Marilene Streefland: ‘We need professionally trained craftspeople’

Vocational students from Mediacollege Amsterdam are popular among employers. Logical, thinks Marilene Streefland, chair of the Executive Board of the Mediacollege Amsterdam. They are crucial for the smart, green and healthy region that we are working hard on. “Practice is perhaps even more important than theory, which is why I am committed to a revaluation of vocational education.”

As of January, Streefland will join the Network Council of the Amsterdam Economic Board. The connections between the Mediacollege and the Board have been longstanding. Its Software Development course participates in TekkieWorden, part of the TechConnect Board program. The TV Academy, of which Mediacollege is a partner, is located on the Marineterrein, just like the Board. This area in our capital city is a test area and neighborhood for learning, working and living in a liveable city.

“One of my educational managers said: shouldn’t we connect with the Board? Once I delved into it, I saw we could work well together on meeting the increasing demand for professionals,” says Streefland.

Vocational education still not first choice

The demand for technically trained vocational staff is huge, Streefland notes — as do other leaders in the region. That is exactly what starts off the challenge she hopes to work on with the Board. “Unfortunately, choosing a vocational education is not yet first choice for many young people. This already starts in primary education, where everyone seems to aim for a pre-university level. We all think that opting for theory is better, but money can be made just as well by doing hands-on practical work. We need professionally trained craftspeople, doers and makers — and I will continue to promote that. That message must also reach parents and companies.”

The Mediacollege trains such professionals through 14 vocational courses: from Media Manager to Spatial Designer and from Game Artist to Software Developer. The pre-vocational education Media, Design & ICT is also part of the school. “With our membership of the Board’s Network Council, we are expanding our network. We are also expanding the Board’s own network with our contacts,” says Streefland. “We already have a large network of companies that we work with. These are important partners for us: they show us the shortages in the sector, so that we can adapt and broaden our education programmes.”

Virtual missile launching

Professional assignments play an important role at the Mediacollege. Streefland: “For example, our Software Development students and our Game Artists have helped military personnel in Den Helder with a virtual training program. Marines in training can enter a frigate or launch a missile via virtual reality. Such an assignment gives our students a realistic learning environment. We also see that our students easily find their way on the job market. Companies that think about new concepts and need help are welcome to join us. Our students enjoy co-creating. This interaction is important for both students and organizations.”

Urgent sustainable themes

Good cooperation between different groups is also important for the smart, green and healthy region that the Board is working on. “Sustainable themes are more urgent for our students than you might expect. Our students are more socially engaged than I used to be. For example, within the school we have a few front runners who are concerned with Sustainable Development Goals. For example, they ensure that we have vegan sandwiches in the canteen and they ask critical questions about the lighting in our buildings. Recently I was at a show of the Spatial Design course, where the students on a catwalk drew attention to a certain subject. A student showed up with an oxygen mask and a glass oxygen tank. There was a small tree in it. I thought that was such a beautiful image. Others focus on fast fashion. These themes are on the administrative tables, but our students also have good ideas about them.”

Hybrid teachers

The Mediacollege is involved in House of Skills, the Board’s program working on a labor market where more attention is paid to skills. “I am also very interested in the Teach for Amsterdam programme, in which the Board is also involved. This encourages people to work in education in addition to their work in tech. I think we should train more hybrid teachers. For a good connection to professional practice, we need teachers from the professional field. We already have a few of those teachers and we see that it works really well. That is why I would like for the Board and I to get our heads together and come up with ideas to get more such teachers.”

Streefland is not only committed to this because it is good for education. We just need more teachers. “I notice that it is difficult for many of our teachers to find accommodation in the city. They often settle outside the city and there are also schools where they can work. Solving the problems in the housing market is primarily a political issue, but I think we should certainly discuss it within the Board as well. It is in everyone’s interest that healthcare staff, teachers and police officers can continue to live in the city. So we have to think about that together.”

Critical thinking

Streefland has been working in education in Amsterdam for more than twenty years. First as a teacher in primary education, then as a director. She believes that the quality of education has had an enormous boost in recent years. “Especially because we have started to focus more on teaching 21st century skills. This way, we prepare all students in this region for their future. That is exactly why I chose education. Working together, thinking critically and being able to present yourself well are things that benefit you in all professions: whether you become a plumber or a doctor.”

Text: Mirjam Streefkerk

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