Overview of the Belgian approach
As detailed above, skills anticipation in Belgium can be characterised as both collaborative and fragmented. Collaborative as it involves a large amount of stakeholder engagement; but also fragmented in the sense that skills anticipation activities sit within the remit of several authorities at different governance levels (namely the three regions and the three language communities), which share strategic and operational responsibilities for training and job matching services.
This ‘regionalisation’ of skills anticipation allows for greater flexibility and the creation of tailor-made solutions to better match regional/local needs. At the same time, however, the resulting fragmentation means that there are several ‘sub-systems’ working independently from one another rather than as a coherent, single system at national level.
The structure of the system can be summarised as follows.
At federal level:
The FPB is a public agency which undertakes prospective studies and projections on economic and social policy issues (including the labour market) at the request of public authorities, parliament, and the social partners, or on its own initiative;
The National Employment Office
(Office National de l’Emploi, ONEM) provides statistics and undertakes studies relating to the employment situation in the country;
Certain other public institutions such as the National Social Security Office
(L'Office national de sécurité sociale, ONSS), the Higher Council of Work
(Conseil supérieur de l’emploi) and the National Bank of Belgium (NBB) conduct research on employment-related issues.
At regional level:
Regional authorities provide socio-economic data and undertake forward-looking analysis on relevant subjects such as the labour market, thus contributing to skills anticipation. The key organisations are:
In Flanders, Statistiek Vlaanderen
In Wallonia, IWEPS
(Institut wallon de l’évaluation, de la prospective et de la statistique), which also hosts the regional employment observatory
(Observatoire wallon de l’emploi);
In Brussels, IBSA
(Institut Bruxellois de Statistique et d'Analyse) which covers labour market-related issues; and
For the German-speaking Community: Das Statistikportal der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft Beliens
(Statistical office of the German-speaking Community)
The regional public employment services are active both as providers and users of skills anticipation:
In Flanders: VDAB
(Vlaamse Dienst voor Arbeidsbemiddeling);
In Wallonia: Le FOREM
In Brussels: ACTIRIS
For the German-speaking Community: ADG
(Arbeitsamt der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft).
(Centres de Competences in Wallonia) were established to match training with labour market needs at an operational level and to focus on specific skills and occupations. Their main objective is to provide training in line with learners’ and employers’ needs, but they also monitor labour market trends and provide guidance and information about job opportunities.
It is also important to note the activities of the interregional employment observatory (Observatoire Interregional de l’Emploi, OIE), which brings together actors involved in skills anticipation in the wider border region covering Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg.
Language barriers are historically the main obstacle to labour mobility in Belgium (1). The existence of three official languages, combined with great variation in the socio-economic situation between different regions/communities (2) , is the justification for the division of responsibilities in the provision of skills anticipation activities. The different actors provide skills anticipation services in line with the needs of their regional (language) community. As a consequence, there is a risk of a ‘silo effect’: a lack of sufficient exchange of information between the different stakeholders. One example is the current use of different employment databases by the regional PES. To this end, cooperation agreements have been signed between the different regional PES with the aim of collating their data into one database and thereby improving the prospects for labour mobility (3).
In Belgium the main aims of skills anticipation are to provide support for:
The FPB and ONEM at federal level, and regional authorities at regional level, by informing policymaking;
The PES and Skill Centres, by providing information designed to support the study choices of prospective students; the up-skilling and re-skilling of workers and/or job-seekers; education and training provision; and job search activity.
There is no overall regulation at federal level specifically regarding the development, implementation, governance or use of skills anticipation. At federal level, the FPB was created in 1994 (4) to analyse and anticipate socio-economic developments, understand the factors influencing these developments and evaluate socio-economic policies. The FPB mandate thus implies a supporting role with respect to policymaking. Regional organisations are regulated by their respective regional governments (the Walloon, Flanders and Brussels Regions, as well as the German-speaking Community).
As mentioned previously (see section 1.1), Belgium’s approach to skills anticipation involves several levels of governance. At the federal level, the FPB is the leading authority. At the regional level, each authority is responsible for the main skills anticipation activities and dissemination of relevant results.
The role of stakeholders
Stakeholders, such as various public authorities, education and training institutions, and experts/academics, play an active role in skills anticipation and are engaged in a wide range of relevant activities:
At federal level, public authorities, social partners and experts are involved in the skills anticipation activities of the FPB (for example, the FPB works with technical experts and universities in its research projects);
At regional level, stakeholders play a key role in some activities, such as those of the Skill Centres (‘Centres de Competences
’) in Wallonia. Examples of these include professional federations, social partners, regional PES, and public authorities. In addition to providing input with regard to their priorities and needs, relevant stakeholders may also be involved in specific projects aimed at reinforcing and diversifying training provision, supporting up-skilling, etc.
Stakeholder co-ordination on skills anticipation is particularly visible when focusing on career and vocational guidance. For example, regional PES list hard-to-fill jobs that require particular attention and then develop strategies to avoid skills shortages arising in the future. This is the case for example in Brussels, where the identification of those occupations facing a shortage feeds into the Brussels employment strategy (Strategie 2025) (5) . This is carried out through collaboration between regional authorities, sector associations, experts and academics. Through this work with various stakeholders, it is possible to obtain a better understanding of specific sectoral needs set in a regional context. By understanding these factors better, the PES can subsequently develop their services (e.g. by providing training courses to assist unemployed people in finding work and supporting associations involved in guiding students in their careers).
FOREM and Actiris – the Wallonia and Brussels PES respectively – work together with different regional authorities, sectoral organisations and education institutions to investigate skills shortages and publish an annual list of ‘hard-to-fill jobs’. Both organisations provide information concerning studies and professions and can therefore be used to guide students towards ‘jobs for the future’ (occupations in which job shortages have been forecast). Another project, Destination Metiers, was established in 2012 to inform jobseekers in Brussels about occupations and training programmes according to their jobseeker profile. The Carrefour Emploi Formation Orientation (CEFO) of FOREM conducts individual and group sessions on jobs with a high level of demand in Wallonia.
In line with the aims of the skills anticipation approach (listed in section 1.2), the main target groups for skills anticipation outputs are:
Learners in upper-secondary or tertiary education, and those looking to enter further studies in higher education and/or vocational education and training (VET) through careers guidance;
Workers and jobseekers;
Policymakers at regional/local level; and
Education and training providers.
The main user of the skills anticipation findings are the various PES which, in turn, provide relevant information to their target groups (i.e. PES staff/employment counsellors and their users).
Funding and resources
Skills anticipation activity in Belgium is mainly implemented at regional level, with funding from the federal level through ONEM.