Cooperation with working life serves as source for future-oriented education
Cooperation with working life is strongly anchored in VAMK’s institutional strategy and mirrors the institution’s mission to be a competent partner for both regionally and internationally operating companies; furthermore, it caters to the needs of the labour market through competence- and skills-oriented education. Thus, VAMK constantly seeks to strengthen the cooperation with working life and integrate the working life cooperation more deeply into the institution’s teaching and learning.
Input from working life to curriculum development and competence enhancement comes through various channels, such as field-specific advisory boards, strategic partners and regional companies and authorities. In meetings, both formal and informal and spread over a year, current trends and needs are discussed and thus input is fed into curriculum development and teaching. All cooperation forms are based on dialogue and commitment to mutual learning. Institutional indicators relating to working life cooperation provide good orientation for the development of this area.
Learning from and with working life is key to developing the competences of qualified workforce. Thus, student projects and student learning phases with working life should already be systemically integrated into curriculum development to assure an equal learning experience with working life for all students and foster a broader participation of teaching staff members working life cooperation. VAMK could also consider implementing regular student competitions or start-up pitches as integral parts of their teaching with representatives from working life acting as jury members.
In the interviews, stakeholders appreciatively referred to the added value that cooperation with VAMK teachers and VAMK graduates brings to the entire region. Regional institutions as well as regional companies and industries can draw considerable benefit from the various forms of cooperation, be it through knowledge transfer, competence development or common projects.
Partnerships provide impetus for cooperation and add value to VAMK
VAMK’s new partnership model will foster new forms to tighten working life – teaching nexus and increase societal impact through guest lectures, cooperation in course assignments, thesis supervision, promotion of student recruitment, and working-life periods for staff members, just to name some examples. To boost the interaction with working life, VAMK aims to set up 30 partnership agreements of this new model until 2024 and make them visible through research platforms and networking activities. Furthermore, these agreements will provide impetus to enhance working life cooperation in degree programmes and RDI.
VAMK’s annual planning cycle for working life cooperation as well as the annual follow-up will support the institution’s strategic aim to be the main partner in expertise. Annual meetings and events with partners foster this aim and provide a good basis and valuable opportunity for staff-to-company as well as company-to-company connections. As was mentioned in the interviews, these annual events as well as informal meetings make the cooperation between teachers and working life “tangible”. The implementation of key account managers for strategic partnerships facilitate communication for both sides.
Competence development takes place through mutual learning
The opportunity for staff members to go on a working-life period is an example of good practice as these periods contribute to a more stringent competence-orientation of teaching and updating staff’s field knowledge; thus, staff members should be encouraged to opt for this possibility while foreseeing necessary back-up through the institution.
Working-life cooperation means mutual learning, thus VAMK should strengthen its partnerships through continuous learning offers for its partners and their employees. The new interdisciplinary platforms provide an excellent opportunity to disseminate both results and plans. VAMK should use these platforms to proactively disseminate continuous learning offers and new initiatives. Furthermore, predictive analyses regarding labour market trends could provide valuable input for future-oriented education and up-skilling through continuous learning.
The newly founded alumni network is a valuable source of competence enhancement and should be used to mentor and foster the link of students’ experience with working life in the sense of peer-learning.
Further potential can be drawn from cooperation with working life
The new partnership model foresees various forms of possible cooperation: these forms could be streamlined and channelled according to the strategic goals of VAMK to steer output and impact stemming from the partnership. Furthermore, the partnership model would also benefit from support material that describes how partnerships are managed, how VAMK’s strategic goals can be included in partnership agreements and open possibilities to expand partnerships beyond the obvious methods of collaboration. Information based on written material or even a toolbox could clarify the range of cooperation of the new model of strategic partnerships. This could serve to widen collaboration from education to RDI or vice versa.
So far, VAMK’s working-life cooperation is mainly oriented towards big regional and internationally active companies of the region. With a view to the importance of SMEs within the global economic context, and the job opportunities SMEs provide for students and graduates, VAMK should also explore ways to foster SME cooperation in the region for strategic partnerships.
Examples of VAMK’s good practices in working life cooperation
- The well-monitored meeting and interaction events with partners, such as annual meet-up events are commendable as they make partnerships more systematic and add value to working life through staff interaction.
- The opportunity for staff to go for a period of working life experience to learn in the field and from the field experience is a true example of good practice.
- The cooperation with the energy sector of the region to provide students with future-oriented competences and know-how is a model for how to foster state-of-the-art knowledge and competences.
- After-placement review of students’ experiences particularly in education for the health sector capture expectations and experiences to be used by peers.
- The implementation of key account managers for strategic partners help to streamline communication between VAMK and its working-life partners.