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School-based practical training provides SKT students with sound ballast

SKT (School for Dental Assistants, Hygienists and Clinical Technicians) has succeeded in establishing a meaningful alternative to traditional practical training places in the form of a practical training centre that attracts students from other parts of the country. Right now, dentists are written-up on a waiting list to receive students to cover acute needs.

The financial crisis also affects the students taking their basic education at SKT and the School of Oral Health Care, such as dental hygienists and clinical dental technicians. The students experience the crisis in that both private and public sector dental clinics have cut down on the number of practical training places. 

Students who do not find a place for practical training end up in school-based practical training at SKT. The scheme is not new, but in 2013 SKT was upgraded with the establishment of a practical training centre. Formally this means that the school-based practical training follows a concept defined by the ministry in question, and that there is access for students from other basic education institutions in Denmark. SKT currently has 65 pupils from the basic education as dental surgery assistants and ten laboratory dental technicians in school-based practical training. Their study programme will be different from that of their fellow students. But not worse, says Mitzie Abildgaard, who is director of studies and head of development at SKT – and responsible for the practical training centre.

"We follow the requirements that the Ministry sets for a practical training place and we do not compromise on quality. On the contrary, we are very conscious of the fact that the school-based practical training should prepare the students to meet the challenges they will be faced with in the same way as ordinary practical training," says Mitzie Abildgaard.

Cultural barriers

Mitzie Abildgaard denies that there is talk of a particular type of student who is unable to find a place for practical training in clinics and instead makes use of the school-based practical training scheme.

There are some factors that the student cannot influence. For example the financial aspect such dentists reducing the number of employees at the clinic and thereby also the number of practical training places. Other reasons can be found with the student or the employer, but it is rarely a question of academic ability, says Mitzie Abildgaard:

"Some students find it difficult to sell themselves. In a few cases it is a question of culture. Some of our students wear headscarves and that is not always compatible with dress codes at a dental clinic," says Mitzie Abildgaard.

Queuing to get a trainee

Part of the concept of school-based practical training is that the student does not miss out on a stay in a dental clinic. SKT is doing a great deal of lobbying to constantly land shorter or longer education agreements with clinics that have not initially created a practical training place. Virtually all of the students gain experience of working in a clinic at some time or another during the course of the two and a half years that the practical training takes. At present the situation is that the practical training centre at SKT has had to set-up a waiting list for dentists who are queuing to get a student into their clinic. These acute needs arise if another student goes on maternity/paternity leave, becomes ill or if the clinic gets extra work.

"It is an unexpected situation which we did not foresee. But we are very happy for our students when we see they are needed at the clinics," says Mitzie Abildgaard.

In her assessment there will always be a requirement for a practical training centre. She therefore also supports the thorough evaluation of the practical training centre – in line with Denmark’s other centres – that is taking place at present.

"You could say that school-based practical training is the second best solution. But out criterion for success is that our students who have been in school-based practical training graduate with an examination that is just as good as those who have had a practical training place. And we expect to achieve that," says Mitzie Abildgaard.


  • SKT's practical training centre has students from Aalborg, Herning, Kolding and Odense
  • SKT must apply to continue as a practical training centre in 2015.