VET in Belgium comprises the following main features:
- compulsory education concerns learners until 18 years of age. At secondary level, dual learning or apprenticeship (alternating work-based learning and school-based education) is available for youngsters aged 15 and up ;
- education, training and employment are federated matters involving a great number of actors, including ministers for education and ministers for training and employment at each federated level.
- formal certification is the dominant model in the VET field;
- small territory and its geographic position;
- three linguistic communities and migration flows result in linguistic challenges.
VET providers in the education system are part of school networks (public and subsidised private education). They pursue common objectives (defined by minimum attainment targets), including common certification, and use common occupation profiles and VET standards, but enjoy some autonomy. This results in, and promotes, freedom of education choice for learners and their parents.
Strategy, policies and all measures involving employment and VET are negotiated with social partners, leading to formal sectoral agreements. Social partners are directly involved in organising programmes of alternating work and education, and continuous vocational training through framework agreements.
Different socioeconomic realities in the regions mean that Flanders, Wallonia, the German-speaking Community and the Brussels-Capital Region have different objectives and priorities. These are formalised in government strategies and plans which deal with, for example, language learning, new technologies, sustainable employment, training for young people or matching workforce skills to labour market needs. To address this issue, the concept of ‘school basin’ was created and developed in BE-FR; ten basins corresponding to ten geographical areas face specific socio-economic and educational realities inside the Community. In BE-FL, the concept of ‘Flemish partnership of dual learning’ has been developed, and throughout different phases of the organisation of VET, social partners are involved.
The coexistence of three official languages in Belgium remains a key challenge in all regions. Especially for a better integration of newcomers, knowledge of the language of instruction is an important matter within the VET (for instance, in Brussels, jobseekers are offered language job vouchers to improve their language skills and employment chances). Furthermore, this coexistence between the different government levels and divides, sometimes makes cooperation between partners difficult. Different legislative frameworks due to policy choices, can cause complications for pupils, students, or employers who are seeking interregional educational mobility.
Particularly in Brussels with its specific, tertiary economy and labour market, there is an important discrepancy between workers’ qualifications which results in high levels of unemployment amongst the low-skilled people. In response, governments are investing in VET but also coordinating interregional mobility. However, the coexistence of different government levels and divides in Belgium, sometimes makes cooperation between partners difficult. Different legislative frameworks due to policy choices, can cause difficulties for pupils, students, or employers who are seeking interregional educational mobility.
Participation in continuing training is set as an economic lever. Currently, low participation and low involvement of companies in training result in a lack of qualified work force amongst the already employed people to respond to the evolution of needs. This particularly happens in ICT jobs; companies are not properly prepared to the digitalisation of the workplace. Measures like the ‘Chèques TIC’ offer allow a jobseeker in Brussels to follow a complementary training. Efforts are also made to expand the offer of adult education, literacy and language learning. Policies aim at increasing synergy between the world of work and education. For example until 2017, companies were obliged to allocate 1.9% of wage costs to support lifelong learning programmes; a new inter-professional agreement signed by social partners from the private sector has since then set as rule that each employee has the right to five days of training per year. Some measures have also been implemented to increase or maintain the number of employees aged 45+ in companies .
Youth unemployment is a major concern for Belgian authorities. While there is a long tradition of dual learning in the German-speaking Community, this trend is being promoted in other regions and communities as a measure to avoid inactivity among young people. In BE-FR, the French-language Office for Dual Trainingwas created to coordinate and promote the dual training. In BE-FL, the Flemish Agency for Entrepreneurial Training ‘SYNTRA Vlaanderen’ is in charge of a new system of dual-learning allowing secondary learners aged 15 and older to combine their studies with training at a company. Different tools and campaigns are developed in order to ‘market’ this new method of work-based learning, as a qualitative track on secondary level and, in the future, also in higher and adult education.
Data from VET in Belgium Spotlight 2017 and VET in Belgium 2018 Report.
Population in 2018: 11 398 589.
Population increased since 2013 by 2.3% due to a positive natural balance (more births than deaths) and the growing immigration.
The population in Belgium is ageing.
The old-age dependency ratio is expected to steadily increase from 28 in 2015 to 44 in 2060.
Population forecast by age group and old-age-dependency ratio
Source: Eurostat, proj_15ndbims [extracted on 16.05.2019]
Demographic changes have an impact on VET.
The population has increased at a rate of 9.42% between 2004 and 2018 in Belgium and 19.8% in Brussels – this number correlates with the high number of foreigners living in Brussels. In this context, the education system, including VET, accommodates more and more young people, often from various origins, also by establishing special VET providers for specific target groups.
To tackle the coexistence of three official languages in Belgium, the emphasis is put on offering language learning at all education levels. Each Community/region organise language courses (French, Dutch or German, also as a foreign language targeting newcomers and migrants to facilitate social and economic integration including the access to vocational training).
Small and medium enterprises (SME) generate almost 70% of employment in Belgium. More than 99% of Belgian enterprises can be considered as SME (having less than 250 persons employed). Those are active mainly in branches like sales, car and motorbike repair, construction and specialised, technical and scientific activities.
Belgian economy, just like any modern industrialised economy, is characterised by the growing importance of services: the share of market services (including wholesale and retail, financial activities, insurance and energy) in the total gross value added represented 57.3% in 2017, while this share amounted to only 14.4% for industry and 5.2% for construction. The balance is distributed between non-market services (including healthcare) and agriculture.
The most common occupations in Belgium are office employees (general functions), store salespersons, office maintenance workers, hotels and other establishments, home helpers and general course teachers (secondary education).
The labour market is regulated for almost all matters at a regional level in Belgium (except for a small portion of territory in Wallonia where the labour market is under the German-speaking Community competence). Jobs within the public service are highly regulated and require specific level of diploma for almost all positions as well as a certificate of good conduct. Some professions are protected by specific rules or require specific diplomas, patents or skills to run a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME). Those requirements concern jobs in the construction sector, car mechanics, body care services, food services and textile cleaning. A certificate of good conduct is also required for some intellectual professions such as estate agents, accountants, psychologists, architects and others.
Total unemployment (2018): 5.2% (EU28: 6%); it decreased by 0.74 percentage points since 2008. Further evolution is positive. In 2018, the unemployment rate reached its lowest point in decades.
Unemployment rate (aged 15-24 and 25-64) by education attainment level in 2008-18 (in percentage)
NB: Data data based on ISCED 2011.
ISCED 0-2 = less than primary, primary and lower secondary education.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
ISCED 5-8 = tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, lfsa_urgaed [extracted 16.05.2019]
Unemployment is distributed unevenly between those with low- and high-level qualifications. Unemployment among low qualified people aged 15-24 is significantly higher than in the other categories, however the trend has been diminishing in the past years.
Employment rate of 20 to 34-year-old VET graduates increased from 80.3% in 2014 to 83.1% in 2018.
Employment rate of VET graduates (20 to 34 years old, ISCED levels 3 and 4)
NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; breaks in time series.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education
Source: Eurostat, edat_lfse_24 [extracted on 16.05.2019]
The increase (+1.8 pp) in employment of 20-34-year-old VET graduates (ISCED levels 3 and 4) in 2014-18 was almost the same as the increase in employment of all 20-34 year-old graduates (+1.9 pp) in the same period in Belgium.
The share of people aged up to 64 with higher education is higher in Belgium than in other countries with rates similar to the United Kingdom or The Netherlands. However, the share of low educated people is also high compared to other EU countries. Belgium faces thus an important discrepancy in its citizens’ education.
Population (aged 25 to 64) by highest education level attained in 2018
NB: Data based on ISCED 2011. Low reliability for ‘No response’ in Czechia, Iceland, Latvia, and Poland.
ISCED 0-2 = less than primary, primary and lower secondary education.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
ISCED 5-8 = tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, lfsa_pgaed [extracted on 16.05.2019].
Share of learners in VET by level in 2017
lower secondary (vocational)
upper secondary (vocational)
post-secondary non tertiary education (vocational)
Source: Eurostat, educ_uoe_enrs01, educ_uoe_enrs04 and educ_uoe_enrs07 [extracted 16.05.2019].
Share of initial VET learners from total learners at upper-secondary level (ISCED level 3) in 2017
NB: Data based on ISCED 2011.
Source: Eurostat, educ_uoe_enrs04 [extracted on 16.05.2019].
In Belgium, the difference in participation in VET between male and female is less than 10% at each of the three levels (lower secondary, upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary vocational education). Usually, there are more males in VET with the exception of the upper secondary vocational education where females outnumber the males by 9.1%.
More males are following study fields like construction, heavy car or machines drivers, mechanics, while females more often enrol in services or personal care.
The share of early leavers from education and training has decreased from 11.1% in 2009 to 8.6% in 2018. Comparatively, Belgium has better results than EU28 countries where the share decreased from 14.2% in 2009 to 10.6% in 2018. The 2020 target was set at 9.5% and was thus already achieved though more ambitious than the overall EU objective (10%).
Early leavers from education and training in 2009-18 (in percentage)
Source: Eurostat, edat_lfse_14 [extracted 8.5.2019] and European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/2019-european-semester-national-reform-programme-belgium_en.pdf [accessed 8.5.2019].
Lifelong learning offers training opportunities for adults, including early leavers from education.
Participation in lifelong learning in 2014-18 (in percentage)
NB: Share of adult population aged 25 to 64 participating in education and training.
Source: Eurostat, trng_lfse_01 [16.5.2019].
Participation in lifelong learning in Belgium has slowly increased in the past few years. In 2018, it reached 8.5% which is however still less than the EU28 average at 11.1%.
Education attainment in VET learners by age (in percentage)
Source: Eurostat, trng_lfs_15 [extracted 15.5.2019].
The education and training system comprises:
- early childhood education (ISCED level 0);
- primary education (ISCED levels 1);
- secondary education (ISCED level 3);
- post-secondary non-tertiary education (ISCED level 4);
- higher education (ISCED levels 6, 7 and 8).
Early childhood education is not compulsory and is generally provided at childcare institutions for children up to age six (the Ministry of Education is responsible for education starting at three).
Compulsory education starts at the age of 6 and lasts until 18 years of age. Those twelve years include six years of primary education and six years of secondary education. Policies regarding learners subjected to compulsory education are under the supervision of the education ministry in each of the Community (Flemish, French and German-speaking Communities).
Primary school programme lasts six years, on successful completion learners acquire the Certificate of Basic Education (Certificat d’Etudes de Base, CEB) giving them access to secondary education.
General secondary education is a six-year programme divided into three degrees, each lasting two years. The achievement of each degree gives access to the next level. At the end of the first degree, learners have the possibility to remain in the general education stream (nationally referred as transition education) or to switch to the VET stream (nationally referred to as qualification education). Programmes at this level are offered as technical or artistic qualification programmes or as vocational qualification programmes. Programmes can be offered full-time, as dual learning or part-time. After having successfully accomplished the sixth year of general secondary education, learners obtain a certificate of upper secondary education (Certificat de l’enseignement secondaire supérieur, CESS).
Schooling institutions in Belgium are organised into networks: formal non-denominational education (organised by Communities, the French Community Commission, provinces and municipalities) and private education (non-denominational or denominational, organised by non-profit associations, religious congregations, etc.) thus offering parents the choice of the type of education they want for their children.
VET learning options in Belgium are available from a number of providers, each depending on one of the three linguistic Communities and delivering the learning in one of the three Regions.
The general pattern of VET learning options is similar in every Community. They can be organised in four groups, according to the education level at which they are available: secondary, post-secondary non-tertiary, tertiary level and adult education.
Secondary level (ISCED 3)
At secondary level, four types of VET options can be distinguished.
- Technical secondary education
Technical education is a school-based programme for learners who are interested in following more ‘technical’ subject courses (computer science, applied sciences, economics, etc. – in general secondary education, this time is devoted to more general subjects like languages, mathematics, etc.). At the end of the sixth year, the students receive a qualification certificate and a certificate of upper secondary education (CESS) which gives them the possibility to continue their education at a higher level.
- Vocational secondary education
Vocational education at secondary level is a school-based programme targeting learners who wish to prepare for working life. Vocational education programmes are taught in various sectors like agronomy, industry, construction, HORECA, economy, etc. Basically, this type of education is organised in the second and/or third degrees (years four to six). A vocational certificate (nationally referred to as qualification certificate) is delivered at the end of the sixth year. An additional seventh-year allows students to obtain the CESS which gives them access to higher education.
- Apprenticeships or dual programmes
This type of education is accessible to learners aged 15 if they have completed the first degree of secondary education or learners aged 16 and up without conditions. Apprenticeship can be either organised in schools or in training centres (IFAPME, SFPME,
SFPME: Le Service de la formation des petites et moyennes entreprise – The training service for small and medium-sized enterprises.
EFP: Espace Formation des PME (SMEs) – Training Place for small and medium-sized enterprises in Brussels.
EFP for French-speakers in Wallonia and Brussels; SYNTRA for Dutch-speakers in Flanders and Brussels and the IAWM is managing the ZAWM training centres in the German-speaking Community) and are mainly work-orientated.
During the week, one or two days are devoted to theoretical learning at school or in the training centres and three or four days are devoted to training within an enterprise. A regulatory framework exists for apprenticeships: a signed contract stating the rights and duties of all parties involved (remuneration, holidays, etc.). A qualification certificate is delivered at the end of the sixth year (equivalent to the certificate received in the school-based system). An additional seventh-year allows students to obtain the CESS which gives them access to higher education.
- VET for SEN learners
Special VET programmes are offered to learners with physical or mental difficulties in each Community. Learners receive a qualification certificate or, in some programmes, a CESS.
Post-secondary non-tertiary level (ISCED 4)
Post-secondary education includes follow-up programmes to technical and vocational secondary education and a graduate programme in nursing.
Tertiary level (ISCED 5 and 6)
Tertiary level in VET concerns professional bachelor programmes offering to acquire plenty of practical experience or dual bachelor and master programmes which offer theoretical courses and training within a company (40-60% time-division).
Adult education (starting at ISCED 1)
Adult education concerns all levels of education; diplomas and certificates can also be acquired by adults who did not have the opportunity to do it in the traditional pathway. Specific training programmes can be offered to jobseekers and workers by employment agencies (linguistic, computing trainings, etc.).
Training centres for apprenticeships presented above are also open to adults. They offer multiple programmes in entrepreneurial, leading and coordinating trainings and are accessible for people aged 18 and up. People wishing to open their own business can acquire the necessary certificates in those centres. In Wallonia and Brussels, CISP and OISP offer practical training in a business or in workshops to unemployed and vulnerable groups.
Specific associations are available for NEETS people. Their focus is to offer the opportunity for vulnerable groups to integrate the job-market more easily.
There are many variations inside this system depending on the Community/Regions we are focusing on. Those variations concern the access modalities, the sector and programme availabilities, the costs, the duration of the training, etc.
Other forms of VET training are also organised by sectorial funds and unsubsidised private partners.
In Belgium, apprenticeships are offered to learners above 15 years old and takes place in the company (three to four days) and in a training centre (one to two days) where learners receive general, technical, theoretical and practical courses. The programme is based on a jointly agreed training plan and a training contract is signed by the employer and the apprentice; apprentices receive remuneration. These alternating trainings are organised by regional training providers:
Apprenticeship programmes in the Flemish community is organized either by:
- schools (Centra voor deeltijds onderwijs, CDO) or
- SYNTRA training centres, the Flemish Agency for Entrepreneurial Training, which provides training in both the Brussels and the Flemish Regions.
In the part-time secondary education (Deeltijds Beroepsecundaironderwijs, DBSO) system offered by the CDO schools, the class council decides whether the learner has passed both the learning part and workplace learning. They also determine how he/she will be evaluated. In modular education: evaluation of a module/course can be done at any time of the school year (the dates are decided by the school). In linear education the examination takes place on 30th June.
In the apprenticeship scheme offered by SYNTRA training centres, the apprenticeship evaluation is permanent, both in the company and within the training centre. During the school year, account is taken of attitudes, evolution in the study results, tests, previous advices from the class council, evaluations from company mentor, to decide whether the learner has achieved the learning objectives. Both parts of the training are evaluated once per year. A final examination is organised at the end of the programme and is assessed by two jury member.
A framework for the roles and responsibilities of every partner involved is in place. During the time at school, the education provider is fully responsible for learners, whilst the time at the workplace is the responsibility of the company. SYNTRA Vlaanderen is the ‘manager’ for workplace training and has a focus on the quality and extension of workplaces. Education providers are responsible for certification. Since 1st September 2016 a special decreedetermines the rights and duties of the parties involved, liability, remunerations, holidays and the way in which an agreement can be terminated.
In September 2018, SYNTRA Vlaanderen signed an international cooperation agreement with the Dutch Cooperation Organisation for Vocational Education and the Labour Market to enable and encourage cross-border learning paths for apprenticeships.
A new apprenticeship pathway called ‘dual learning’ has been formally adopted and will be fully implemented in Flanders from September 2019.
The apprenticeship programme in French-speaking Belgium, is organised by the following two regional organisations who are the responsibility of the Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training in Brussels and the Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training in Wallonia:
- the IFAPME network in Wallonia;
- SFPME/EFP in Brussels.
SFPME is responsible for guidance of apprentices and trainees, ensuring that traineeship agreements and dual training contracts are properly carried out in the companies. Furthermore, this organisation is also in charge of developing training standards and teaching tools, as well as managing the ‘EFP’ training centre and approval of the training businesses. Training centres all work closely with sectoral and professional representatives to stay in contact with the business world.
Since 2015, learners can enter the system without a dual training contract with an employer. However, they must take courses and are supported in their further search for enterprises or their reorientation if there is a shortage of businesses in the sector chosen or for other reasons.
There are examinations on general and vocational theoretical knowledge at the end of each academic year. The vocational accomplishments are continuously evaluated during the apprenticeship, and a practical test before a jury of professionals is organised at the end of the programme.
At the end of his/her training, an apprentice who successfully passes all the examinations obtains an apprenticeship certificate approved by the French Community. This certificate meets the requirements of the law on professional access in the case of a regulated profession and gives access to further training (‘entrepreneur’ as well as coordination and leadership training). It also provides sectoral recognition.
In certain occupations, the apprenticeship certificate is considered equivalent to the VET (nationally referred to as qualifying education) certifications (CQ6 + CQ7) and allows direct access to the 7th years of vocational education, providing access to higher education.
This apprenticeship programme in the German-speaking Community is organised by the IAWMwhich is responsible for the general organisation, the management and the teaching methods. It manages two training centres (ZAWM), in Eupen and Saint Vith, and works actively together with all of the economic forces in BE-DE. The dual system in BE-DE relies on the active participation of sectors, local entrepreneurial workforce and professional associations, all involved in the management committee of IAWM. Consequently, the system is actually supported by the enterprises themselves and has close ties with the business world. IAWM also works with the employment office to integrate labour market trends into its training provision. This system is particularly popular and successful in BE-DE where it has nearly 10 times the number of apprentices found in the other regions (25% of the secondary technical and vocational learners opt for this pathway). It provides the certificate of completion of secondary vocational education at the end of the apprenticeship period as in BE-FL.
Learn more about apprenticeships in the national context from the European database on apprenticeship schemes by Cedefop: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/data-visualisations/apprenticeship-schemes/scheme-fiches
Due to the specific institutional system in Belgium, where competences are distributed between Communities and Regions, different actors are involved in VET governance depending on the linguistic and regional grounds.
A major part of competences was transferred to the federated entities; however, in matters related to VET, the federal level is still responsible for the determination of the duration of compulsory education, the minimum conditions for the award of the education diploma and the pensions of teachers. Social security, to which VET learners are subjected to when they are no longer under parental care, is also governed by the federal institutions. It is also important to state that in Belgium, social partners are involved in the VET governance at all levels and in all federated entities.
VET governance at federated entities will be presented by linguistic groups.
For Dutch-speaking learners, VET is governed by the Flemish Government in Flanders and for learners in Brussels both the Flemish Government and Brussels’ regional authorities are responsible.
In Flanders, within the Flemish Government, both the Minister of Education and Training and the Minister of Work and Social Economy are in charge of VET.
- Minister of education and training:
he or she is responsible for the formal education system, including initial secondary VET. A special department within the ministry cooperates with several agencies to implement policies:
- AGODI: the agency for education services;
- AHOVOKS: the agency for higher education, adult education, qualifications and study grants;
- VLOR: a strategic advisory council for education and training policies providing advices, practical implementation support to new governmental educational initiatives. Minister of Work and Social Economy.
He or she is responsible for VET for job-seekers and workers, as well as entrepreneurial training. Similarly, a special department within the ministry works with agencies that implement policies:
- VDAB and
- SYNTRA Vlaanderen .
Advisory bodies participate in policy debates, they are the Flemish Economic Social Consultative Committee (VESOC) and the Social and Economic Council of Flanders (SERV). SERV is the advisory body on work, economy, energy and (vocational) education and training. It is also in charge of organising the secretariat of VESOC which is thus an ongoing forum for policy debates between social partners and the government; the meetings can result in official agreements.
For French-speaking leaners, three main bodies are responsible for VET governance:
- the French Community Government,
- the Walloon Region and
- the COCOF , responsible for VET competences.
Within each body, the education minister and/or the training ministerare in charge of policy orientation, allocation of public resources and the legislation about VET organisation. Their administrations operationalise the education or training offer, determine the programmes and implement the profiles specified by the SFMQ . The four training operators are also involved in the administrative decisions (Bruxelles Formation, le Forem, IFAPME and SFPME) .
Specific case of Brussels (due to its bilingual status)
Thus, VET governance in Brussels is particular, involving actors from both the Flemish Government and the French Community Commission. They are acting through two public providers: VDAB and Bruxelles Formation (but also the SFPME and EFP for apprenticeships and entrepreneurs training and SYNTRA Vlaanderen for the dual learning).
The German-speaking Community is in charge of both the education and training system and the employment governance which allows them to organise their VET policy. Two ministers are responsible for these matters: the education minister and the employment minister. However, due to the small size of the Community, they rely on partnerships and are interdependent for financial, personal and strategic resources.
VET governance involves many actors and so is the financing, depending on the level, different institutions are responsible for the subsidies. Within the framework of the inter-professional agreements negotiated at federal level, the social partners have set as a new objective five days of training per full-time employed person per year.
VDAB (Flemish Employment and Vocational Training Agency): the work of the VDAB is largely funded by the Flemish Government, European Union and from invoicing to employers.
SYNTRA: SYNTRA centres are subsidised by the Flemish Government through the agency SYNTRA Vlaanderen (work policy area)and they receive European and Flemish contributions for speciﬁc projects. The SYNTRA centres receive: an operating subsidy for apprenticeships and certified programmes, and extra subsidies in case they deploy innovative or flexible programmes. The SYNTRA centres must supplement its subsidies out of its own resources, mainly derived from trainees’ registration fees.
The Centres for Adult Basic Education (CABEs) and Centres for Adult Education (CAEs) are subsidised/funded by the government. They receive their funding/subsidisation on the basis of the quantity of teaching provided expressed in trainee teaching hours. CABEs receive an operational allowance of EUR 1.90 per trainee teacher hour whereas CAEs only EUR 0.75 and thus covers their operating funds from registration fees (which can be reimbursed by the state for exempted learners).
The adult education consortia together receive a subsidy budget for personnel costs, operating costs and investments.
VOCVO, the Flemish Support Centre for Adult Education, receives an annual subsidy budget for personnel costs, operating costs and investments.
Training for job-seekers and workers in the two regions.
Le Forem (the Walloon Office for Vocational Training and Placement) is financed by subsidies provided out of the Walloon Region’s budget, contributions from the European Social Fund, companies’ contributions to training costs, promoters’ contribution in connection with the Unemployment Abatement Programme, contributions of the Federal Public Service for Employment, Work and Social Dialogue within the framework of cooperation agreements or conventions and various forms of income.
The Walloon government also ﬁnances socio-occupational integration operators, who provide basic training (OISPs and EFTs).
Bruxelles Formation (the Brussels Institute for vocational training) is financed by the federal state (under the terms of cooperation agreements) and by the ESF. The agency also receives subsidies from the French Community Commission, regional actors (Regional Government and the Brussels Public Employment Service, Actiris) and may receive bequests and donations. Some activities, such as worker training, also contribute to the revenues, albeit marginal.
Forty-one socio-occupational integration operators and nine local missions are currently authorised and ﬁnanced by the French Community Commission. These bodies also receive support from Actiris (the Brussels Regional Employment Oﬃce) for the counselling and job search components of its work, and are coﬁnanced by the ESF.
IFAPME (Walloon Institute for apprenticeship and entrepreneurial training in small and medium enterprises in Wallonia) receives subsidies from the Walloon Region. At European level, it receives subsidies mainly from the ESF and the ERDF. These cover the institute’s running costs, training activities and the centres’ property-related expenses.
SFPME-EFP (the training service for SME, in Brussels - the training centre for SME’s in Brussels) is subsided by the French Community Commission and receives funding from the ESF. A part of its budget originates also from the adult tuition fees.
Adult education (social advancement education, etc.): training sections and units are approved for subsidies by decision of the general responsible for social advancement education on the advice of the inspection service.
For institutions in the French Community network, a ﬁnancial grant (also calculated on the basis of the number of learners) is allocated by the administration for management purposes. Learners’ attendance is also taken into account as subsidies are calculated in the basis of the number and category of periods attended (a deduction of the amount of registration fees paid by learners is made) – the grant depends on the level at which the courses are given (lower secondary, upper secondary, post-secondary non-tertiary education or higher level).
Partnerships: the controlling authorities of social advancement education may also form agreements with other education institutions, organisations, bodies, companies, persons or associations. Partners may coﬁnance all or part of the training. A rate for the cost of the teaching period, per level of education and per course category, is published whenever there is a change in the consumer price index. Non ﬁnanced periods are deducted from the institutions’ periods endowment. Partners may also provide the institution with material resources needed for training, or make its premises available.
On its territory, VET centres are funded by the German-speaking Community according to the number of learners and the duration of the training. The education system also receives funding from the Province of Luxembourg, particularly for special education needs (SEN). Apprenticeship organised by the IAWM and the ADG is financed by same system as le FOREM, VDAB, Bruxelles Formation and Actiris .
In Belgium, the VET system reflects itself in the type of existing teachers. The following types exist:
- general subjects teachers;
- vocational theory teachers (teaching vocational theoretical subjects);
- vocational teachers of technical or occupational practice courses (e.g. in workshops).
The types are similar in the three Communities with some differences regarding the necessary qualifications. A certificate of good conduct is required for teachers and trainers at all levels.
General subjects teachers have either a bachelor's degree (which give them the possibility to teach in the lower degree) or a master degree (for the upper degree). They are in charge of subjects such as mathematics, physics, languages, etc. In BE-FR, a recent reform (2018) of the teacher training system implemented a new system in which access to the teaching of each field is more regulated (priority is given to teachers in possession of the required subject title and the teaching certificate). The priority to teachers with required certification is also given in schools in BE-FL.
Vocational teachers of technical or occupational practice courses are required to hold an upper secondary education certificate (CESS), a validated professional experience and a CAP (teaching certificate). In Flanders, following the reform, experts from the professional sectors have access to an educational associate degree programme at university colleges (short cycle degree) if they have at least three years of professional experience. Experts already in possession of a diploma, will have the possibility to follow a shorter bachelor or master programme which will allow them to obtain a teaching diploma in only one year.
We distinguish between the following trainers:
- trainers (teaching general and vocational courses in apprenticeship programmes that were not implemented by schools);
- practical training instructors (accompanying learners during their workplace practical training);
- in-company trainers (tutors, supervisors/advisors).
A trainer must have at least two years of professional experience plus a diploma. The years of necessary experience increase the lower the level of the diploma (two to five years for bachelor's and master's degree; five to six years for the certificate of upper secondary education (CESS) or 10-12 years of professional experience with no diploma).
In Flanders, the Flemish Agency for Entrepreneurial Training SYNTRA Vlaanderen started a project with several partners in mentor/tutor training. Those partners receive funding for the development of a mentor training programme, which can be used and implemented in various sectors. There is no legislative obligation for using these programmes though they are intended to strengthen the quality of the dual training system. However, starting in September 2019, the trainers in the workplace will be obliged to follow an ‘mentor training’.
Within the French-speaking Belgium, trainers of the four VET operators (IFAPME, Bruxelles Formation, SFPME and le Forem)are, in general, professionals in the sector in which they give courses. This is compulsory in the dual training sector (IFAPME and SFPME).
In the German-speaking Community, all trainers are professionals in their sector. They run a business or are qualified employees. Their remuneration is higher if they are in possession of a teaching certificate.
Continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers at secondary level is mandatory. In the Communities the following approaches are applied:
- in the French Community, teachers have to follow six half-days of training per year. They can also take courses on a voluntary basis;
- every year, the Flemish Community grants a training budget for schools which will be spend according to a yearly training plan. Therefore, each school will train its teachers in subjects they consider to be needed;
- in the German-speaking Community, teachers choose their courses freely from a list of courses established on the basis of the pedagogical plan defined by the ministry. They also may participate in training courses offered by the organising authority or the educational network to which they are affiliated. Each school can also organise up to three days (or six half days) of training per year. These may be educational conferences or trainings related to the school project. Finally, with the agreement of the head teacher, teachers may take other courses on a personal basis.
CPD of trainers is organised at internetworks or networks levels of training providers. Each establishment can also offer training options to its staff.
In the French Community training providers created FormaFormwhich is a joint initial and continuing training organisation, co-financed by the ESF. They transformed their initial training programme into a multimodal personalised programme lasting five days, including various learning processes and teaching tools (mainly digital). The programme is called FormaGo.
More information is available in the Cedefop ReferNet thematic perspective on teachers and trainers.
The labour market in Belgium is under regional competence and several actors are involved in anticipating skill needs, each working on its territorial entity.
In Flanders, at the regional level, a team from the Employment and Vocational Training Agency VDAB is in charge of the main tool concerning the definition of professional profiles: the web-based database ‘Competent’, which is thus the base used in the anticipation of skill needs. The employment service publishes each year a report on developments in the employment market, inadequacies between supply and demand in jobs and which certified qualifications are available. At sub-regional level, the Recognised Regional Collaboration Associations and the Regional Economic and Social Consultation Committees collect various data to study the specificities of the employment market and its requirements. Moreover, the Steunpunt Werk Survey Institute is responsible for quantitative and qualitative supervision of the employment market and is set up to direct Flemish labour market policy.
Regarding the Walloon and Brussels Regions, two types of bodies work towards the anticipation of labour needs. First, the Basins of Qualifying Education – Training – Labour (IBEFE)were established through a cooperation agreement concluded between Wallonia, the French-speaking Community and the French-speaking Community Commission which are a link between all entities involved and allow a better development of VET offer. Second, at regional level, Wallonia and Brussels each have their own bodies responsible for collecting data on the labour market and needs.
- Wallonia: the Walloon Office for Vocational Training and Placement ‘le Forem’ is in charge of detecting future labour needs through its labour market watching, analysing and forecasting service. The Walloon Institute publishes analyses labour market needs.
- Brussels: View.brussels is in charge of tracking the labour market and unemployment evolutions. They are also in charge of creating new methods of competence and needs anticipation in Brussels on which they later collaborate with the Brussels Institute for vocational training ‘Bruxelles Formation’ .
Within the German-speaking Community (in charge of its own labour market), the public employment service ‘ADG’ collects, analyses and distributes information concerning supply and demand of the local labour market.
See also Cedefop’s skills forecastand European Skills Index .
In each Community, the government sets out the framework within which educational institutions can organise their programmes. The framework for provision of formal education system is set out in different acts or circulars, per educational level (secondary education, adult education and higher education). Alongside this general principle, each community/region has developed its own approach of defining or reviewing skills and qualifications in VET and assesses local needs.
The Flemish Employment and Vocational Training Agency (VDAB) uses a web-based system called ‘Competent’which is a database containing all professional profiles (with a description of activities, necessary knowledge, skills, etc.). This database is used for the creation of ‘qualification dossiers’ which are next organised into the Flemish Qualification Structure (related to the EQS’ 8 levels). These dossiers are validated by VDAB’s social partners, responsible for the development of professional and educational qualification standards. The first five levels, once they are revised by the Flemish Government, form the basis for educational qualifications and the standard references for education providers and dual learning programmes.
The SFMQgathers Public Employment Services, social partners, all VET providers from the French-speaking Community and the Skills Validation Consortium. The agency is responsible for:
- creating profession profiles reflecting the reality of the job;
- creating training profiles based on professions needs and thus assure the consistency between the training offered and the job-market needs;
- establishing the link between profiles and structures of public employment services and improving the legibility of qualifying education systems, trainings, skills validation and job offers;
- setting common references and language for all partners.
- trades profiles are elaborated within a Professions Profiles Commission and then validated by the Chamber of Trades;
- training profiles are developed within a Training Profiles Commission and validated by the Teaching-Training Chamber;
- the Chamber of Trades provide a matching notice between professions and training profiles;
- lastly, an opinion is formulated on the notice between first the professions profiles and the Skills Validation Consortium productions and second, between the training profiles from the SFMQ and training programmes from education and training providers.
Designing qualifications in the German-speaking Community is the responsibility of the Institute for alternating training and small and medium enterprises ‘IAWM’. The Institute works in close cooperation with the professional sectors, companies and professional associations. Whilst updating training programmes and developing new programmes, it continues to take due consideration of commercial opinions, socio-economic requirements and the working environment. These programmes take general and professional skills into account in addition to operational skills.
The pedagogical service of the Ministry of the German-speaking Community has the same role in the secondary VET schools as the IAWM has for the apprenticeship. Integration and training programmes offered by the Employment and Vocational Training Agency ‘ADG’are designed in line with the situation on the employment market. Social partners, members of management committees, and the Employment Office are all involved in the decision-making. Moreover, the ADG is certified to issue training in the cleaning, office and construction sector.
Between 2015-18, French-speaking Belgium did not have a quality assurance national reference point (QANRP) in place, only a contact and dissemination point located in the education ministry. There was an inspectorate, carrying out mandatory external inspection of VET providers. Self-assessment was also in place, as most VET providers had their own quality assurance approaches.
A team had been appointed within the Ministry of Education to coordinate the ‘cross-diagnostics of schools, training centres and validation of skills providers’. A team of ’diagnosticians’ from education, training or validation of skills evaluate jointly the assessment processes of VET providers. This is an external evaluation in accordance with the reference framework set by EQAVET. Among the items under revision are the evaluation of the command of learning outcomes, the material resources, the monitoring of quality of the assessment of learning outcomes and of the staff who evaluates the learning outcomes.
Both Bruxelles Formation and the IFAPME are in possession of the ISO 9001 certification.
The Decree on quality in education of 8 May 2009 had stipulated that primary and secondary schools were responsible for their own quality and it was part of the school’s autonomy to decide how to conduct their self-evaluation. The quality assurance approach thus comprised internal reviews at VET provider level, however, external reviews could also be carried out by the inspectorate. Pedagogical support services assisted schools in strengthening internal quality assurance and their ability to implement policies. As with providers of IVET, CVET providers had to monitor their own quality systematically and had room in deciding on the procedure for it.
On the 14th of March 2019 the Flemish Parliament approved a new decree on common principles about the quality assurance in VET offered outside formal education but based on a professional qualification description that is formally linked to the Flemish Qualifications Framework (Vlaamse kwalificatiestructuur). The decree prescribes the terms for certifying professional qualifications by regulating the conditions for quality control. Every policy area can develop a quality assurance system for vocational training programmes that should respect the common conditions. Those are:
- use the jointly defined quality assurance framework;
- create an objective and neutral quality control organisation and procedure;
- visit every training at least once every six years.
The quality assurance framework is in development and will be ready for use by Summer 2019. The first vocational training programmes based on professional qualifications will be organised by the end of 2019 at the earliest.
The scope of the decree is covering all the vocational training programmes offered outside formal education but relying on the professional qualifications standard. Vocational education is subject to the quality control by the Education Inspectorate. The jointly defined quality assurance framework will be aligned with the quality assurance framework of the Education Inspectorate.
There is limited information on quality assurance arrangements in the German-speaking Community. An external evaluation agency for VET schools and VET competence centres is in place. VET schools also apply to ISO compatible quality management systems (ISO 9001, ISO 14001).
In Belgium there are several mechanisms which take into account non-formal and informal training programmes. It is, however, necessary to distinguish the concepts of skills validation and the recognition of skills:
- validation of non-formal and informal learning leads directly to certification which may be used either on the employment market or to enter an education programme in inter-operator transfers.
- recognition of non-formal and informal learning allows an individual to promote a certain previous pathway (experience, training) when joining a public VET provider or Adult education schools. There is thus no need to repeat the pathway in its entirety; the learner continues its training to obtain certification with the same provider.
Validation of non-formal and informal learning
In the French-speaking Belgium, the Validation Skills Consortium grants skills credentials on behalf of the three governments. They can be used on the job market and are recognised by public services for employment and adult education schools. It allows to navigate between all the vocational training providers as long as they are members of the Consortium.
In the Flemish Community, there is an equivalent mechanism, developed by the SERV and organised by the Flemish Government with approved centres. Despite the differences (concerning how awards are designed and how they operate), both skills validation systems are communicable.
In the German-speaking Community, a skills validation system is under development. A steering group is going to be set in place at the end of this year to elaborate a concept for a validation system.
Recognition of non-formal and informal learning
In BE-FR, universities, adult education and VET providers recognise previous acquired competences and skills of learners, which can have been acquired in any teaching and training or through professional and personal experience. There is thus no need for respective learners to follow the programme in its entirety; however they must still take the final examination.
IN BE-FL, the immediate result of a successful recognition process is a proof of competences, which then in turn may lead to access to higher education programmes, or to the award of credits or a full degree (on the basis of an exemption). Providers of adult education pay great attention to approving acquired competences, both with regard to dispensations and the certification of acquired competences. A distinction is made between the measuring and testing of acquired competences to benefit from courses exemptions applied by training centres and the assessment of professional competences. Adult education centres may act as assessment bodies for the delivery of the Title of Professional Competence. The recognition of acquired competences in the context of dispensations from course components is the responsibility of the director of an educational institution.
For more information about arrangements for the validation of non-formal and informal learning please visit Cedefop’s European database.
Measures taken in all federated entities
- Paid educational leave – employees are entitled to follow an official training programme of up to 120 hours per year with remuneration (125 hours in Flanders as from September 2019 and up to 180 hours in Brussels in some cases, such as for trainings linked to bottleneck occupations).
- Within the framework of a recognised vocational training programme, jobseekers receive free training, continue to receive unemployment benefits, and in certain instance a training allowance, reimbursement of travel and child care costs during the training period.
- Individual vocational training agreements within a company are targeted at jobseekers. By signing a tripartite agreement, they benefit from practical training within a company followed by a job contract of the length of the training at least. The employment office pays the trainee an allowance, a productivity bonus and a reimbursement for his travel expenses.
Incentives for learners are also offered by regional authorities as well as the German-speaking Community.
- Matching language cheque: available to the learner who has taken a language test before signing the employment contract, the individual language lessons costs are paid by the Brussels Public Employment Service (Actiris). These courses are aimed at improving knowledge of Dutch, English or French in order to better carry out one's work.
- Professional project language cheque: enables jobseekers to benefit from specific language training specially geared towards anything that can be useful in finding a job.
- TIC-job cheque: intended to facilitate the hiring of jobseekers who need to improve their computer skills. Actiris offers beneficiaries to follow a free IT training programme related to their job: 69 checks of this type were distributed in 2015.
- Young jobseekers are offered training opportunities in the workplace if they sign an employment contract with a Brussels public interest body. This measure aims to encourage the social integration of young jobseekers and help them to better position themselves on the labour market through a combination of training and employment experience. The number of positions available under this programme has been increased as new occupations have been funded under the Youth Guarantee mechanism.
- Availability waiver measure: allows a compensated unemployed person to be released from job search obligations in order to enrol in training, internship or to return to school. Therefore, refuse a job offer or pause in applying is allowed.
- Youth work-study bonus: awarded to young people (under 18) who carry out practical training in companies for at least 4 months as part of their work-study programme (CEFA / CDO or SFPME). The amount of this premium varies between EUR 500 and 750.
- Experiencing a professional situation: 3 to 15 days in a work environment, the Walloon Office for Vocational Training and Placement (le Forem) offers reimbursement of transport costs and an all-risk insurance cover. This project is offered to jobseekers registered at le Forem and living in Wallonia.
- EUR 750 are granted to learners having successfully completed their dual training contracts.
- Outplacement check: it covers an outplacement fee of EUR 1 500, granted to any person over 45 years of age, who has been dismissed from the private sector and whose employer has not provided the outplacement measures (or when considered inadequate). Those measures are a set of services and guidance provided on behalf of the employer for the benefit of the worker to enable him to find a new job rapidly or to develop a professional activity. The first six months, 60 hours are devoted to guidance and help to find a job. These services are provided by a professional outplacement office.
- EUR 350 are granted to job-seekers being registered at le Forem and having successfully completed a training in a bottleneck occupation.
- Professional transition programme: aims to recruit long-term unemployed people who are under-qualified, allowing them to gain experience and enter the job-market.
- Training vouchers for employees and temps: aimed at employees in the Flemish or Brussels regions. Any employee without a secondary education diploma may benefit from a second voucher throughout the year. The total amount of vouchers issued per person is payable up to 50% by the employer and 50% by the Flemish authority. 91 597 vouchers were issued in 2014, 43 891 in 2015, 33 391 in 2016 and 28 507 in 2017.
- Training bonus: for jobseekers who have been unemployed for at least 12 months and begin an educational training.
- Financial benefits from the Flemish Employment and Vocational Training Agency (VDAB): a jobseeker who follows training courses recognised by the agency will receive a refund of his registration fee and the cost of the learning material. She or he is also entitled to additional premiums.
- Young people can do a company familiarisation placement which allows them to prepare for work, acquire professional experience, and gain a better understanding of the world of work. The recipients receive a small allowance in addition to their travel expenses.
- The BRAWO project covers an employee’s training expenses up to one third with a maximal amount of EUR 1 000 per year.
Incentives for enterprises are offered by regional authorities as well as the German-speaking Community.
- Work Training Bonus: intended to encourage the employer to train newly hired infra-skilled workers during the activation grant period. The bonus, with a maximum value of EUR 5 000, is granted in the case of a contract with an indefinite duration. It must make it possible to increase workers' skills in relation to the professional experience they develop.
- Tutor premium: aimed at approved companies in Brussels which are involved in the dual training of a young person 15-25 years of age. The training must have a minimum duration of six months within the company. A tutor, who can supervise a maximum of 4 learners at the same time, is designated to transmit his skills. This premium amounts to EUR 1 000 per year and per tutor (and an additional of EUR 1 000 if the learner is from Brussels).
- Aid for external training: depending on the size of the company and the sector of activity, the Region grants a premium to companies wishing to improve their activities and their competitiveness through training in the fields of day-to-day management and knowledge of business. The financial aid amounts to 50% of the costs, and ranges from EUR 500 to 5 000 maximum.
- Material assistance for training programs through the availability of buildings and tools. This measure is aimed at companies in the manufacturing industry that wish to make available their facilities or tools for training or education purposes. These companies can obtain reimbursement of their costs through daily grants corresponding to the actual cost of the provisioning.
- Training voucher: form of financial aid for continuing training, mainly of employees or self-employed, for companies employing less than 250 workers. The check is worth one hour of approved training; it is bought at the price of EUR 15 but has a face value of EUR 30. Depending on its size, the company can receive a number of training vouchers ranging from 100 to 800. In 2015, employees in the Walloon Region benefited from 684 827 training checks (533 354 hours of training).
- Adaptation credit is a mechanism to promote training within companies, covering part of the costs of employee training. The training is supposed to lead to accreditation, whether specific or collective.
- Adaptive credit - tutoring component is a mechanism similar to the one described above, but in which an experienced employee of the company agrees to be the guardian of another employee in order to train them.
- Employers receive EUR 750 per young person trained within their company. To receive this grant, the training must be based on a contract of a minimum duration of 270 days (nine months), include an officially approved tutor and the young person needs to succeed in his year.
- Self-employed workers who decide to train a young person for the first time receive a bonus of € 750 (once). This covers administrative expenses arising from social legislation.
- Through the ‘KMO’ (SMEs) portfolio, liberal professions, and private companies can receive 50% of funding (capped at EUR 15 000) for any initiative in the following areas: training, management consultancy, consultancy on internationalisation and innovation, in order to optimise management of SMEs.
- Diversity in the work environment: companies, bodies, labour organisations in the commercial and non-commercial sectors and local administrations may request subsidies for a diversity plan they offer for disadvantaged groups. The priority target groups are immigrants, senior employees (50 years old and over) and disabled persons. Financial support is granted according to the type of plan and it varies between EUR 2 500 and EUR 10 000.
- Admission training contract promotes the recruitment of jobseekers under favourable financial conditions. Jobseekers should be new graduates (secondary education at most) or have recently completed a training programme. The admission training is following by fixed-term recruitment or recent completion of a training programme.
- Internship bonus: premium for companies that train learners in learning and working or dual learning with an alternating training agreement, an alternating training internship agreement or a part-time employment contract. The bonus is paid once per school year with a maximum of three times per learner (EUR 500 the first two times and 750 for the third).
- ‘Target group reduction’ for mentors: companies can receive this reduction if they use one or more experienced employees as a supervisor / trainer for learners in dual training education. Reduction of a maximum of EUR 800 per quarter on the employer's social security contribution which companies pay for the employee who trains the learner). The company can only receive the target group reduction once (for one mentor) per started group of five learners.
- An amount is allocated per hour of training within fixed limits of allowance and training time per employee. For companies, a total of EUR 9 (EUR 6 for large companies) is allocated per hour of training. The aid stands at a total of EUR 15 000 per annum for SMEs and EUR 20 000 per annum for larger companies. The training period may not exceed 150 hours per employee over a maximum period of 18 months.
- Vocational training contracts can be offered to disabled persons by the Agency for a self-determined life . This measure grants the employer professional consultancy and a certain amount per month as a subsidy on the social security contributions for a tutor assisting young people with or without a disability during the training within their company.
- for guidance and outreach, the article produced by the Belgian coordination: Guidance and outreach for inactive and unemployed – Belgium. Cedefop ReferNet thematic perspectives series .
- Cedefop’s labour market intelligence toolkit .