To meet changing job requirements, government and private sector in the Netherlands have joined forces to accelerate change and invest in conversion of the workforce through the Centres of Expertise (higher education) and Centres of Innovative Craftsmanship (vocational education). The Centres are powerful action-oriented partnerships between educational institutions, companies, goverments and other public organisations. The network of Centres started in 2011 with a few pilots, and has expanded to over 150 fully operational public-private partnerships (Centres) in 2016. The main objectives of the Centres are:
- Creating an excellent link between edcation and the labour market
- Educating innovative and skilled professionals, craftsman or craftswoman
- Promoting 'life-long learning and timely retraining
- Accelerating and enhancing the innovation capacity of companies
Each Centre focuses on a specific sector (High Tech Systems & Materials, Horticulture, Life Sciences & Health, Agri & Food, Water, Energy, Chemicals, Logistics, Creative industry, ICT, Construction or Culture, Living & Welfare). On average, each centre involves 35 companies from the sector that take part in research and development projects, providing imput in the curriculum, join innovation teams and provide guest lectures. More information about the centres and methodology can be found in the English brochure.
In 2016, an independent expert committee evaluated the impact of the Centre-approach. In their report they concluded that the concept is effective and efficient. The committee concluded that the Centre-concept is effective, and has a positive impact on companies, schools and the innovation system. The full audit report (Dutch only) can be found here.
In 2016, over 4500 companies, 83 Universities of Applied Sciences and senior secondary vocational education institutes were involved in the centres, reaching over 50.000 students and 4000 teachers.
The Centres are co-funded by government and industry. With an average co-investment of businesses and organisations of more thant 65%, the total programme size in 2016 was EUR 125 million. Government investment in the programme in 2016 was EUR 45.5 million. More information about the budget, funding model and future plans can be found on the programme website.
Over 4500 companies invest more than 60 million euro yearly in the Dutch Centres of Expertise (higher education) and Centres for Innovative Craftsmanship (VET).