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The Netherlands: policy developments in lifelong learning

The Dutch Cabinet, in cooperation with social partners, sectoral training and development funds, educational institutions including VET schools, and other stakeholders, has proposed significant developments in lifelong learning. On 27 September 2018, Parliament was informed about the main lines of this approach in a policy letter.

Average participation in formal and non-formal training and informal learning activities is high, with 54% of all workers involved in learning activities in 2016/17. However, the participation of employees in small businesses, and of older, low-skilled, and flex workers, is relatively low. As a result, people are often losing their jobs and run a high risk of not finding a new one, even after retraining.

The new lifelong learning policy aims to raise the ability of individuals to anticipate labour market developments. The Dutch Cabinet, based on reports and policy suggestions from the ad hoc Advisory Committee on demand-driven funding in VET, the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands, and the OECD, concluded that a shift in learning culture is needed to get lifelong learning higher on the agenda of civil society and of all stakeholders.

To achieve this, the Government has identified three policy aims:

  • to raise awareness of lifelong learning, offering insight into training opportunities and helping individuals to make their own choices;
  • to promote lifelong learning programmes, launching individual learning and subsidies for everyone;
  • to help individuals participate in lifelong learning programmes, providing support structures and flexible provision in education.

The concrete actions envisaged by the Government, are:

  • building the ‘control and autonomy’ framework. This comprises the adaption of fiscal frameworks and the reintroduction of the ‘individual learning account’ (including a mixture of incentives such as public and private funding and tax exemptions) in cooperation with social partners, sectoral training and development funds and executive agencies; the development of a portal providing overviews of training and learning programmes to the public; and pilot programmes (starting in Autumn 2019) for low qualified job-seekers and employees not in a position to obtain a basic qualification offered by secondary VET institutions;
  • stimulating a positive learning culture in SMEs, focusing on formal and informal learning and sustainable employability. To achieve this, the Cabinet aims to promote accreditation of prior learning (APL);
  • carrying out a pilot aiming to upgrade the existing Working & learning desks programme supporting job-seekers and employers;
  • introducing flexible education paths for adults in secondary VET schools;
  • arranging agreements with social partners, for example on fiscal frameworks for private learning and development initiatives.

Funding

In 2019, when this programme is launched, a total of EUR 10.15 million will be spent on different elements: developing a portal (EUR 1.4 million); promoting lifelong learning in SMEs (EUR 1.5 million); upgrading Working & learning desks (EUR 1.4 million); introducing flexible education paths for adults in secondary VET (EUR 5 million); and monitoring and evaluation activities (EUR 0.85 million). After 2019, the budget will be adjusted, if necessary.