At Yuverta in The Netherlands it is a custom that our graduates are given a flag of Yuverta to show off that they have graduated.Of course our flags are made of reclycled materials and they have to bring it back. Unfortunately they often end up in the attic or worse, in the garbage bin.
The school in Nederweert had the genius idea to ask for a deposit. Dutch people are very used to pay a deposit for e.g. plastic bottles at a supermarket, but to pay a deposit when you are given a graduation flag is completely new. But it worked! 95% of the graduates brought their flag back, only 3 flags are missing. This means that we do not have to produce new flags for next years graduates. Very sustainable and a fun example to communicate in order to show that sustainability is important to us.
In mid-March we, Minke Schepers, Marketing and Communications department of Terra, and Evelien Kist, paid a visit to the province of North Holland for a meeting with a director of a pre-vocational secondary school of the Vonk College. I came to the address because of the excellent network EUROPEA, both at home and abroad. I had plotted the demand for successful training/growing educational institutions and a few colleagues responded. This was number 1 on the list and all the way in North Holland!
This school in Purmerend is a Pre-VET school with “green” practical subjects”. In the practical lessons they work with plants, animals, flowers, food, nature & environment and indoor and outdoor styling. Of course, information science, technology & technology and green entrepreneurship are also part of the practical program. In the whole of Europe (Weidevenne), the Vonk College Purmerend has a “green shop” where students can do an internship in a real business environment. A visit to the flower and plant auction in Aalsmeer and a green wholesaler are also part of this. Their motto is therefore: “Green: the basis for a colourful future”.
The school offers high-quality education from a professional organization, in which pupils and students are challenged to get the best out of themselves and does this by making the (learning) conditions as optimal as possible. The Vonk College is the first to reach employees, students, parents and the business community thought when it comes to good education because it:
• offers a safe and stimulating learning environment;
• challenges everyone to get the best out of themselves;
• cooperates with parents, the business community and other stakeholders in the region;
• is a professional organization with a modern personnel policy, and
• is characterized by transparency, responsibility and quality awareness.
The core values of the Vonk College are involvement, quality and fun.
It was a real pleasure to talk to the director, Mr Kees Schilder. He told about ‘his’ school with enormous enthusiasm and warmth. About the difficult years at first and then the enormous growth that was almost impossible to keep up with. But where does such growth come from?
What is striking, is that the school makes little or no advertising. No Marketing and Communications department, no expensive advertising agencies. No, the advertising is provided completely free of charge by the students and their parents.
The school delivers quality. Much attention is paid to the individual student. So that works! A student who feels seen is comfortable in his own skin and in this way contributes to a pleasant atmosphere. And, very important, it advertises the school spontaneously and selflessly.
The school in Purmerend touches some of the 17 sustainable development goals: 4. quality education and 3. good health and well-being but it is not something the school is consciously concerned with. When you ask about sustainability, you actually end up with the relationship with the immediate neighbors.
What PROGRESS can use as Good Practice is actually nothing more or less than ensuring that you are known as a school that provides constant, high-quality education. Sustainability then actually lies in the continued existence of the school with sustainable relationships with the outside world. The other SDG goals come into play when everyone is aware of their necessity. How ‘simple’ can it be!
In november 2021 I initiated a first time meeting with a deputy director from a green school 10 kilometers away from where I live. I work as a marketer for Yuverta in The Netherlands, but I live just accross the border in the north of Belgium. We have no Belgian participants in our project and I was curious to find out how the Belgians promoted their green schools and whether sustainability is something they promote.
I was welcomed by Peter Ceusters, the deputy director who was in charge of the Agro and Biotechnology department of the school. I introduced myself and Yuverta and told him about our program PROGRESS and our goals. The educational system in Belgium differs from the one in the Netherlands. But we both educate young people from 12 till 20+ years old. Sint Josef offers secondary and vocational education, just like Yuverta does. The organisation Sint Jozef belongs to, consists of 6 schools of which 5 are located in Geel and 1 in the neighbouring village of Kasterlee. Next to secondary and vocational education they offer kindergarten and primary schools too.
What about marketing?
Before our meeting I studied the website of Sint Josef (https://kogeka.be/sintjozef/ ). And the content did not differ very much from what we do at Yuverta. It was informative, showed some videos with students and they organise a open house now and then. You were able to download any brochure you like and you did not need to give any information about yourself. No marketing cookies where given. I had the impression that marketing tools were not such a big deal for them.
Peter was interested but also a bit shocked when I told him that we at Yuverta have a marketing department of 50 people for our 53 schools. Marketing is not a big issue at his school, nor at other schools in the region. They do not need a marketing department like we need in The Netherlands. We talked about attracting new students. In The Netherlands we compete with other schools to promote the education for our green industry. Young students need to make a decision about what occupation they want and what school to go to. The schools for vocational education compete to attract them to their events and information sessions. Many industries promote choosing for education that prepares students for a job in their field of expertise. E.g. the Dutch technology industry invests heavily in campaining for schools. Our green industry is relatively small so we do not have that kind of money to spend in order to attract our students. But we need to get heard.
Peter told me that for Sint Josef their reputation as a school for Agro and Biotechnology is most important. They are situated in a rural area with many farms and many families with sons and daughters who decide to go to the same school family members go to or went to. So endorsement is the most important way to get the students they need. But he told me that they did not invest heavily in helping people to tell their story for them, nor in marketing. It was more like “we send out information via our website or via other schools and we will wait and see. People who have a good experience during their time at Sint Josef will tell others”. In Belgium there are several green schools but the specialisms differ. At Sint Josef they offer education about animals, about farming and about biotechnology. At another green school 20 kilometres away from Geel they offer specialisms about plants and horticulture. People in the area know that for animals or farming you need to go to Geel and for horticulture you need to go to Hoogstraten. In Belgium there are only 2 schools for vocational education on animals. The students they attract that way are sufficient for them.
Our educational programs in The Netherlands are more differentiated than in Belgium. For example in Belgium you have a broad education on ‘plant, animal and environmental techniques’ first and later on you specialize in plants or animals or farming. When you choose plants you can specialize as a gardener or as a horticulturist. At Yuverta we have over 50 different programs students can choose from. When you choose something with animals we offer studies for pets, farm animals, horse care, equestrian sports and vet assistant (16 different ones) and we offer them at most of our schools. I can understand we need more marketing to help students choose and to help people to attend as an ambassador for us. I do not say that it is better, but it is the way the Dutch vocational studies are specialized. There are 686 different vocational programs in The Netherlands and 61 vocational schools (organizations not branches). Only 9 of them educate for the green industry and Yuverta is one of them.
What about sustainability?
I also studied the website of Sint Josef about their vision. It said:
At Sint Jozef Geel you will learn everything about agro- and biotechnology, food and catering or science and technology (2nd and 3rd grade) in a lifelike, warm and high-quality way.
After your secondary education, you can immediately start working as a craftsman or you can continue studying within these domains in academic and professional higher education.
You will find a lot of options with us. Some directions can be found (almost) nowhere else in Flanders. So be sure to check out our study offer.
We think it is very important that you feel good at our school and that you have a good relationship with everyone who learns, lives and works at our school.
In their vision Sint Josef touches some of the 17 sustainable development goals: 4. quality education and 3. good health and well-being. The typical ‘green’ SDG’s are not something Sint Josef distinguishes themselves with from other schools. There is no need according to Peter.
I talked about the mission and vision of Yuverta. We have 2 main goals: we provide qualitative education and we want to contribute to make the world a better place. At Yuverta we touch many of the SDG’s and we work hard to incorporate the SDG’s in our programs. And we also want to be seen as a school who has incorporated sustainability in all of the programs. We want to contribute to a better world and we want our students to contribute to a better world when they work in a company or start a company of their own. For us it is something we want to claim in the market en want to become known for. The drive to position ourselves as a school which has a lot to do with sustainability comes from the need to stand out from the rest. So it is who we are as an organization but it is also a useful marketing ambition to stand out from the rest by excellence on sustainability.
What a difference 10 kilometers make!
I was surprised to learn that the Belgian vocational education market is so different from ours. It is less complicated and I have the impression that it is less complicated to find the school to go to. There is less competition or they feel less competition. Their most important activity is education and that is what they focus on. For a marketer like me this is not a good thing, but I am sure my colleague Peter has a different opinion after our talk.
Terra MBO has launched a new campaign to attrackt more students and new types of students to their schools in Groningen, Meppel, Emmen, Winschoten and Assen in the North of the Netherlands.
The campaign ‘Make Tomorrow Green’ is based on the Green worlds concept as described in an earlier post on this site.
It guides students through several multimedia information and opportunities to get acquainted with the the different programs Terra has to offer. Students can read about the several programs, canb download a flyer, the schools can be visited during several study choice events, youngsters can experience what it’s like to study by joining for one day and they can make a appointment online for personal advice.
One of the main issues green agricultural schools are facing is attracting enough students to fulfil the needs of a diverse and rapidly changing green work field. But instead of an increase of the inflow of students most green schools face a decline of students.
The Dutch green schools are cooperating in Groenpact to act on this challenge. Katapult one of the partners of GroenPact published a Green of Worlds concept based on research and experience of companies, schools and governmental organisations in the Dutch Green sector.
Eight green world that reflect the broad spectrum of contexts in which employees are working in this sector. Are you interested in these world. Please go there website read the stories and explore the world of green.