‘Old School’ meets ‘New Gen’

‘Old School’ meets ‘New Gen’

12/05/2023 - 14:56

At the table with Jan Verheij and Thato Motloung, both closely involved in Logistics education at BUas. Jan has just retired. Thato is a newcomer. An inspiring meet and greet!
Logistics NL
  • Stories

Jan Verheij (from Tilburg) started teaching Spanish some 20 years ago, when languages were still a substantial part of the curriculum. ‘Not just in the Tourism department, where I started,’ Jan explains, ‘languages were also important in Logistics classes, where they really wanted to have me, especially when they found out I had a background in economics.’

Thato Motloung (from South Africa) graduated from both Logistics programmes in 2020. A year later she started working as a researcher on Smart City Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation at BUas, where she also teaches one day a week. ‘I was used to being told what to do, I am talking about my high school days of course,’ Thato smiles. ‘Here, you get to discover everything for yourself and learn how to apply things, I love that!’

‘Okay, what are we going to do,’ says Thato, who immediately takes the lead. ‘I will engage with Jan, and you make a story out of it?’ It is exactly the way Thato is. Enthusiastic. Decisive. No fear whatsoever. That is what she says on her extensive LinkedIn profile: fearless. ‘Even as a child, I was bold. In church, I used to read from the Bible to a large group of people. I just did it.’

Presenting turned out to be second nature to Thato. And you, Jan? How are you in front of a group?

‘Not quite as flamboyant as Thato.’ Smiles. ‘Teaching students is no problem at all, at most it takes some getting used to in every first lesson after the summer holidays. But I do shiver when it comes to speaking in front of colleagues or family. Just recently, at my daughter’s 21 dinner, she really wanted me to say something in front of exactly 21 friends of hers. You know what? I switched to English, then you are kind of a different persona, that is how I overcame the problem.’

No problem with English, then?

‘Are you crazy, I even taught Spanish in English! I studied Economics at Tilburg University. In the 1980s, there were few jobs in that field. Then, just for fun, I started studying Spanish at what is now Fontys University of Applied Sciences. And that is what I loved most, teaching Spanish. I always say, I teach Economics with my head and Spanish with my heart.’ 

En jij, Thato, jij spreekt ook Nederlands, toch?

‘Zeker wel, ik ben een Nederlander!’ (so, we started in Dutch and pretty soon switched back to English ;)

What are the differences in the classroom, do you think, past and present? (Thato asks Jan)

‘Students seem more motivated now, more open too. Back in the day, they just sat there, but you know, now that I think about it, maybe they were more focused when they sat there back then. Students are very easily distracted by their mobile phones now.’

‘And because of that, they now know about a lot of things,’ says Thato, ‘but not in depth.’

‘That is right,’ says Jan, ‘they now have a lot of sources of information to choose from. You used to have the newspaper, if your parents had one. And then it was also a question of what kind of newspaper, a good one or a more popular one.’

Thato: ‘What I find remarkable is that there is much more freedom in teaching now. Of course, we work with curricula, but it is not so strict anymore. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they are working with micro-masters. You can already see this happening in the Netherlands as well. BUas has also started to work more using modules. Students can determine their own study path.’

Are they capable of doing so? Shaping their own study path?

‘I have my doubts,’ Jan says hesitantly, ‘there are still really a lot of students who are like: you guys just tell me what to do.’

Thato: ‘As I said, in high school I was told what to do. When I came here, I had a rough idea of the programme and the industry, but nothing more. Dutch students often have a, what do you call it in Dutch, een bijbaan? Yes! For example, in the Jumbo warehouse, students get inspired and motivated by this. Coming from South Africa I am not used to having a job on the side, so I had no idea of the working environment at all. Then it is hard to map out your own path. So yes, I think students can do it, with a little help from us.’

Jan, with your 20 years of experience at NHTV/BUas, what do you expect will change as you look to the future? (asks Thato)

‘Well, two decades ago you looked things up in a book and now mostly on the internet. That means you will have to be able to validate your sources properly.’
Thato: ‘That is exactly what we teach students now, how to find valid sources.’
Jan: ‘So do students do research in the first year? Because that does matter.’
Thato: ‘I have some first-year students doing Zero Emission Maturity QuickScans at retailers as part of the Connection to Industry and Research programme.’ 
Jan: ‘I think that is great. They recognise things faster that way. In my time, you had your first work placement experience no earlier than in the third year – with a head full of theories.’

So, the ability to find and validate appropriate sources. What are some other important skills self-directing future Logistics professionals need?

Thato: ‘IT skills! Coding and such.’
Jan: ‘Agreed. But before they start doing it, they will have to understand their customers.’
Thato: ‘And that is where social skills come in.’
Jan: ‘These are often underdeveloped. You need them to anticipate what customers want.’
Thato: ‘And once you think you know what they want, do not over-create a perfect solution. It is a two-way street. Get feedback and adjust your product accordingly.’
Jan: ‘Co-creation it is!’

How about presentation skills? We started this conversation talking about this. You will have to be able to sell your idea, right?

Thato: ‘Absolutely important. But equally important is your network. I have noticed a gap there because of the Covid pandemic.’
Jan: ‘We will have to catch up with that soon. Networking is something you can learn, and it starts in the classroom by doing things together.’
Thato: ‘Working in a team is also necessary to be able to develop personal leadership.’
Jan: ‘I agree, but sometimes we underestimate how difficult that can be for students, working on a project together.’
Thato: ‘It is in human nature to communicate…’
Jan: ‘… and also to be a bit lazy…’
Thato: ‘Still, they will have to do it!’
Jan: ‘Sure, in the end Logistics is not only about managing processes, but also about managing people. It is about discovering where you find each other and accepting differences.’

What about your own side jobs? A life outside BUas or after BUas, for you at least, Jan?

Thato: ‘My husband has a business in logistics, and I like helping him with that – just for a few hours a week.’
Jan: ‘I enjoy being a househusband now, but maybe I will write a book some time on the topic of consuminderen – me being an economist.’ Laughs.
Thato: ‘What do you call that? Con-su-min-de-ren? Ah, consume less!’

Pretty funny, looking back in this way. These are your own words:
Thato being a real logistician with no experience in teaching at all. 
And Jan, blessed with a lot of experience in teaching, but knowing nothing about logistics.

Jan: ‘Learning along the way…’
Thato: ‘… and BUas gives you the space needed to grow as you go!’

Both Thato and Jan cordially invite you to reflect on your time at NHTV/BUas. If you would like to share anything with them, please feel free to send a message to motloung.t@buas.nl or j.verheij30@home.nl. Thank you so much!