Alumni relations is a longstanding tradition at this VET School located in the Basque Country. Last June we drove there to have a nice conversation with Leire Illarramendi, the person in charge of the Alumni Association.
Good morning, Leire. Association of Armeria Eskola has been around for years, but when did it start to work concretely?
That’s right, the Association of Armeria Eskola (hereinafter AAE) was born on December 1, 1950, constituted after the agreement adopted by the Alumni of the Special School of Precision Mechanics and Armory of Eibar. As a non-profit organization, its objective has been to collaborate with CIFP Armeria Eskola VET centre (hereinafter, Armeria Eskola), in the social and industrial development of the area of Eibar supporting technical training and innovation of companies.
Next question is related to the daily operations of the Alumni Association. What kind of relationship do you have with your members? What is your portfolio of services?
It is important to understand the Association works in coordination with several agents. The ecosystem is composed by associated alumni, company associates, representing the employers, associated collaborators, representing agents, institutions and public / private bodies and the Armeria Eskola VET Center. This collaboration gives us an important representation of the business reality of the Debabarrena region.
Alumni represent one of the groups in the ecosystem. The Association provides opportunities for professional growth (jobcentre, visits to companies), networking and other benefits such as discounts and promotions. By the same token, the Alumni Association plays an active role in the development of the Strategic Plan of our School that guarantees Armeria Eskola remains in leadership positions. Thus, the Alumni Association is represented in school management bodies and participates in workgroups.
How do you keep in touch with them? What kind of protocol or tools do you use?
The contact we maintain through these services depends on the same service itself. The employment exchange service (JobCentre) operates on an ongoing basis and it is aimed at all alumni of Armeria Eskola, but members of the Association have priority over the rest. Also, the Annual Assembly is an obvious opportunity to make contact. The Assembly acts as a meeting point between colleagues of Armeria Eskola, business networking opportunity, several raffles are made among the associates, etc. Alumni do also have the possibility of participation in management bodies for periods of 2 years and continuous and active participation in AAE working groups. Visits are also organized to companies aimed at alumni.
What are the main challenges?
Currently we have approximately 950 alumni associates, 27% of them are over 65 years old and 47% are between 26 and 65 years old. Therefore, the biggest difficulty we face is renewing our membership base. This reality is due to the decline of new enrolments of young people in the AAE. To revert this trend, a working group has been set up with a remit to define interesting propositions for alumni, especially the younger cohorts, in such a way that we can count on their participation in the AAE, after graduation at Armeria Eskola.
You are currently in a process of adaptation, you have changed the name of the association, there is a new Board of Directors, new approaches. For what reasons have you initiated these changes, this new stage?
In the current context of generational change, global speed of change, loss of entrepreneurial spirit, adaptation of studies and degrees, new ways of cooperating, VET Schools and Armeria Eskola in particular, must be agile and innovative in order to adapt and respond to new needs and benchmarks in the market. So it was essential that the Association did not lag behind. In this sense, AAE intends to transform and adapt to the changes operating in a collaborative ecosystem.
At the last annual meeting you disclosed the details of a very ambitious and interesting strategic project. Can you summarize the main lines?
As I’ve just told you, the new challenges made us rethink the objectives, strategy and operational dynamics of the Alumni Association. Currently, the Alumni Association acts as a transformation lever or open innovation body to secure and boost the leading position of Armeria Eskola. To this end, the executive structure has been strengthened, giving it greater autonomy and leadership, and companies have been integrated into the governing bodies with a representativeness of 63%. The results after a year of work are very encouraging.
As far as we know,companies and institutions in the local area have been very supportive but how do you keep them engaged?
Currently, we have the collaboration of 52 associated (industrial) companies, giving access to 9,802 active workers, and 6 social-collaborating entities. This collaboration gives us an important representation of the reality of the companies of Debabarrena valley.
After the transformation of objectives and operational dynamics, the main objective pursued by the AAE was to contrast the needs of the environment and adapt its course and operating dynamics to it, always adding value to what is offered from AAE and in a collaborative way.
We started this journey with a future-oriented analysis of needs of the industrial sector in our area. This information was used to define the proper direction of the Association, identifying the lines of action that allow to respond to the detected needs. Priority areas of action include employability, entrepreneurship, STEM careers, Lifelong Learning, Internationalization, Employers Forum, and ensuring a better match of labour market offer and demand providing high quality training to VET students, graduates, employees and the unemployed. As an example, we can highlight, the 33% increase of associated companies from the Annual Assembly of 2017 to the 2018.