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'Acknowledgement of My Acquired Skills Gave My Studies a Flying Start'

By Paul Troost

Maarten Hemker studies at the faculty of Informatics and worked roughly one hundred and fifty hours on getting his acquired skills acknowledged. It was worth the trouble. Maarten god thirteen exemptions. The faculty wants to use his huge book as an example document for students who are also considering to take on such an extensive task.

'Know what you are getting yourself into, because it could take up to six months just like that', warns Maarten. 'But if you have over five years of working experience, I whole heartedly recommend you the procedure Acknowledgement of Acquired Skills.'

'An example of a student for whom the Open University can provide the solution'

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That's what the mathematics teacher said about Maarten Hemker (32) who recently, with good results, completed his oral exams. Maarten is the first one to agree with that statement. 'At the end of the nineties, I quit IT at the University of Amsterdam. If it hadn't been for the Open University, I wouldn't have gotten a second chance. I wouldn't have known where else I'd be able to find a part time IT training. A higher vocational training wasn't really what he had in mind. 'Colleagues at work who are vocationally trained obviously are at a somewhat lower level.

They have been taught to apply their knowledge but they lack background and insight. Besides, I would never be able to put up with being obliged to sit in a school-like class two evenings every week. The freedom of the Open University goes perfectly together with my lifestyle.'

Products that matter

His current employer, the municipality of Amsterdam, played an important part in Maarten’s decision to continue his studies again in the early months of 2010. After eight years of service with ISP @Home he didn't feel much for moving to Utrecht after the company he worked for fused with another ISP called Ziggo. He also wasn't fond of the commercial strategy of the new company. Maarten: 'In the department of Service and Facility Management at the municipality of Amsterdam I am able to innovate digital products that matter and that people find useful while at the same time saving the municipality a lot of money.' He has been putting his heart and soul into this for three years now and is enjoying himself wonderfully. His new director showed to care about the human aspect of it and pushed Maarten to pick up his unfinished studies. 'Currently the game isn't as hard as it used to be, but formally, there is still a certain education level one must possess to fulfil a certain function', says Maarten 'So, if I planned to grow within the municipality, I had no choice but to accept this proposal. The municipality of Amsterdam is facilitating Maarten’s training with partial financing and studying hours.

Six months after his hiring, he started at the Open University.

Rather go back to work

It was obvious that Maarten would try to gain exemptions for the exams he had already passed at the University of Amsterdam. There, he passed roughly two thirds of the propaedeutic exams. Comparison between the passed exams with the corresponding modules from the Open University gave Maarten nine exemptions in total. This was just the beginning. Our country knows the procedure of Acknowledgement of Acquired Skills, that was introduced in the nineties to honour the knowledge and experience that wasn't acquired through official schooling. Maarten planned to take advantage of the possibilities that this procedure offered, because he is already quite experienced. Already at the Barlaeusgymnasium in Amsterdam he ran a profitable IT business, built websites and assisted clients with PC issues. As a junior in college, he started to work part-time with @Home's call-center and later full-time as technician and business analyst. Since @Home offered good career opportunities, he broke off his studies before his propaedeutics. Prior to him transferring to the municipality of Amsterdam, he worked there as call-center supervisor, product manager and business analyst. At the municipality he occupies the role of functional developer, he maintains contact with suppliers and directs the internal management organizations.

'If there hadn’t been an Open University, I wouldn't have gotten a second chance'

Self-educated

Maarten has even more experience. Through his work, he went the necessary courses, and he also became a seasoned IT'er by studying on his own. Maarten became self-educated through his business and by managing internet facilities for some buildings at the Elandsgracht in Amsterdam. 'My friend and I were kind of an ISP for those homes. In our loft, we had a server rack with equipment for our buildings. These have been my family’s property for generations. My great grandfather had these built as social rental apartments in 1886.' Maarten is gaining knowledge and experience by consulting to xxter, the newly founded business belonging to his friend. That company designs products for home automation, for example, technologies with which you can control your curtains or lightning with your cell phone.

Maarten: 'I test products and write manuals.' In short, Maarten had enough of both knowledge and experience, he just needed to prove that through the procedure of Acknowledgement of Acquired Skills and he wasn't looking forward to it. 'Sometimes it's said that the procedure is quite a hassle and that it would be easier to just go through the module.

I've briefly contemplated that but with the advice from my mentor I still went for it.'

Careful presentation

At the study centre, he is known as the student who pulled out the modules and carefully compared them with his working experience. A hell of a job that took up one hundred and fifty hours under two months but it was worth the trouble. Next to the exemptions for the nine exams from the University of Amsterdam, he also received exemptions for thirteen bachelor modules. Only one subject wasn't honoured. Full of pride, Maarten shows off a folder in which he, module by module, mirrors his own IT experience to the exam demands from the IT faculty. In this folder, he describes the courses he once went through and one could also find reports from his project planning there. In a structured manner, he describes his activities, how he handled the problems but especially what he learned from it. The evidence can be found in the folder. Maarten: 'There is some kind of a template I could use as an example but I gave my own personal twist to it in order to connect the modules with experience in a better way.' At the IT faculty, they are exalted about the way he completed the work.

But even with his extensive presentation he still wasn't quite there yet. Lastly, he was invited for a final discussion to provide information about the subjects over which there still was some doubt. By the way, the Acknowledgement of Acquired Skills saved him quite some time and money as well. 'I estimate to have paid about €1300 for those exemptions, but just compare what I would have paid for the thirteen modules. And one hundred and fifty hours is a whole lot less than 1300 studying hours.

Keep going

'Acknowledgement of my acquired skills gave my study a flying start', explains Maarten. It gave him the courage to stream through five modules a year average. Just like with the acknowledgement of his acquired skills, he shows that structural and planned work is one of his strong sides. From the beginning of his studies, Maarten planned Fridays to be his fixed study day. And more importantly, he really did study on that day. The lack of contact with the Open University is something Maarten compensates faithfully visiting the guidance meetings during his first year at the study centre, then after his propaedeutics he always participates in the online guidance meetings. One teacher goes through the entire exam material, others go through the issues students face.

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'Particularly useful', thinks Maarten, 'because this way I can plan my exams and go through the material under guidance.' His advice to fellow students: 'Try to do your exams directly after the guidance sessions, because that way you are still in the material.' Even though you face drawbacks, like with Capita selecta in mathematics, Maarten thinks about how he can approach this in a planned fashion. 'At high school I had a beta profile but for that exam I wasn't going to make it with my regular, relaxed way of studying'. Every morning he went up at six o'clock, dove into his books and did the extra assignments. Even though he showed that he was a go-getter through the acknowledgement of acquired skills, he sure did prove it again by the way that he passed his mathematics. 'Well, I never really thought that about myself.'

'Don't let yourself be scared off by the cost and the paperwork of the procedure for Acknowledgement of Acquired Skills'

Image: Peter Strelitsky

Name: Maarten Hemker

Age: 32

Civil status: Wed

Location: Amsterdam

Pre-school: Barlaeusgymnasium, een year IT at the University of Amsterdam

Profession: Functional Developer Services at the municipality of Amsterdam

Started: February 1st 2013

Finished June 1st 2013

Current occupation: Concept of programming languages, introduction to labour and organization psychology.

Study centre: Amsterdam/Utrecht

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