The role of Industry in ESD





ESD-based CSR & HRM
Excellent sources of Learning
1st-line Partners in Education
Folding the worlds of School and Career


During the 1st phase of The OPEDUCA Project, the involvement of the world of work proved to be a key-value for the effectuation of transdisciplinary learning, skill development and future relevant competences.
The drive and potential added value of industry (through their CSR, HRM but also core-business) is however often channeled through the system put in place, therewith being confronted with long procedures, barricades in action, many ‘layers’ of representing and consulting organizations. Initiatives can strand in that, leading to gatherings and policy-making at a too great distance from society. Initiatives, such as promoting Technology (ICT but certainly Technics), seem to be(come) stand-alone projects and add-on activities for schools (not integrated, delivered through in-between agencies).

Critical Closer Connections between Schooling and the World of Work
in favour of the Student

As recounted from practice, students:
• gain access to more relevant data and information,
• experience how knowledge is applied,
• learn to sense the relevance of skills and competences in a practical context and gain understanding of the value(s) of work and cooperation,
• gradually gain access to and understanding of society’s value- and income-generating capacity, of the world of consumption and production that for a major part defines our (un-)sustainable development. Therewith they are seen to generate a foundation for the design and development of own concepts and ideas, envision how they would choose, rule, regulate, produce, trade and handle goods and services.

Essential conditions for effective school - industry cooperation
Understanding precedes action

From the perspective of the schools, values complementary to the students’ learning process manifested themselves as opportunities arise to:
• make schools less dependent on costly consult and pre-defined programs in the fields of science, technology and entrepreneurship while misconceptions in these fields can be avoided,
• expand the range of educational partnerships through a companies’ own network,
• provide direct insight and a better understanding of the competence-gap between school and work,
• rationalise the relevance of knowledge, competences and transversal skills, moreover since these are less subject to inflation then presently perceived in the realm of ‘21st Century Skills’, ‘ESD Competences’ and alike convictions.

Essential conditions for effective school - industry cooperation
Understanding precedes action

Recounting how the above came to effect, we mostly observed practices that required a more profound mutual understanding between schools and companies. Complementary to the findings described in Chapter 5 regarding the manifestation of the schools in this respect, it was found relevant to discern a company’s involvement from the perspective of organizational positions and the way it organizes its societal involvement through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Thirdly, it is both for schools and companies involved relevant to understand not every (potential) partner form industry is as authentic as likely perceived.
The already reported strangeness of schools with the world of work was paralleled by managers not fully aware of the situation in and around schools. The efficacy of a company’s involvement appeared related to the way it interprets and organizes its CSR.  

Division of dedicated company employees involved.

Keeping close to the Added Value Core of a business

Whereas smaller companies are obviously required to be in touch closer and on a more personal level, larger industry often places ‘education matters’ in the hands of HRM with an eye on the longer-term availability of a qualified workforce or in a separate department annex Foundation. Overviewing 48 midsize to larger companies worked with, it can be tentatively concluded that a higher i.e. stricter organisation level restricts and limits its effectiveness as Partner in Education. We thereto inquired with students in both Flight for Knowledge and BusinessClass and analysed the companies’ contributions in each case (during visits, presentations, jury-membership, etc.). Whereas a person’s dedication to the course proved important in general, participation from those in a companies’ core-business, from the CEO-level (25%) over line-management to the practical workforce (total 35%) was definingly most effective. Specialist staff (Finance, Legal, etc.) and Marketing made up for another 27% while in only 13% of cases (the) CSR(-organisation) added the value.

The widest gap between intentions and effective practice appeared when support-activities were conducted by a designated department or Foundation, working with well-rounded programs. Such especially in cases these were (even further) outsourced to third parties. Exchanging on this, they appeared not sensible for the argument of costs (own staff topping outsourcing- and delivery-costs) nor for well-wrought quality considerations. The perceived attractiveness of the support(-tool,
or -instrument) dominated the choice. We concluded on this as a substantial opporunity-loss in the effectuation of a companies educational potential.

From the side of the schools, there was little critical attitude towards the offerings as they tried to make up for own deficiencies in certain areas, being grateful for any free support offered. As a result, in most cases products of all sorts were used, although mostly temporarily to then end up on a pile of likewise materials i.e. disposed of.

Furthermore, as we observed through constellations of ESD-research, companies were hardly scrutinized for their authenticity and inert educational values. Whether it concerned firms in coffee, chocolate, clothing, local food or alike sectors, marketing hard to to differ themselves from traditional (unsustainable) industry, we regularly felt inclined to point out that there is eventually little difference where it comes to nett profit margins and the (abundent) use of scarce resources.
Companies perceived as ‘sustainable businesses’ and/or presenting themselves as entrepreneurs in sustainability’ (mostly acting in the tertiary sphere, 6.1.2) were trusted with relative ease. One needs to understand sustainability can likely be a market(ing) approach as such, driven by commercial intentions and bare profit-making. It remains to be seen if and in how far newly crafted enterprises now profiling themselves as (leading) examples in sustainable entrepreneurship are actually so. Qualifications as ‘social’ and ‘sustainable’ in combination with ‘entrepreneurship’ can be a contemporary mask for exploiting a profitable business for its own sake. 

ESD-based CSR

Whereas unfamiliarity with each other’s goals, means and organisations goes paralleled by a light heartedness on the side of schools as well as companies, I argue a more profound and professional understanding of each other can inform a wider range of valid and valuable opportunities to cooperate and jointly effectuate
ESD-based Education.
Industries’ contribution to ESD holds more potential than effected thus far, building on the complex conviction that:
• industry is an indissociable part of the fabric of society and the community in which it operates, another manifestation of what we are and do instead of a manifestation of its own,
• its huge apparatus in place not only represents a substantial amount of natural and human resources invested, by also a vast body of knowledge,
• given its use of resources and scarce means in the realm of (un-)sustainable production, induced by doubtful choices and volumes of consumption, industry represents a formidable transformative capacity,

Sharing the conviction that sooner or later the only way of making profit is being sustainable (Sijbesma, 2020) there is profound reason to more closely look at a more structured and consistent approach of industries’ partnership in ESD beyond the contemporary efforts in HRM and especially CSR. 

Bringing a transition in and through industry to effect can obviously be approached through the inflow of educated employees on every level to steer cause and course. However, such a longer-term gradual approach risks an assimilation of incoming talent in the current state of affairs. I therefore argue to further a companies core-business on the path of sustainable development by ways of a pro-active Educational Partnership with the entire range of (formal) education. Investing in education not only doubles back as partnerships offer opportunity to work directly on the improvement of skills of future entry-level workers (MacDowell, 1989) but also of those already enrolled. Also where it comes to future decision making and leadership, change in management education can be seen a prerequisite for achieving integrated views and practices in order to strive for CSR and sustainability (Waddock & McIntosh, 2009). A companies decision-making will have to build on multi-dimensional leadership including transformational and servant capacities (Stead & Stead, 2017), values wrought in the course of a person’s development, unlikely to be taught in later life. Reaching out to, providing access, sharing data and information with students today, allowing them first-hand insights and experiences to further their learning, effectively contributes to the generation of knowledge wish underpins future wisdom. Wisdom informing action, whether as employee, entrepreneur or informed consuming citizen.

Visualisation of the positioning of ‘ESD-based CSR’

It became clear that meeting(s) with(in) industry enable students to gain insight in how the world of work can contribute to their future wellbeing (personal development, happiness, fulfilment) and competence development.
A constructive step is to more profoundly see them as future entrepreneurs and employees embodying transition(-capacity). Closing the gap between schooling and work can dovetail with a company’s existing HRM-efforts to (re-)educate present employees who will also be challenged to operate in a setting characterized by lesser defined problems, contradictory information, informal collaboration and more abstract, dynamic and highly integrated processes. Seeing the concept of competence strongly associated with the ability to master such complex situations (Westera, 2001).
I propose to fold formal education and company-based learning together beyond the realm of vocational schooling. Aiming at a more fluent and better fitting reconciliation of competences generated in practice with those developed through education. Referring to the well-known German ‘dual system’ of apprenticeships, the dovetail can be longer i.e., reaching ‘back’ further and applied broader. Obviously, this is congruent with the attraction of more educator-capacity for schools the OPEDUCA-concept proposes. 

Overarching the HRM-perspective, re-defining a companies’ CSR to meet ESD-based Education is a profound and lasting way to effectuate school-industry collaboration. Proposing ESD-based CSR I take a longer-term perspective and address a missing link between a companies’ raison d’etre, goals, impact on sustainable development, citizenship and education.

Overviewing the companies that cooperated during the OPEDUCA-project we broadly decerned 4 present levels and interpretations of CSR:
- The explanation and mitigation of undesirable consequences on one’s business.
- Generating future friendly businesses.
- (re-)Arranging business to serve sustainable development.
- Adding value(s) beyond the present, using position, seize and influence. 

The effectuation of ESD-based Education by ESD-based CSR is grounded in the latter to then develop towards the first three, given the following argumentation:
• An earlier contribution of industry to students’ learning processes is more objective as the ‘pay-off’ will not fall to a specific company and can therefore be seen in the interest of the greater good. This sense of sincere and honest contributions to education is what we observed during the OPEDUCA-project.
• Whereas the OPEDUCA-instruments are effective to enrich and harness the students’ learning, they also provide for a gate-keeping function as only suitable companies with an appropriate organisation and knowledge-sharing infrastructure can manifest their CSR this way.
• A closer and structured cooperation can provide for teachers’ and school leaders’ professional development.
• Speaking of information and learning objects, it is regarded a prerequisite to integrate (new) employees in the knowledge management of the organisation. Dove-tailing this both in concept and practice with formal education, one can consider a ‘work-ready-plus notion; students not only being competent and able to use skills and knowledge correctly under a given set conditions but also capable to adapt to and incur change having higher levels of personal, interpersonal and cognitive intelligence (Scott & Eussen, 2020) An idea which includes being sustainability literate, change implementation savvy, inventive and entrepreneurial. Clear on where one stands on the tacit assumptions driving the 21st century agenda like “growth is equally beneficial to everyone”, “consumption is happiness”, “ICT is always the answer” and “globalisation is great”.  

The above is complementary to researchers who consider a ‘Corporate Curriculum’ in the course of which a plea is held for active sense making as the ultimate goal in organisations, the ability to decide and operate on the base of informed judgement in a dynamic environment and uncertainly, making use of scientific knowledge, requiring employees to be able to use a variety of information sources and confront such with scientific terms, methodologies and views (Bosch, 2003; Kessels, 1996). 

The effectuation of ESD-based CSR in the realm of ESD-based Education can contribute to improving and safeguarding the integrity and quality of education in following ways


• Discerning between companies with authentic educational values and those in the business of sustainability and/or education itself.
• If more than one company contributions to specific elements of the learning,
a validation of data and information is engrained in the process; distributed contributions disperse influence and cross-validate.
• The multiple application of the OPEDUCA-instruments in various regions involves Partners in Education from alike sectors (if not competitors) which provides opportunity to critical comparison of contributions.
• The protection of the integrity and independence of formal education, whereas presently such values can be corrupted due to insufficient insight and understanding of both school and companies. Today initiatives in the fields of STEM, ICT and other assembled educations can be pressed upon schools and effect learning already in ways undetected. The perceived downside of industries’ involvement in education is not to be regarded futile and should be seen against the background of presently unstructured i.e., uncontrolled influence.
• Possible ethical conflicts are better avoidable when vulnerability is mutual.
The effective involvement of industry in school-based education requires such openness and in-depth understanding of a company’s whereabouts, activities and moral, one cannot engage halfway. Certainly not when understanding the open character of an OPEDUCA.
• As recounted when reflecting on practice, students are able and should be continuously encouraged to ‘dive’ into matters while they are still questioning phenomena. That way they will per definition come across what marks todays’ industry as unsustainable. Put shortly, it will be most unlikely a company with other than fairest intentions to the cause can be a Partner in Education.
The stronger the involvement of companies and the wider the spread and variety across sectors, positioned open to each other, the more likely their support is authentic and qualitative. 

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