Internationalisation in the VET sector: we have some catching up to do
Is every VET-student aware that an internship abroad can be a life enriching experience? Does every VET-student know about the possibilities that the Erasmus+ program has to offer? Are all schools supportive when a VET-student decides to go abroad? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is still no. Compared to internationally minded higher education, the Dutch vocational section has some catching up to do. As the Dutch Union of Vocational Students, JOB (Jongeren Organisatie Beroepsonderwijs) thinks that the students themselves can help speed things up. Not only in the Netherlands, but also in Brussels!
As the representative of all Dutch vocational students we’re asked on a regular basis to participate in discussions about the future of vocational education. They often tell us that our globalizing society is demanding increasingly flexible and internationally oriented professionals. The feedback that we received from VET-students who have spent some time abroad is without exception positive: all students emphasized that their international experience helped them to meet this demand. In other words; internationalisation is vital for the future of vocational education.
It would be great if every VET-student has the support they need to go abroad. We see a great deal of schools with an active international office. Every school, also those where internationally experience may not be that obvious, should make an effort to stimulate and facilitate VET-students in pursuing their international aspirations. Teachers should give attention to the European context of the career perspective of VET students. Students with international experience should stand in front of the class and encourage their classmates to go abroad . If you start making Europe part of the classroom, students will consider going abroad as a real and tangible opportunity.
Erasmus+ plays an essential role in facilitating VET-students with international aspirations. Equal accessibility of the Erasmus+ program would be an important step towards giving everybody a chance to a life changing international experience. If we want this message to end up at the right place, we have to expand our view. Brussels is only a three our train ride away, but for us, a normally Dutch focused student union, it sometimes feels like the other side of the world.
With Neth-ER and Tibbe van den Nieuwenhuijzen (the Dutch Youth Representative of European Affairs) we have found two partners who help us find European platforms where we can let our voice be heard. On the 8th of December we’ll be attending the European Business Forum, part of the European Vocational Skills Week. We’re curious to see if VET-students from other European countries feel just as strong about improving internationalisation as we do. During the forum we’ll underline the value of international experiences for students in the VET-sector. We’ll keep doing that until international mobility among VET-students is just as common as among students in higher education.
Roosmarijn Dam, Member of the Board of JOB