People’s skills are at the heart of Flanders’s vision for the future, which is a society where people learn for and through life, are innovative, trust one another, enjoy a high quality of life, and embrace their unique identity and culture.

As globalisation and digitalisation transform jobs, how societies function and how people interact, the impetus for getting skills right is growing. People will need higher levels of skills and a well-rounded set of skills, including cognitive, social and emotional, and job-specific skills, to flourish in life both in and out of work.

Flanders performs well compared to most OECD countries on most measures of skills development and use. The skills proficiency of Flemish adults exceeds the OECD average and skills mismatch is low. High-performance work practices that stimulate the use of skills are widely adopted by firms in Flanders. There are many good governance arrangements in place to support co-ordination and collaboration in adult learning across government departments, levels of government and with stakeholders. Financial incentives for adult learning help to reduce the burden for individuals and employers, promote cost-sharing and reduce under-investment.

However, some challenges remain. Adult learning could be strengthened, in particular for older workers, immigrants, adults in flexible forms of employment and low-skilled adults. Shortages in professional, technical and scientific occupations persist due to a low number of graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The use of skills at work could be further enhanced, especially as productivity growth has slowed in recent years. A comprehensive vision for adult learning that stimulates collaboration within government and with stakeholders is lacking. Existing financial support for adults who are most in need of adult learning is not sufficiently taken up by those most in need.

Recent and planned policy reforms show great promise, but more needs to be done to ensure better skills outcomes. The government and all relevant stakeholders should continue to work in partnerships that involve every level of government, education and training providers, employers, trade unions, the non-profit sector and learners.

While no single action is the answer, a clear vision and concrete steps taken together by all stakeholders can ensure that Flanders will bridge the skills gap. Citizens of all ages and backgrounds should be able to develop, activate and use their skills effectively to take up opportunities of a rapidly changing society.

After widespread engagement in Flanders and consideration of numerous international examples, the OECD has provided several recommendations in this report to help Flanders along this path.

The OECD stands ready to support Flanders as it seeks to implement better skills policies for better lives.

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