On 1 January 2016, the Centre for Education and Training (ZAWM) in Eupen set up the two-year ESF project Vocational integration through training guidance in dual education (BIDA) for Belgium’s German-speaking community. BIDA’s goal is to support apprentices who are at risk of breaking their training contract or who have already dropped out of training, with the aim of getting them back into the dual vocational education and training (VET) system. This project is meant as a response to the increasing drop-out rate among apprentices in the first year of training (around 15% currently leave prematurely).
In 2015, the Flemish government made a decision to develop new procedures for finding an apprenticeship place, with the purpose of elaborating a high-quality, fully-fledged alternative to existing 'classic' education systems. This reform had an impact on all stakeholders and related fields; significant developments are already visible.
Skills credentials have existed in Belgium since 2005; any person over the age of 18 who has experience, but no corresponding diploma, can have it officially recognised free of charge. Over 28 000 credentials have already been issued in 47 approved centres in Wallonia and Brussels, in 39 occupations.
The first, hugely successful, year of Brussels-based project Electrogirl, aiming to train women as industrial electricians, came to an end in December 2016. This initiative appeals to businesses intending to increase diversity within traditionally male occupations. The programme has already been recommissioned for 2017.
Wallonia has just approved an occupational integration measure for newly-arrived refugees, with the potential to recognise their skills. In Brussels, an ‘occupational situation’ tool could help them get a ‘ticket to employment’.
The Wallonia-Brussels Federation has established a new coordination structure for work-based learning (WBL), and has standardised the status of learners, their contracts and working hours.
For the first time, the Brussels region is proposing a ‘bilingual retail salesperson’ training course comprising 15 weeks of practical training and a six-week period of work experience in a supermarket.
The big five public players on the labour market, VDAB, Le Forem, Actiris, Bruxelles Formation and ADG*, will use a common competence language from now on automatically to match vacancies with job-seekers, using the same descriptions for skills and knowledge associated with vacancies and candidates. The project will promote labour mobility across the regions that make up Belgium.
Dietary restrictions, flexible training schedules, visible symbols… religious beliefs give rise to demands in the workplace, too. Just like in other big cities across Belgium, cultural and religious diversity is part of daily life in Brussels, but is also a challenge for the future. Brussels boasts a multilingual, multireligious population. Almost 10% of its inhabitants are immigrants who came to Belgium less than three years ago. Belgium is therefore a land of self-conscious minorities where each federated entity is a minority that sees itself as being dominated by others. Over the past few years, more and more employers have been faced with workers demanding that their religious beliefs be taken into account.