Farmareus Janssen will teach Thomas More students


February 2, 2024
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In the search for young talent, Janssen Pharmaceutica will collaborate extensively with Thomas More University of Applied Sciences. The pharmaceutical giant not only offers teachers and infrastructure, but also helps determine the lesson content.

Students at Thomas More University of Applied Sciences will soon be taught by employees of Janssen Pharmaceutica, a subsidiary of the American pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson with around 5,000 employees in Belgium. Companies giving guest lectures or making their infrastructure available often happens in the educational world. But this collaboration – which is new for Belgium – goes a lot further.

With the shortage on the labor market, new talent with tailor-made competencies is the dream of every company.

Eric Pelkmans

Director of Agile Workforce Strategy at Janssen

Janssen Pharmaceutica also contributes to the content of six courses: biomedical laboratory technology, chemistry, IT, design and production technology, business management and agro & biotechnology. The company will offer its own courses and didactic materials. Students will also complete real assignments for Janssen.

An example: in the ‘inventor training’ production technology, which revolves around artificial intelligence and 3D techniques, students will work with cases and global data from Janssen Pharmaceutica. This way they will do something ‘real’ instead of coming up with inventions that no one wants, according to the university.

The essence

  • In 2023, the Flemish crisis hotlines received more than 16,500 calls for crises in the family or for a psychological crisis of a child or young person. That is almost 40 percent more than three years ago.
  • More than a third of minors could not be helped because the crisis services were full.
  • According to the sector and experts, this lack of space and the long waiting lists are the driving force behind the record figures. ‘We partly create the problems ourselves.’

Why will the company invest time, personnel and resources in the training? The war for talent. Janssen, which does not want to put a figure on the investments, hopes to entice graduates to come and work there. They probably don’t have to commute far: the six courses are spread across the campuses in Geel and Sint-Katelijne-Waver, a stone’s throw from the pharmaceutical company’s head office in Beerse.

The collaboration raises the question of what students are prepared for: general skills or capabilities tailored to one company?

‘The search for talent is so intensive that it has become part of our daily work. By letting students get to know our company, we hope to make it easier for them to choose our sector,” says Eric Pelkmans, director of Agile Workforce Strategy at Janssen. ‘With the shortage on the labor market, new talent with tailor-made competencies is the dream of every company.’

The new course on CAR-T cell therapy, a treatment for blood cancer, must provide such competencies. The pharmaceutical giant previously invested in a new production site in Ghent to enable personalized treatments for blood cancer patients throughout Europe. “We therefore have numerous vacancies,” says Pelkmans. ‘By introducing this innovation into a school’s curriculum, we hope that the university will become the supplier of new talent.’

‘No pressure’

That does raise the question of what students are prepared for. General skills that can be used throughout the sector or specific capabilities for one company? Janssen sees no danger. “Our contribution to the training will be to the benefit of the entire pharmaceutical sector,” says Pelkmans. ‘There are several companies that work with CAR-T. Students will soon be able to make an easier choice about where they want to work in the sector.’

Our students will be taught by experts from one of the leading players in pharmaceuticals.

Stijn Coenen

Director of Thomas More University of Applied Sciences

Thomas More emphasizes that the school retains final responsibility for the curriculum and the diploma. ‘Our collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceutica is very healthy. It exerts absolutely no pressure,” says director Stijn Coenen.

He sees the collaboration as a ‘symbolic next step in the relations between education and companies’. Usually a specific sector is invited to tailor the content of the training as best as possible to the professional field. “We have already worked together on an ad hoc basis in the past, but now we are opening the doors very loudly,” says Coenen, who also wants to roll out far-reaching collaboration with other companies in healthcare, welfare, nutrition and logistics.

One of the big wins for Thomas More is the use of Janssen’s laboratories. “We don’t have the budget to buy innovative labs every year,” says Coenen. In addition, he welcomes the expertise with open arms. ‘Our students will be taught by experts from one of the leading players in pharmaceuticals and will learn applications that they can immediately use in their later jobs.’

Cold feet

In the educational field, the call for more cooperation with companies has been around for some time. This certainly applies to expensive practice-oriented specializations. Directors see the cost price rising every year due to the expensive materials and adapted buildings. There are also almost no practical teachers left due to the teacher shortage.

Minister of Education Ben Weyts (N-VA) welcomes the initiative of Thomas More and Janssen, especially because education and companies ‘sometimes seemed to have cold feet’ about working together in depth. ‘One of the strengths of universities of applied sciences is that they can connect even closer to the local labor market. I hope that even more colleges will make full use of that potential.’

The article is in Dutch


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