Flemish education insufficiently labour-market-oriented

While Flanders needs more construction workers, woodworkers and electricians, schools will soon offer more sports, art and office-oriented courses. "There is a mismatch between the education on offer and the labour market," writes De Tijd on Wednesday.

Starting next school year, Flemish technical and vocational secondary schools will offer more sports, art, creativity and office administration. This is revealed in proposals submitted to the Flemish minister of Education Ben Weyts (N-VA) and discussed by the Social and Economic Council of Flanders (SERV), an advisory and consultative body of employee and employer organisations.


Sports courses, in particular, are becoming increasingly popular. Whereas last year, only one in twenty applications were for sports courses, this figure has now risen to one in five. SERV speaks of an "oversupply" because there is too little demand for such profiles in the field.

"In today's tight labour market, the chances of getting a job are still reasonable, but this can change with a lot of extra influx," says Mieke Valcke, education expert at SERV. "This creates a mismatch between the education on offer and the labour market."

At the same time, SERV reluctantly notes that the number of training programmes for profiles in the construction sector, woodworking and electricity is insufficient. "Industrial installation technician, electronic installation technician and industrial automation technician are serious bottleneck occupations with very high employment prospects in all provinces," Valcke says. "But there are too few providers."


The "mismatch" will likely grow because of the lack of coordination between education providers and the labour market. "Education and the labour market are not separate worlds," says Valcke. "It is also fairer for young people if the two take each other into account. You want them to find a job that suits them."

Last year, the council advised 680 applications; this year, 52. This is due to the so-called "free programming", meaning schools can organise courses without consulting the social partners. The purpose of this relaxation was to reduce the administrative burden on schools, but it is now causing frustration at SERV. In particular, the fact that courses can be cancelled without informing employers is a sore point.

The municipal education system GO! acknowledges that many schools take advantage of the possibility of free programming. "But we certainly want to ensure in our offer that students find employment after graduation in sectors where there is a high demand," says spokeswoman Nathalie Jennes. "But these programmes suffer from a perception problem, which means fewer young people choose them."


#FlandersNewsService | Flemish Minister of Education and Animal Welfare and Sports Ben Weyts pictured during a visit to the Sint-Ursula-Instituut in Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Waver, on the first day of school for the 2022-2023 school year, Thursday 01 September 2022. © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

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