Creating students fit for work - the Dutch way - Business Works
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Creating students fit for work - the Dutch way

by Dennis Buizert, final year student and Information Security Specialist Every business wants to hire. However, in most cases, students aren't what they are looking for - mainly because they lack business knowledge and experience. However, here in the Netherlands, students are being prepared for the business mindset with the skills required, says Dennis Buizert, final year student and Information Security Specialist.

The curriculum in colleges and universities is made up from forty percent theory teaching and the other sixty percent comprises business case studies. These are workplace scenarios and, in some cases, are carried out with real clients. Students have to look for a local business and leverage their business contacts. This happens in the first two-and-half years of their degree course. In the second phase, the real study begins and they have to complete a mandatory internship. In this way, they leverage their connections a second time. For some studies the second phase is harder so, if unsuccessful in finding a suitable company to work with, their teachers will always have connections that can help.

In the fourth and final year, a student will only graduate by passing their graduate internship. Again, using their connections, in most cases they work with a company to create a project which they end up leading. The project has to have SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-related) and it has to be approved by a small committee consisting of teachers from their degree course. The premise of the graduate internship is to use the theory and experience from the earlier part of their studies to complete a successful project in order to graduate. This offers them the opportunity to showcase what they are capable of by completing the project (although it is not always possible to actually complete the project) and writing a paper that includes the thought process used. This is what truly determines whether a student passes or fails. The paper is a reflection of things that happened, problems that occurred, solutions found, planning issues and decisions that had to be made for the company and what resulted. It is a product-vs-process reflection on the whole project.

This all sounds very nice, but doesn't it cause a lot of extra work and burden from a financial standpoint? Actually, in a way it does, but most businesses in the Netherlaands have a budget to hire a certain number of students per year. Businesses love to work with students because it gets projects done quicker as the student only focuses on one thing where an employee usually has multiple projects.

An added benefit is that the student has a fresh approach to things. Sometimes they see things in ways the business didn't even think about. From a managers standpoint (depending on the manager), it creates extra hours of work. The student might need support and guidance at times. However, from my own experience, students end up being treated like a co-worker, but with a bit more support. The business also wants the student to succeed as it is their name on the paper as well, so they feel more involved and committed.

an invaluable two-way symbiotic relationship

The benefit behind this way of teaching and preparing students is that they get a lot of work-related experiences that makes them fir for the real world. Most of the time, after they graduate, they end up working at the place where they did their projects. The market becomes / is involved with school(s) and the theory that is being taught in the degree courses. It keeps schools on their toes and up-to-date with market needs and it also means that the market stays in touch with schools. Most of the time they end up providing assignments for students and / or give guest lectures to showcase the difference between practice and theory. It is an invaluable two-way symbiotic relationship.

This way a graduate will learn how to work and behave in the real world and leverage all the theory and connections. The graduate will learn how to handle stress, changes and problems, as well as how to communicate this to his / her superiors. All of these things are beneficial to a company, because no one wants stressed-out workers, especially when they are young.

a market fit for young professionals

The end result is a market fit for young professionals. New companies end up being new sources of contacts in the student-company-school relationships. This is really important for schools and students as it provides a constant stream of assignments, connections and relationships.

This is the Dutch way of turning students into young professionals. A philosophy more countries and schools should implement as it is more effective and beneficial than other altenatives. Schools and markets develop positive relationships and, in some cases, become partners. It creates a more fun way of teaching and a more exciting way of gradating leading to students being fit for work.

Dennis Buizert is a fourth-year college student from the Netherlands. He has three years of internship experience at different levels in the Dutch school system and is about to graduate as a young professional in Information Security Management

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