'Under one roof; residents talk with Fred van der Westerlaken of ROC Tilburg'

17 November 2022

Just a little while longer and MindLabs MindLabs will move into a brand new building in Tilburg's Spoorzone. And not just any building; the complex will be the central point for education, research and business in Brabant where it all revolves around human-centred AI. Because we are not going alone; our partners are moving in with us. So that we can always meet, inspire and motivate each other. In the section 'Under one roof' we introduce you to all our new neighbors. They talk about their work, their reasons for moving and the plans they want to carry out from our new location. In this edition: Fred van der Westerlaken on behalf of ROC Tilburg. He is chairman of the Executive Board of Education Group Tilburg, of which the educational institution is part.

Fred, to start at the beginning: what exactly do you do?
As president of the Executive Board of Education Group Tilburg, I am responsible for the direction of the organization, and compliance with its vision. In doing so, I am not only concerned with what happens internally, but also with the developments around us. Those in the professional fields for which we educate, for example, and in society. It also means that my central role is that of 'connector'. I bring the schools for which we are responsible, government, business and students into contact with each other. That means that I'm on the road a lot and joining consultations. Because you don't just connect from behind your desk.  

ROC Tilburg operates from different locations in the city. Why the decision to move into the MindLabs building?
For years, I have been pleading for a 'decompartmentalization' of the education system. Not a system change, but more cooperation between college, university and university. The educational institutions involved in MindLabs show that this approach works. There, each contributes to the bigger picture from their own knowledge and expertise. Everyone is needed and the various parties cannot do without each other to achieve the common goal. If you want to avoid creating divisions, you have to actively work on that. By moving into the new MindLabs building, we become a very physical part of the whole. It makes connecting and coming up with ideas optimally possible. MindLabs is also there for small and medium-sized enterprises. I hope that the new building will remove barriers in the field of AI and highlight the developments for that target group. Among other things, by making it a place where SMEs can walk in freely and ask questions about AI.

Who exactly is moving to the new building?
Initially, fifteen teachers and a dozen interns will participate weekly in the building. In a laboratory environment, they will conduct research on the effect of the application of AI on education. So our students will also be there often. In this way we hope to get answers to questions such as: how can we make learning more fun? More accessible? And how do we increase learning efficiency? The knowledge we gain will also be useful for companies. They can adapt their courses and training for employees with it, for example. Because we think it is important that people continue to develop not only during their training, but also afterwards. After all, what you have learned today may already be outdated tomorrow.
I myself will continue to work from my current base at Stappegoorweg in Tilburg. But from my role as president of the MindLabs association, I will often be in the new MindLabs building to see and hear what happens when people talk to each other there. What goes well and what could be better? And to open doors. Because working together, that's where the power and uniqueness of MindLabs 's in.

Have you worked with other MindLabs partners in the past? Or have you pinned your hopes on the new building?
No, we already have the necessary collaborations to our name. The presence in the building should therefore primarily provide even more connection and inspiration, and facilitate collaboration. Because you are working on the same goal in the same place. 

What is something ROC Tilburg will add to the whole?
We train for and in practice, and are therefore an important link in the whole. Take the RegioDeal project on maintenance work in times of corona; the AR application devised for this is being tested by MBO students in the field.

How does it feel when you walk past the construction site now? Does it itch yet?
Definitely! I would go there today if I could. I think it's a fantastic building, and the location in the heart of the city also fits in perfectly with what we have in mind together.

Where will you be located? What will the view be?
Our main space will be in the education area on the second floor. We also have a space on the first floor, at the front of the building. Together with others, we share the Bruising Heart in the building. A central meeting place where meeting, connection, development and inspiration are central.

Have you met the new neighbors yet? Or have you yet to have your first cup of coffee?
At the administrative level, of course, we already know the other educational institutions. The program managers are no strangers to each other. And the expert team has also been working together for some time. Our move into the new building will especially boost the meetings between teachers and students. These already exist, but it is different when you can talk to each other in real life over lunch or at the coffee machine. I suspect there will be many more cups of coffee.

What plans do you hope to realize from your new home?
I hope to establish a stronger connection with higher education. And I want to establish what added value AI has for education. Not only for ourselves, but also for the business world. So that they can determine: what will be in the education paragraph, other than the standard story.

Are the first boxes already packed?
Most of what will be in the MindLabs building is new. So we don't have that much to pack. Our boxes are our people's heads; that's where the actual luggage is. But we also pack and take our VR glasses, of course.

It's time to wrap up. What's in store for you today? A little daydreaming about your upcoming workplace in the new building? Or are you too busy for that?
No, I don't have time for daydreaming. A series of meetings will follow to improve collaborations and deliver students to the field as well as possible. Today too - like actually all my workdays - is all about collaborating and connecting.