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ROC Mondriaan offers Apple skills in Dutch schools

Dutch school teaches the IT skills that users want but are not available in traditional courses, which is why it has developed a course focused on Apple technology

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Increasing demand for Apple skills and knowledge has led Dutch secondary vocational education institute ROC Mondriaan to develop a course to train students in those much-wanted skills. 

ROC Mondriaan is the largest provider of secondary vocational education in the Hague region. The training provider offers about 240 secondary education courses at 26 schools in The Hague, Delft, Leiden and Naaldwijk. The School for ICT has two locations: Delft and The Hague.

Several years ago, the School for ICT at ROC Mondriaan started putting together a new curriculum. To ensure that the skills students are taught are optimally attuned to the needs of the market, questions were posed to local and national ICT companies about what students were capable of after graduating and what competencies graduate students lacked.

“This showed, among other things, that there was a need for people with knowledge of managing macOS and iOS, and programming applications in Swift, Apple’s programming language,” said Sebastiaan Bliemert, director of the School for ICT at ROC Mondriaan.

Innovating in education

This demand gave rise to the desire to include Apple knowledge in their teaching. Bliemert believes it is important that students also learn skills that are not yet taught widely in the Dutch educational system, but are required on the market.

“All our teaching is now based on Windows and Linux, but there is a whole other world out there that we cannot serve with our current teaching materials,” he said.

“We deliberately call it a lab instead of a computer room, because an Apple Lab sounds much sexier”
Sebastiaan Bliemert, School for ICT, ROC Mondriaan

So the director set out to incorporate Apple management and development skills in the current curriculum. He did not focus his request to the board on equipment, but on innovative education, stating his view that “educational innovation is essential”.

Bliemert and his staff set up an Apple Lab at the School for ICT. “We deliberately call it a lab instead of a computer room, because an Apple Lab sounds much sexier,” said Bliemert.

The lab is intended for experimentation, so students on software development courses can test their apps on different Apple devices, but it also offers opportunities for students on IT systems and devices courses to develop their management skills. In time, it wants to add applications such as augmented reality to the lab.

A second step in the process was the setting up and implementation of an in-house app store, with the aim of allowing students to develop apps and try them out in the lab.

Finally, Bliemert wanted Dutch Apple supplier Amac Pro to help it think about innovation in education.

“Often, we use a book for education, so you can work through it from A to Z, but that is deadly boring. I want to offer challenging and innovative education to my students,” he said.

So the decision was made to offer Apple knowledge and skills as an elective in the second year of the IT systems and devices and software development programmes. “There is no secondary educational course material for this yet, [which] enables us to work out how we want to organise it,” said Bliemert.

Innovation provides energy

Bliemert sees two major advantages of this educational innovation.

“Students who opt for this specialisation are taken out of their comfort zone during the elective. That gives them a different experience and offers new insights,” he said.

“Another advantage is that my colleagues, the teachers, also start looking at education in a different way. That provides a lot of energy. Although we do follow refresher courses and training on other occasions, I notice that – partly due to the busyness of everyday life – we quickly fall back on what we have always done, instead of what we would like to do. Educational innovation is about creating time, and we are essentially doing that in this course so that it will sink in better,” he added.

“My motivation is to offer our students something that has value in many professional contexts,” said Bliemert. “ICT people are no longer in the basement of a company, but have relevant functions in healthcare, logistics, energy transition and countless other fields.”

That is why the director likes to involve other fields of study in his programme so that students have to work together in joint projects. “I like to work on social tasks where ICT is the lubricant,” he said.

In this way, for example, healthcare institutions are involved in a collaboration between the care and well-being study programme and the School for ICT. “When we bring care and technology together, and show students at an early stage what added value this integration offers, we educate a new generation who experience technology in care as a given.”

Meeting market demand

Apple itself has also shown an interest in the project that ROC Mondriaan and Amac Pro are entering into together to create education for secondary vocational education in the field of Apple equipment and software, and is contributing in the form of two master classes.

“The interest stems from the fact that, with this elective course, we are introducing people to a technology that they don’t get as standard from home,” explained Bliemert. “They don’t always have the resources to learn this technology at home, but by giving them that opportunity at school, we are training people to meet the demands of the market, who know how to manage Apple devices and develop iOS apps.

“Of course, this offers advantages to Apple, but I look at it mainly from the point of view of my students. Their employment opportunities will increase with this specialisation.”

As far as Bliemert is concerned, the course material now being developed is shareware, but he is also very pragmatic.

“It’s not about every secondary educational course having to offer this now,” he said. “As a provider of secondary vocational education, we have to listen to the field we are training our students for. At the end of the day, it is important that we offer skills that will be useful to the beginning professional in the field.”

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