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VDL Group trains its employees through practice-based learning

Working student at VDL Group

The Eindhoven VDL Group is growing and is therefore constantly seeking new professionals. Is this a target group that is difficult to reach? "Not with our approach," says Rob Bloks of the P&O department. "Thanks to the Practice-Based Learning scheme, we have taken responsibility for training our employees ourselves."

As the company’s practice-based learning coordinator, Bloks is engaged full time implementing in the scheme. That is no surprise, given the size of the enterprise. "VDL Group consists of 93 companies worldwide, 59 of which are based in the Netherlands. Of these, 47 VDL companies have been approved as work placement companies. A total of 70 practical trainers work at these companies."

Monitoring trainee progress

Bloks supports the practical trainers in recruiting, selecting, placing and supervising trainees. "We have developed a special system for this, allowing us to monitor the progress of the trainees. That serves as burden of proof for the Netherlands Enterprise Agency ( It lets us demonstrate that we are using the budget for practice-based learning correctly."

Deciding training programme content

As skilled workers are scarce, including in the Eindhoven region, Bloks liaisons closely with education institutions on behalf of VDL. "We pay for and help decide on the curricula for technical upper secondary vocational education students from level 2 through to level 4 and dual higher professional education students. We have further tightened our ties with education and therefore never have a shortage of trainees. If a suitable programme does not yet exist, we try to set one up ourselves, as we did in the area of automotive and plastics, for example."

From study programme to employment contract

"As part of our efforts to recruit sufficient people, I speak at open days of education institutions and at business markets. What’s my message? We will pay for your study programme lasting 2 to 3 years, during which you will attend classes for 1 day a week and work for us for 4 days a week. That's referred to as a day release programme. If you show up on time consistently, are motivated and have the ability, you will be offered a contract before too long."

Important financial support

Of course, training the now 176 students represents a substantial investment. "We are training people with an eye to the future. After all, we want to be sure that we will continue to have enough skilled workers to help VDL Group to keep growing. Moreover, we are pleased to be able to make use of the Practice-based Learning scheme. Without this financial support, we would not be able to complete the business case."

Tips for entrepreneurs

Bloks advises other enterprises to use the Practice-Based Learning scheme.

"Each practical occupational training agreement involves a substantial financial contribution, so your burden of proof must be in order, as will want to verify this. That means setting up an administration to account for diplomas, trainee progress and working hours. Organise trainee supervision effectively. Appoint some of your employees as practice supervisors and make 1 person the practical trainer responsible for coordination. That's the right way to go about it."

The Subsidy Scheme for Practice-Based Learning

With the Subsidy Scheme for Practice-Based Learning, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science stimulates employers to offer practice-based and work-based learning placements. This scheme allows trainees, participants, students or employees on vocational training to prepare better for the job market, meaning that employers will have better access to trained personnel.
[Photo: @VDL Groep, photography: Bram Saeys]