The agricultural sector in The Netherlands has a strong international orientation. 80% of its production is for export.
Many Dutch companies even produce abroad. Many dairy farmers are active in other parts in Europe, where flower growers have discovered African countries as good production areas. The Netherlands is the World’s biggest exporter of agricultural products after the USA.
Dutch green vocational education is offered by 12 Agricultural Education Centre’s (in Dutch: AOC) Together they are responsible for over one hundred colleges, with about 60.000 students, equally divided over pre vocational education (VMBO) and secondary vocational education (diploma level, MBO)
The agricultural sector and the AOC have a close cooperation. Some AOC participate in organizations such as Greenport Holland International. This cooperation has led to the formulation of the Human Capital Agenda. In this document, the focus is on the role of (future) workers. Also the formulation of job profiles and the related educational structure is a joint cooperation.
The Dutch vocational education is competency based. Competencies can be job-related or personal. To acquire these competencies, students have different learning pathways, both inside and outside their school. An example of learning outside the school is the internship. This internship can be in The Netherlands, but also abroad. Many Dutch companies have been accredited as a learning company. More and more foreign companies follow. The companies can be found in a web based database. For Dutch students, international mobility is an excellent tool to develop their personal competencies: How to deal with a different culture, another language, different structures in companies, etc. Also the other way around, foreign students and workers come to The Netherlands to have practical experiences in companies.
Knowledge as an export product
More and more Dutch companies are convinced of the importance not only to export goods, but also the knowledge needed to deal with the latest equipment and technologies. This kind of cooperation, public private partnerships, becomes more popular. AOC are involved in this kind of projects in the animal husbandry sector, in food processing and in horticulture.
Some AOC cooperate with Universities for Applied Sciences. With this cooperation a wider range of education can be offered. This cooperation is called Orange Agricultural Education (OAE) and has its focus mainly on the BRIC countries. It is possible to extend it to the MENA region.
An essential conclusion is that there is a big need for vocational training and education. Many countries need well trained middle management on the level of secondary vocational education (diploma level, EQF 4-5) AOC offer their training and education exactly within this segment, because it is their main field of expertise.
Present experiences in MENA
AOC are active in MENA on different levels. In Morocco Dutch students adopted the green area of a town and they revitalise parks.
At this moment acquisition of new projects takes place in Saudi Arabia (horticulture and poultry), Oman (horticulture and fisheries) and Kuwait (training of veterinarian assistants). As said before, the focus is on secondary vocational training and education. It can be directly related to activities of companies, but also to public institutions. Services offered are related to the modernisation of VET, including curriculum development, training of trainers and the development of learning materials. Also support of promotion campaigns to make VET more popular is possible. Some AOC offer the possibility of recognised diplomas and certificates. These AOC have been recognised as a B-TEC training organisation. This means that their diplomas and certificated are worldwide recognized.
Example: Dairy Food Polytechnic (DFP)
A good example of a public private partnership is the DFP project in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Cooperation between the well-known dairy company Almarai and the governmental organisation TVTC has led to the establishment of a training institute in the city of Al Kharj, about 60 km from Riyadh. On Dutch side there is a partnership of Cinop and AOC Raad. As the Union of AOC, AOC Raad has brought in many AOC trainers, who are active now in this project. The project will continue till 2016.
Also in this project, it is about curriculum development, production of learning materials, but also the development of practical facilities for dairy processing, maintenance and repair and bakery technology in the school. In 2016 local trainers are supposed to take over this training institute.
In the Kingdom, there are plans for further projects in horticulture and poultry.