Competent (this is the name of the database)
The competent matching system uses a database system called "Competent". This system was developed by Flemish Social-Economic Council, SERV. In 2016, the Flemish Minister for work decided the database system would be transferred to the VDAB, the Flemish PES. This system is the foundation for the competency-based matching approach adopted by the VDAB.
The instrument primarily expands the existing supply of education, as described in the ‘werk en investeringsplan’ (Labour and investment plan).
Increases the most needed skills in the labour market. The programmes are directly targeted towards the ‘knelpuntenberoepen’ (professions with shortages) – as identified by the VDAB (public employment service). The rationale here is that by allowing job seekers and enterprises to contribute to the database (by filling in career fiches), the database and career fiches are quickly updated according to current and actual supply and demand of skills, allowing for more effective and efficient matching.
This instrument deals explicitly with skills mismatch, as these are generally linked to the competency database Competent, which, as part of the programme, will also include skill forecasts.
Aim of policy instrument
This is a measure set by the Flemish VDAB.
Main responsible body
This instrument is primarily initiated by the VDAB in collaboration with the Flemish Social-Economic Council, SERV.
The Flemish government introduced this measure. The Flemish Public employment service (via VDAB) and companies offer training. The VDAB is an autonomous public institution.
The VDAB is funded by the Flemish government. The VDAB states that overall, in 2014, it spent €651 million of which €444 million was allocated to direct services. A further €107.7 million was allocated to external partners.
Intended beneficiaries are both job seekers and enterprises. The instrument helps job seekers to communicate which types of skills and competences they have, and allows enterprises to communicate which types of skills and competences they need.
Use of labour market intelligence
The instrument allows job seekers and enterprises to communicate which skills and competences they have and which ones are needed, and feed this information into the Competent database using career fiches. This database of career fiches is used in the employment services to match job seekers to enterprises. Based on the information from the database, competency-based matching takes place, and the PES decides which specific services are required to help a job seeker (which training or courses may be required, which career or specific enterprises may be suitable, etc).
The instrument does not make use of financial schemes or incentives as it is an information database. The VDAB uses the database and the developed set of competence fiches they're in to counsel unemployed in finding employment by matching skills. These vocational skill profiles can serve as the basis for the services of the Flemish PES.
Frequency of updates
The career fiches are updated in an ad hoc manner, in line with developments on the labour market and in a given profession: if the skill requirements for a profession changes, then these developments are in principle, also incorporated into the career fiches. The frequency of updates is therefore not regular.
The initiative of adopting a more focused competent based matching was already present at the VDAB in 2015, and in 2016 the VDAB formally received the responsibility for the Competent database and the career fiches contained therein. Since then there do not seem to have been any changes or adjustments made to the Competent database or the competent based matching approach to offering employment services. The database is currently hosted externally from the VDAB website, and is a collaborative project now with Répertoire Opérationnel des Métiers et des Emplois van Pôle employ.
The stakeholder and especially social partner collaboration has been problematic. While the VDAB has a stronger network of social partners than the SERV, it is still unclear to what degree the unwillingness of social partners to cooperate has been resolved. It appears that sectors develop their own versions of career fiches and these are not necessarily used by the VDAB as they do not lend themselves to proper qualifications harmonization. Instead, enterprises come together to help contribute to the development and updating of the career fiches. This particular unwillingness amongst social partners such as SERV, and certain associations of enterprises, to contribute to developing the career fiches has not been overcome. Instead, different enterprises and associations of enterprises became involved with the measure and in developing the career fiches.
The integration of the career fiches database directly into the VDAB website has been an improvement in the policy instrument, as it is now easily and directly accessible by individuals. As a result, the database can easily be found, which increases its utility for job seekers and employers.
The VDAB does not appear to monitor the number of hits or uses of the database, though it does monitor the number of visits and views its website and webpages receive. Therefore, it can deduce how many individuals click on the link for the career fiche database. Besides this, the database is used as one of several tools to help job seekers find work. The VDAB monitors how many individuals find work after the competence and skill enhancing activities.
The innovativeness of this instrument lies in the fact that it directly targets both working individuals and the unemployed with programmes improving the specific skills in demand by the Flemish labour market (identified as ‘knelpuntenberoepen’).
Evidence of effectiveness
In 2015, the Flemish Minister for Work refers to the innovative and efficient nature of the Competent database and its application in the VDAB’s activities. While the measure has not been evaluated yet, other countries are following the example and adopting similar databases to streamline their employment services. In 2015, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, France and the Netherlands had all indicated their interest in adopting something similar in their own countries. In the absence of an evaluation, this international interest suggests the approach is quite effective. The results, as reported by the government, seem positive. A significant number of additional courses were organised, supposedly targeted at professions with shortages. As the measure has been introduced into the VDAB organisation relatively recently, it is difficult to make assessments as to how beneficiaries experience the measure. The competent based matching is also more of a broader approach to matching job seekers and employers, and a less concrete instrument. Therefore, it becomes more difficult to attribute any increases in job placements to this broader approach, and as a result measuring the specific impact becomes more difficult. The main unexpected cost with the instrument is that sectoral organisations are reluctant to cooperate and have the competence and skill requirements be harmonized for Belgium and in as much as possible, the rest of Europe, in line with common qualification frameworks. Besides this, no particular unexpected benefits or costs have come forward as the instrument is a supportive tool for job seekers and employers more than anything else.
Engagement of stakeholders
In developing the Competent database, which forms the basis for the competent based matching approach, the SERV utilised the French databased RÔME as its starting point. The French PES shared the database with the SERV to use and potentially harmonise qualification and career fiches in the future to promote cross-border labour mobility. However, getting the Flemish social partners to agree on the contents of the French-based career fiches proved very problematic and this issue was never quite overcome. In this way, the social partners and stakeholders were involved in the beginning of the Competent database, but less so in recent years. Since then, having been moved to the responsibility of the VDAB, the social partners have been brought together more, and job seekers and enterprises also contribute to developing career fiches.
If labour market demand analysis that focus on certain skills are present, this instrument is relatively easily transferable. The measure is largely based on the existence of a database of career fiches, which requires collaboration and agreement by stakeholders on what requirements belong with which career.
Given that the database for the career fiches was set up recently and became the responsibility of the VDAB in 2016, this measure has been introduced relatively recently. It is also quite an innovative measure and given that no real challenges have appeared, it is reasonable to assume this measure will remain in place for years to come.