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A career offering the perfect combination of lecturing and working in industry

Aart Hoogerwerf knows better than anyone whether recent graduates are ready to start working on the future of the grid. Aart works as an R&D specialist at Eekels Technology B.V. and is also a lecturer in energy technology at Hanzehogeschool in Groningen. Eekels has been active in the Marine & Offshore and Industry & Infra market segments for more than 110 years in the disciplines technical automation, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.

 Aart considers this to be the perfect combination. ‘When you teach specific subjects in depth, it is also essential to have some hands-on experience. Ties to industry are therefore a must. This enables you to provide students with subject-specific knowledge, inform them of the developments in their field, and show them what it’s ultimately all about. In my opinion, full-time subject-specific lecturers learn the most from students preparing for graduation as this brings them into contact with the industry.’

Aart really enjoys working with students. They are often extremely creative and don’t think in terms of limitations. The Hanzehogeschool is taking part in the national challenge “Design your own wind turbine”. This is a combined assignment involving students from both electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. It’s wonderful to see how creative they are with this assignment. And that’s what it’s all about.’

The collaboration with businesses is a two-way street. Students gain work experience or do their final-year project at the companies, and Hanzehogeschool develops lessons which are then taught at the companies internally.

Can we find enough students who want to be trained for a job in energy technology?

‘It varies,’ says Aart. ‘We get enough students from the intermediate vocational colleges, MBO. They know what they want, have had a glimpse of what it’s like in the industry, and are motivated to get their diploma. This is also true for part-time students who, in spite of their heavy workload, are extremely motivated, also thanks to their practical experience. On the other hand, we do not get as many senior general secondary (HAVO) and pre-university education (VWO) students as I would like. Even though it can be quite a challenge to get them up to the required level. They need to master the technology and also have sufficient language skills, which is a difficult combination. You sometimes see that students with insufficient language skills end up doing preparatory secondary vocational education (VMBO). That’s a real shame.’

When students graduate, are they immediately ready to work on the future of the grid? For instance in new technologies, green energy, and decentralization of energy generation?

Aart believes that students acquire sufficient knowledge during their studies. They also gain a considerable amount of experience by completing projects that are put forward by both the study programme department and businesses. The entire project structure has been considered carefully and is set up in such a way that all aspects are covered and students carry out their assignments first in project groups and later independently.

How should the challenges faced by the education sector and industry be tackled? What issues are there? How do they come together? Which parts remain uncovered?

‘Study programmes should be better organized to enable lecturers who also work in the industry to teach,’ days Aart. ‘This is quite a challenge in terms of planning. I also mentioned just now the tension between science subjects on the one hand languages on the other. From the perspective of my own discipline, there are certain things that are not covered by the scientific education provided at secondary schools. If students came in with a higher level, we could take them so much further. However, this is not a problem that can be solved by businesses as it is a political matter. Companies are competing for our graduates: there are even companies currently trialling the recruitment of students at secondary schools in order to attract more technical staff. They let the students work for them and allow them to follow a technical degree programme at the same time, which is paid for by the company. This also avoids the problem of having a massive student debt.’