Entrepreneurial basics in Dutch vocational education,


The Dutch vocational education system is always on the move. In august 2016 a new qualification structure will be introduced in the intermediate vocational schools with fulltime students and apprentices in the age group 16 to 20 years. The main goals of this new system are reinforcement of the cooperation between schools and companies, reducing the number of curricula and making them more transparent. Greater involvement of the companies in the examination process in a more flexible system  which enables students to make right choices according to the demands of the labour market.

The curriculum will consist of three parts :


-       Part 1 : basic (general) knowledge (50 % of curriculum)

-       Part 2 : specific  vocational profiling (35 % of curriculum)

-       Part 3 : flexible part according to personal preferences (related to the job they like to

             pursue and offering opportunities in specific sectors of the labour market, (15

             % of curriculum))


The flexible parts (curricula) will be developed in close cooperation between schools and companies and based on regional developments. A variety of flexible parts will be developed, as there are many sectors in the professional practice. In addition more general flexible parts will be developed to be used in all sectors. From this point of view two flexible parts are interesting to consider in more detail. They are based on the introduction of entrepreneurial skills at the level 1 and 2 (entrepreneurial behaviour) and level 3 and 4 (orientation of entrepreneurship).

When schools are able to offer these flexible parts to their students (feasible, manageable, workable and affordable) it will enable students to make their choices for achieving entrepreneurial skills.


I.              Entrepreneurial behaviour (curriculum focussing on level; 1 and 2)

This curriculum is a 15 % flexible part of the curriculum and  is built around the following competence’s:

-       Responsibility

-       Environmental sensitivity

-       Independence

-       Enterprising

-       Creative

-       Focus on improvement

-       Self-examination

-       Learning attitude

-       Hands-on mentality


During the course the students have the opportunities to practice his competences during workplacements in companies (minimum is 6 and maximum is 26 weeks for full time students) or during his working hours on an daily basis (apprentices).

The themes treated in the classes are, in order (basic knowledge for these levels 1 and 2):

-       Basic knowledge about personal characteristics and human behaviour in general,

-       Basic knowledge about working conditions,

-       Basic knowledge about social structures in work environment,

-       Basic knowledge of entrepreneurial behaviour and characteristics of entrepreneurs,

-       Basic skills for attending formal meetings,

-       Developing own insights and meaning (ideals,signals,insights),

-       Basic skills in logical reasoning,

-       Using methods to keep informed about professional developments,

-       Basic skills for self-examination,

-       Knowing your skills and what not to do,

-       Handling feedback.


As there is a serious chance that youngsters in these levels will leave school before examination with the idea to become an entrepreneur in a small business (a  problem to consider in the Netherlands among immigrants especially in the big cities) it is important for the school to teach these youngsters as many entrepreneurial skills as possible creating better chances of achieving their personal goals. Examples of good practice are available, developed in several former EU projects.


II.            Orientation of entrepreneurship (curriculum focussing on level 3 and 4)


In this flexible part to be offered to higher levels, the focus will be more on becoming a real entrepreneur and learning the necessary skills to be used when running a company. The role of the companies involved in the training program will be important as many skills have to be practiced in reality.

Next to the skills and competences as mentioned in the former curriculum for the levels 1 and 2, this time it is not only basic knowledge but further knowledge of all kinds of things and challenges a first time entrepreneur will encounter when setting up a company.

The main goal of the study program will be to learn more  of the ins and outs of what is needed to become a successful entrepreneur and to continue the business.


In this curriculum the focus for the full time students and the apprentices will be on :

-       Kind of enterprise (legal),

-       Ways of cooperation on a commercial basis

-       Knowledge of internal and external financing systems,

-       Knowledge of making analyses (e.g. how is the company doing),

-       Knowledge of who are the customers and who are stakeholders,

-       Knowledge of marketing strategies and methods of research (market),

-       Knowledge of what kind of insurances and permits are needed,

-       Knowledge of how to deal with social media, e-commerce, webcare etc.,

-       Knowledge of law and regulation to consider when starting and running a company,

-       Ability to interpret commercial economic data,

-       Knowledge of tax systems,

-       Ability to make written and spoken presentations,

-       Developing skills for attending formal meetings (using specific interview techniques),

-       Knowledge about sustainable and environmental entrepreneurship,

-       Handling feedback.


After finishing this part of the curriculum and after finishing the basic and vocational part of the course with success, students might decide to continue in higher vocational education. This specific curriculum about entrepreneurship will offer good opportunities to continue their entrepreneurial studies to a higher level. In addition some students might decide to start working with the idea of setting up their own business later on. They will learn about the difficulties of starting a business (having ideas, finding finance, chances of success, marketing strategies etc.)

For the apprentices, already working in a company, it might offer them better chances of development and promotion, either within the company or independently.


These two examples of curricula which can be chosen by students during the training programme (1 to 4 years), will be a serious attempt to prepare students better for the labour market. What they might expect when starting their own company and also some kind of self-examination to find out if they have the right talents and insights to learn the necessary skills for becoming and continuing a successful entrepreneur.



Jos van Kollenburg

10  September 2015