Internal network: the foundation of good labour market contacts

Case: Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences

The projects of the Osaajana työmarkkinoille (Competent in the Labour Market) development programme visited Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences in June 2010. The visitors set out to explore how labour market contacts are built and maintained in Dutch universities. The visit to Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences was very productive.

Excellent practices: Labour market contacts

  • Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences has established its working life cooperation (External Affairs) over a long period of time. This shows in the profile and structure of the entire university, and working life cooperation is included in the curriculum and implemented in teaching. There are specific units in the university administration, all of the 11 institutes and all degree programmes that focus on labour market contacts.

  • The persons responsible for stakeholder contacts in different units meet regularly (once a week) to discuss solutions to issues that emerge in employer contacts. They also redirect new contacts when they are unable to answer to them themselves, and form multidisciplinary project groups.

  • Interaction with employers follows the OIIO model (Outside In, Inside Out model): the universities in the region are very active in initiating interaction. The teachers visit companies, organize events and participate in labour market events.

  • The alumni have been tightly integrated into working life cooperation. Alumnus activity plays a central role in expert exchange (work rotation: the alumni visit the university and the teachers visit work places), and the alumni also contribute to all working life cooperation, projects and internships. Correspondingly, the university staff provides companies solutions to their practical problems.

  • The university makes long-term framework agreements with employers. The agreements cover several optional forms of cooperation. Templates for the agreements are flexible, and money does not change hands unless the project is complex and requires research.

  • The teachers’ career development necessitates and encourages building labour market contacts; there are four ranks for the teachers: lecturer, experienced lecturer, senior lecturer and research lecturer.

Integrating studies and students into the labour market

  • Teaching contains a working life aspect: students carry out projects already from the first year. Requirements for the projects increase over the following years while supervision gradually decreases. First-year projects are typically simulations designed by the teachers.

  • From the students’ point of view, the teacher is responsible for building labour market contacts for the students in the beginning of their studies. Later on, the importance of the students’ own activity increases. Project work keeps the students engaged.

  • Multidisciplinary projects. Students work and learn in multidisciplinary groups and projects. As an example, an upcoming library development project is going to be carried out as a student project. The goal of the project is to enhance the attractiveness of the library for young visitors. At the moment, teachers are inviting students from different fields through the intranet to participate in the project.

  • Additionally, each student has a personal development plan that supports his or her career planning (knowledge, skills and qualifications).

  • The students also act as peer tutors for each other. For example, in the degree programme of social work, second-year students help secondary school students in their studies, while third-year students teach the second-year students, and fourth-year students monitor the level of the teaching and the selection of methods, assessing the efficiency of the teaching methods.

  • Regional development work is strong: different regions, for example, are developed in cooperation.

  • The university also produces video clips of the projects: in two minutes, a video clip summarizes who participated in the project, the goal of the project and the results.

Challenges for the learning institution

  • Finding assignments that are demanding enough.
  • Not every assignment can be realized.


Jos Heinerman, Manager, Concern Accounts at Rotterdam University of Applied Science
Ineke Miltenburg, Manager, External Affairs, Institute for Social Studies

Prensentation in HEiWork -seminar 2.3.2011 in Oulu organized by VALOA.