The Knowledge at Work Foundation and VERN University of Applied Sciences organised a half-day workshop titled ‘Chances for Young People’ on April 18th, 2018, at VERN University in Zagreb, Croatia.

More than 50 people gathered to meet like-minded change-makers from universities, companies, the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education and the state Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes.

The participants were welcomed by Prof. Dr. Vlatko Cvrtila, dean of VERN’ University, Dr. Caroline Hornstein Tomić, chair of the management board of the Knowledge at Work Foundation, and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schuster, chair of the European Foundation for Education, EDU-LAB’s lead partner.

Prof. Dr. Pál Lukács of the Neumann János University, Hungary, and Adriano Liebhard of Siemens Croatia presented two inspirational examples of successful cooperation between academia and the business sector.

Watch the following video including interviews with Dr. Caroline Hornstein Tomić, Foundation Knowledge at Work and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schuster, European Foundation for Education, Lead partner of EDU-LAB to find out more:

The main part of the workshop comprised a discussion between all participants in the framework of a ‘pro-action café’ facilitated by communication expert Martina Stažnik. The topics explored here were identified in the first phase of the EDU-LAB project:

  1. Student projects in cooperation with companies
  2. Dual education
  3. Student internships
  4. Competitions and awards
  5. Student incubators
  6. Career centres
  7. Company visits
  8. Business involvement in curriculum design
  9. Student employment
  10. Part-time studies


The discussions held around the ‘café’ tables focussed on three questions:

  • What is the purpose of this type of cooperation between companies and universities for each group of stakeholders (students, business, public sector…)?
  • What has enabled your positive experiences so far?
  • What can you do, personally and in small steps, to encourage more examples of best practice?

The responses to the final question included:

  • A focus on teachers and mentors

University teachers are the main motivators of student action. Teachers with experience outside academia, and who follow new industrial trends and technologies, bring in added value and inspire students to participate in real-life’ projects. The competence and experience of teachers are especially important for employed students who understand the applications and value of this knowledge. Students with work experience expect university education to provide a broader perspective of their profession and help them to develop a conceptual way of thinking.

  • Programme and schedule flexibility

Flexibility is another crucial element in lifelong learning. Rigid study schedules, a lack of recognition of previous education and experiential learning, limited practical opportunities to move between academic fields or continue scientific education after finishing college are major obstacles to continuing formal education.

  • Industry

Where there is a will, there is a way. It is much easier to cooperate with industry if a company has trained mentors dedicated to organising student involvement and to supporting students during their time in the company. A company’s interest in new ideas is very motivating both for students and teachers for their engagement in common projects. For small companies, monetary support (tax relief, the organised training of mentors, incentives for taking students on board, etc.) would enhance their capacity to host students.

  • Student internships

There is a huge need for all students to gain work experience oriented towards professional competence and supported by trained and motivated mentors. Ideally, internships should be standardised.

  • Projects, projects, everywhere

Short-term, long-term, micro and mega projects always present a good playing field for providing students with real work experience. A research project, a project in cooperation with industry, a project organised by a student organisation or a project for a customer – these are all opportunities for students to gain more down-to-earth perspectives, discover their talents, develop practical and soft skills, and perhaps most importantly, to acquire a more realistic way of thinking.

  • Fresh knowledge

The discussions revealed a strong emphasis on the importance of ‘fresh’ curricula and a need for knowledge updates. Few things are more frustrating than having to learn theories twenty or more years old and that have never been put into proper practice.

  • Alumni

There is huge room for improving relations between alumni and students. Only a few good examples exist of alumni being involved in student programmes, incubators, internships, motivation, networking, etc.


The aims of the workshop were:

* to facilitate discussion between individuals who have already found ways to introduce students to business realities

* to promote and enhance positive collaboration between businesses and higher education in order to link individuals with organisations and institutions which can and wish to ensure practice-based learning for students.

We can conclude that these aims were fully achieved.


If you are interested in more details, feel free to contact EDU_LAB project manager Jasenka Gojšić: