Youth unemployment in the Netherlands is on the rise. In 2011, it was 9.8%; in January 2013 it had already increased to 15%. In January, 7.5% of the total working population was unemployed. Unemployment is especially high among VET students without a basic qualification (ISCED level 2), students looking for apprenticeships and work placements or youngsters with a non-western foreign background.

To increase their prospects on the Dutch labour market, Dutch senior secondary VET students should receive better information about job prospects. Moreover, courses which do not lead to work should be closed down, Education Minister Jet Bussemaker said in a briefing to parliament in April.

Supply and demand
Over 50% of Dutch students are in vocational training colleges, but more effort is needed to help them enter the labour market successfully, according to the Minister.
'On the one hand, we have students taking courses in areas where unemployment is high, such as animal care, where 20% are without a job,' the Minister is quoted saying on Dutch RTL news. 'On the other hand, we have sectors with a lack of personnel, like technology.' Retail is another area where thousands of VET graduates have difficulty finding a job.

Information and communication on job prospects
The Minister wants VET colleges to improve information and communication about job prospects of courses they offer students. She takes a hard line in this, proposing to close down courses which do not lead to jobs.
The country's VET colleges offer 8 100 different courses, 40% of which have fewer than 18 students, the Minister said.

Unemployment action plans
The government said it was to invest EUR 50 million in schemes to reduce youth unemployment in 2013 and 2014, after new figures showed the jobless rate among youngsters to be above 15%.

The most important pillar of this action plan is the reintroduced ‘School ex programma 2.0’, that invests EUR 25 million to keep VET students longer in education, supply apprenticeships and work placements and transfer unemployed youngsters to the labour market. This initiative was very successful during the 2009 economic crisis. It targets specifically senior secondary VET students and schools.

Elements include:

  • keeping youngsters with a VET diploma at school longer, so they can obtain a higher qualification;
  • enabling VET students in a course with low labour market prospects to switch into a course that offers better employment outlook;
  • steer youngsters that apply for a VET course with low job prospects towards a course with better employment outlook.

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ReferNet Netherlands