Interview with Maartje Molema (Education and Quality Assurance advisor at Alfa-college)

Interview with Maartje Molema (Education and Quality Assurance advisor at Alfa-college)

Hello, can you introduce yourself and your organization briefly?

My name is Maartje Molema. I have been working for Alfa-college since 2010 as an Education and Quality Assurance advisor. Alfa-college has eleven locations spread across the North-east of the Netherlands, around 13,000 students, over 2,000 people who follow courses and around 1,250 employees. In total, Alfa-college offers 284 regular VET programs and 105 courses (including integration courses).

Why is following and maintaining contact with alumni so important in Dutch vocational education?

Last year, there were approximately 483,400 students following VET programs in the Netherlands. After completing their studies, students leave school to work in the labor market or move on to further studies, often higher education. By tracking alumni, we can provide insight into their careers. This provides a lot of valuable quantitative data. However, by tracking individual alumni within a career route, organizations can also collect qualitative feedback. An example of using tracking as a means to receive qualitive feedback in Alfa-college is the VET program ‘Gamedeveloper’. The teachers remain in contact with their alumni, often long after graduation, to collect information about changes in the gaming industry in order to keep their training program connected to the professional field.

How have vocational schools collected data from alumni in the past?

The ‘MBO Kaart’ is a study among alumni that is carried out by a national research agency once every two years. They approach alumni with a questionnaire on behalf of the school. The questions regard alumni’s experience of the connection between the training and their career paths after graduation. This questionnaire is administered six months after graduation. The instrument provides information about how they experienced the training, information about their current status and whether they need additional training.

What are the problems that vocational schools may experience when trying to collect data from their alumni?

An important question is how organizations can register as many alumni as possible in their custumer relationship management system (CRM system) and keep data up to date. The development of a good CRM system is difficult in itself, let alone keeping it up to date. Another problem that schools may experience relates to the new privacy legislation (GDPR), which poses strict requirements. The response rate among alumni can also cause problems: how do you ensure that as many alumni as possible respond, so that the feedback you gain is valid and representative? Finally, it is difficult to uphold engagement of alumni within vocational schools. In higher education, engagement is more self-evident and there is more of an incentive for alumni to keep in touch. At the moment, the rate of this type of engagement is lower in vocational education.

How is alumni data used within vocational schools?

There are many ways in which alumni data is used within vocational schools. To name one, alumni are often invited to provide information to current students about their career choices. For example, the alumni of ROC Albeda organize network meetings between students and the business communities to which the alumni belong.

In your experience, what is the best method for tracking alumni in vocational schools?

The answer depends on the objective that you pursue. Qualitative feedback from alumni is interesting for teachers (for example in shaping and adapting the curriculum). However, if you want to map the careers of alumni, you will need quantitative data. It is desirable to make this data available at national level. DUO, the national organization that registers registrations and graduations of all students in the Netherlands, is working on making this data transparent and available to institutions and schools. This is an interesting development for Vocational schools, because they have to account to the Inspectorate of Education for the follow-up success of their alumni. Determining follow-up success means that vocational schools must have knowledge of the continuation of the students’ career and to what extent this meets the expectations of the program based on national data.

Do you have any last comments and/or tips for the project?

For us as an organization it is interesting to have examples of best practices of alumni policy, also at national level. Naturally, practices that do not work are also interesting so we can analyze why they are not working.

Do you have any last comments and/or tips for the project?

For us as an organization it is interesting to have examples of best practices of alumni policy, also at national level. Naturally, practices that do not work are also interesting so we can analyze why they are not working.

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