Image: Nino Maissouradze

HBO changes training requirements in a tight labor market

Trainee programs and the appointment of juniors are an interesting way for universities of applied sciences to train new young teachers. It lowers the threshold, but allowing lecturers with a bachelor's degree to work in scale 9 or 10 is contrary to the agreement that HBO lecturers must obtain a master's degree and be paid in scale 11. "This is not correct at all."

“It was tough, especially the first year. Everything was new to me,” says Remco Pollé, junior lecturer in mechanical engineering at the Hogeschool Utrecht (HU). Three years ago he obtained his bachelor's degree and immediately after that he started a full-time trainee program in which he could develop into an accomplished teacher of higher vocational education. He was in front of the class three days a week at his former study program and was given two days to follow a master's degree paid by the HU and the basic didactics course for higher vocational education teachers. “As a trainee you have to keep up a lot of balls and really pop all week. But I also got a lot of energy from teaching,” he says enthusiastically.

Pollé obtained his master's degree at the end of August. Thanks to the experienced teacher who acted as a mentor during the first year and the tailor-made didactic training, he also quickly mastered teaching. “During the training, I evaluated the learning objectives of my own course. You also film lessons and discuss those recordings in the group.” The trainee program cost him some of his free time, but he has never regretted his choice for a moment. “When I went to college, I never thought of becoming a teacher, but I'm really enjoying it. As a teacher you are very broadly involved with technology. One lesson is about energy transition, the next about 3D printing. You will teach a lesson twice at most and you will immerse yourself in new technical developments together with students. Teaching is much more varied than I used to think.”

“When I went to college, I never thought of becoming a teacher, but I'm really enjoying it. As a teacher you are very broadly involved with technology”

The Institute for Design and Engineering, which houses the Mechanical Engineering degree, has been recruiting more trainees and junior lecturers in recent years, explains HR advisor Arina de Jager. “In the technical domain it is very difficult to find teachers. That is why we are experimenting with attracting people who still need to be trained. We are very successful with that. We get many more applicants for these trainee positions than we are used to. It does require more coaching and guidance, but we are very happy with what we have achieved with these processes. For the first time in years, we started this academic year without any vacancies.”

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Image: Nino Maissouradze

Threshold lowering

Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences has similar experiences. In 2018, a trainee program was launched that should contribute to increasing the diversity of teaching teams. Forty AUAS alumni with a migration background were able to apply for a trainee position in which they can develop into didactically qualified teacher-researchers of master's level in four years. 'We get an enormous amount of responses to those vacancies, even at study programs where vacancies are often not always filled immediately', told project manager Aliye Altinas-Çelik last year in the Education magazine. The engineering faculty even managed to recruit three math teachers.

In September, thirteen newly graduated bachelors started a three-year trainee program at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, in which they learn the tricks of the teaching profession and are given the opportunity to obtain a master's degree. Last year, seventeen trainees who already have a master's degree started a two-year work-study programme. Because the Hague University of Applied Sciences, like the AUAS, wants to increase the diversity of its teaching teams, it invites candidates with a bi-cultural background, LGBTQ+ people, but also people who were the first in their family to study to apply. “We have a very broad view when it comes to diversity,” says program coordinator Dieuwke de Boer.

“You don't need any teaching experience, we don't ask for extensive experience in the field. You learn to teach, you don't have to be able to do it yet”

De Haagse recruits trainees because it lowers the threshold. “We make it clear that there is a lot of room to learn. You do not need to have educational experience, we do not ask for extensive experience in the professional field. You learn to teach, you don't have to be able to do it yet”, explains De Boer. That leads to more applicants. The generic approach also helps. “We are not looking for a mechanical engineering or public administration teacher. Anyone with a bachelor's or master's degree can apply. We look for a good match. For example, last year a developmental psychologist joined the facility management course who probably would not have responded to a vacancy at that course.”

Educate

The trainee is not new at the HU, but has made a comeback. In 2005, nine HU graduates already started the 'New Gold' learning-work trajectory, which was set up to get more young people with a migration background to teach. Talented alumni were prepared for teaching in one year. That project has died a quiet death, but the trainee job profile lives on in the HU job building. It is a scale 9 position that 'is exclusively intended to equip recently graduated talented bachelors with sufficient starting competence for the teacher profile (= scale 10) by means of a work training trajectory in which the duration of the appointment is defined', according to the description in the job profile.

HR advisor Arina de Jager is not exactly sure why the HU has stopped the trainee programmes, “but it had something to do with the HU policy that prescribes that all lecturers must have a master's degree”, she knows. “As a result, the focus shifted to educating incumbent teachers.”

Ten years ago, universities of applied sciences promised to raise the level of education of their teachers. This had gradually decreased due to the practice of putting our own graduates in front of the class, which, according to the advisory committee, had a negative effect on the quality of education Teacher! had done no good. A teacher must always have a higher level of education than his or her students, was the starting point of the policy under Minister Ronald Plasterk (2007-2010). In 2012, universities of applied sciences therefore agreed that, four years later, 80 percent of HBO lecturers would have a master's degree. The HU even made it 100 percent. Those promises were not without obligation, universities of applied sciences that did not meet the performance agreements could lose 7 percent of their subsidy.

The HU was therefore inexorable. Lecturers with a temporary contract who failed to obtain a master's degree in two years were not given a permanent position. As a result, a business administration lecturer with many years of practical experience abroad was able to pack his bags in 2015 while he had recently been nominated by his students for the title 'HU Lecturer of the Year'. And in 2017, the employment contract of a teacher who had been on permanent contract for ten years was terminated. He had not completed his master's degree on time and was therefore 'unsuitable for teaching.'

Executive teacher

The fact that five years later the HU is still recruiting its own graduates for teaching positions is due to Wim Borghuis, teacher educator and AObconsultant at the HU, a thorn in the side. Mechanical engineering trainees are offered a program in which they can learn the trade and obtain a master's degree, but other HU programs recruit junior lecturers who receive a temporary appointment in scale 9 or 10, while the vacancy text does not mention a learning work trajectory.

“That is contrary to the master's policy,” says Borghuis. “At the HU, every lecturer must have a master's degree and it has been agreed in the collective labor agreement that you will receive a scale of 11 if you do work that requires a master's. Junior teachers who have a bachelor's degree in higher professional education and who end up in scale 9 or 10 are therefore wrong.”

“We do aim for lecturers who enter with a bachelor's degree to obtain a master's degree. Everyone gets that chance, even if it is not explicitly stated in the vacancy text. But a master is no longer mandatory for scale 10 teachers”

But the HU no longer applies the master's requirement in absolute terms, says Heleen Cosijn, director of Human Capital at HU. The master's requirement was abandoned after it was agreed in the HBO collective agreement last year that a master's degree means paying scale 11. “In HBO, we also have scale 10 teachers who do executive work at HBO level, such as teaching and supervising students.” HR advisor Arina de Jager adds: “We do aim for lecturers who enter with a bachelor's degree to obtain a master's degree. Everyone gets that chance, even if it is not explicitly stated in the vacancy text. But a master's degree is no longer mandatory for scale 10 teachers.”

Wild growth

AObconsultant Borghuis is stunned. “This is very special. It has not been discussed with the trade unions, nor has it been communicated to the HU staff. We have agreed in the past that teaching in higher professional education is a subject of master's level. Now the HU is going to put HBO students in front of the class again. Such a teacher is like a chapter in the textbook ahead of students. Surely that is not desirable if you take the quality of education seriously?” Moreover, purely executive work does not exist in education, according to the teacher educator. “Teaching always consists of preparing, executing and evaluating/testing a lesson. In higher professional education, this also includes educational design. You cannot separate those tasks. Imagine standing in front of a class as an executive teacher and asking a student: do we need to know this for the test? Should the teacher then say: I don't know?"

“Teaching always consists of preparing, executing and evaluating/testing a lesson. In higher professional education, this also includes educational design. You cannot separate those tasks.”

Borghuis can imagine that universities of applied sciences want to train their own graduates to become teachers in order to cope with the shortage on the labor market. “But then clear agreements have to be made about the supervision of trainees and about the training process. Now there is proliferation. Every novice teacher should receive an introductory course and be exempted from obtaining a didactic qualification. We must ensure that we suddenly call such an induction trajectory a work-study trajectory, as a result of which all novice teachers end up in scale 9 or 10. Then we are back to square one.”

This article appeared in the October issue of the Education magazine, which is received eleven times a year by AOb-members. Learn more about all the benefits of the AOb-membership? Click here .

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