TKgune programme facilitating innovation in the Basque Country

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The Basque Vocational Education and Training (VET) system has always been in close relation with the small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs). In the Basque Country, there are VET centres in nearly every valley and that makes it unavoidable to build up collaboration. In 2014/2015 TKgune programme was launched in order to reinforce that collaborative relation and facilitate innovation. In this article Mikel Leunda, TKgune programme coordinator, reports back on his experiences in setting this programme up, its recent developments and on what he believes to be the future trends in the area of entrepreneurship.

The TKgune programme was set up for two main purposes, being:

  • to offer innovation services to SMEs through the teachers and equipment available in the VET centres;
  • to introduce new content into curricula.

The innovation services, developed in collaboration with SMEs and VET centres, are mainly carried out in the following areas: manufacturing, automotive, energy, automation and creative industries. These areas are relevant to the capabilities of the VET centres and the main priorities set by the Basque Smart Specialization Strategies.

Success factors and barriers of the TKgune programme       

The programme involves new roles for trainers, as they are no longer limited to only training. They have to establish contacts with enterprises, identify their needs and provide solutions. This challenge requires to be prepared, and therefore, training of trainers is crucial.

Participation of trainers is optional, and as participation in the TKgune programme anticipates higher workload, it hasn’t been easy to attract and to get them involved. Nevertheless, once they start, most of them value the work very positively and they state that their participation is very useful for improving their technological knowledge and training performance.

On the other hand, in order to make the programme sustainable the services must be billed to the companies. At first it was not easy to do so, but little by little a climate of trust has been built-up on both sides and nowadays the invoicing of enterprises is a widespread common practice.

Recent developments

In the course of 2015/2016 the TKgune programme offered 354 services to around 252 different companies in the Basque Country, which means an increase of 38% in respect to the previous course. For 2016/2017, the main goal of the programme is to consolidate the way of working by strengthening the network. Thus, the number of centres involved is not expected to increase significantly this year. Nevertheless, the programme is to be extended to the whole VET system which will lead to a greater impact of the programme in the near future. As the continuity of the programme is practically ensured, the greatest challenge for the future is to deepen its contribution to training.

Interest in entrepreneurship

Being involved in coordination of the TKgune programme I have had an opportunity to closely monitor the work done in multiple projects. Company managers, technicians, trainers, and sometimes even students participated in those projects. Attitudes, customs and ways, which make up each component, can greatly ease or hinder the way of working. For that reason, entrepreneurial awareness is vitally important.

Trends and challenges in the area of entrepreneurship

In the current global situation, the enterprises, and especially the SMEs, have to adapt themselves to continuous changes in order to secure their existence. In that sense, the role to be played by entrepreneurs is crucial. This applies both to those that turn their own ideas into real projects, and the ones which are employed but innovate the operations within a company. In this respect, the education system faces a big challenge. Both students and trainers have to adopt the entrepreneurial culture in order to act effectively and transform the industrial world.

Recommendations

Since I work at Tknika (http://www.tknika.eus/), the Basque Centre of Research and Applied Innovation in VET, I have had the privilege to get in touch with colleagues who participate in programmes aimed at improving the treatment of the soft skills in the Basque VET system.

There is a wide variety of ongoing programmes and in particular, the following ones are noteworthy:

  • Ikasenpresa (students training based in entrepreneurial skills),
  • Irekin (teachers training based in entrepreneurial skills),
  • Urratsbat (supporting the students to develop entrepreneurial projects),
  • ETHAZI (new methodologies and environments for the teaching/studying process).

Further information about the programme can be found on the following website: https://www.tkgune.eus/en/