North Netherlands Provinces
The northern part of the Netherlands originally had primarily an agricultural function, and is still the major agricultural region within the Netherlands. However, the agricultural sector has been under pressure because of international competition and environmental restrictions. The economy of the region is regarded as one of the weakest in the Netherlands. There is a relatively high degree of unemployment and the region has not been very successful in attracting new or relocating firms. The most important economic factor in the northern part of the Netherlands is the winning of gas in the Province of Groningen. The gas field surrounding Slochteren is the largest gas-producing field in Europe. However, the economic benefits are flowing out of the region, straight into the Dutch public purse.
The main employers are industrial firms, mainly small scale industries, commerce and social services. A large part of these firms is situated in the rural parts of the region. The maintenance and the creation of new jobs in these firms are main aims of the regional policy. Further goals to rise the quality of life („Lefbaarkeit van het platteland") are the maintenance of already existing employment possibilities, a better supply with business-related services and elementary services. A better use of ICT gains a specific importance in this context.
The Dutch key-partner is Alfa College, a Regional Education Centre (ROC) for denominational intermediate vocational training, day release and adult education. An ROC provides a coherent range of courses enabling young people and adults to gain qualifications for the job market or for further education. The Dutch ROC is the counterpart of the American Community Colleges or the British Colleges for Further Education. Alfa College has over 9,000 students and 900 staff at divisions in Groningen, Hoogeveen, Emmen, Hardenberg and Leek.
The second Dutch partner, Noorderpoort College, is also a ROC, operating in almost every area of Vocational Education and Training (VET) and General Adult Education. Providing a wide range of long-term and short-term courses in vocational education, apprenticeship training and adult education for almost 25,000 students and with 1,650 members of staff, it is the largest organisation of its kind in the north-east of The Netherlands, close to the German border. As a special branch of the Institute, the ICT-Innovation centre develops all kinds of multimedia learning material not only for the distinct units of the college but also for external clients. Noorderpoort College aims at the creation of a European space for skills enhancement and the spatial development of the rural areas in the North Sea Region.
A further partner is MKB-Noord, a project-oriented organisation of one of the largest employers' federations working in the northern provinces of the Netherlands. A main target of the office is to get in contact and to build up co-operation with regional development actors. This will help to improve the business climate in the region. Starting points of concrete actions are employee qualifying programmes, support for better business-related services and especially a better access to ICT.
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