the needs of the market – service providers as well as clients – means Mondriaan is always formulating a plan to serve their students beyond their days at Mondriaan. And, as the icing on the proverbial cake, the exposure to so many different opportunities means the students can develop their careers in their chosen profession or carry on their studies into Higher Education.
For more information about the International programmes of the ROC Mondriaan, visit the English pages www.rocmondriaan.nl