Annex A. Workshop recommendations

As part of the Skills Strategy project in Flanders, the OECD and Flemish project team organised two workshops in Brussels – the diagnostic workshop on 15 May 2018 and the good Practices workshop 18 September 2018. These workshops were conducted to convene officials from ministries participating in the project team as well as other relevant public agencies and a broad cross-section of stakeholder representatives. In total, both workshops had around 75 participants.

In the two workshops, participants developed long lists with policy recommendations for each of the priority areas. In the diagnostic workshop, with input from a presentation, a briefing pack and outcomes from a pre-workshop survey, participants worked on a specific priority to develop generic and group specific recommendations. Discussions took place throughout multiple sessions in small groups that were heterogeneous and homogenous (in terms of stakeholders), and various exercises steered the conversation. In the good practice workshop, participants further refined the recommendations. Supported by presentations on good practices and different exercises in small groups, final lists with specific recommendations were developed.

The final lists of policy recommendations are comprehensive, detailed and often very concrete. They represent a broad view of government and stakeholder perspectives and demonstrate the diversity and quantity of ideas for further strengthening the Flemish skills system. As a result, these recommendations are the main input for the final recommendations presented in this report. This annex presents an overview of all the generic and specific recommendations developed by the workshop participants.

Developing a learning culture

Table A.1. Overview of policy recommendations for developing a learning culture

General recommendations

Specific recommendations and ideas for implementation

1. Make learning more attractive

Provide a good start in learning (ED). Review teaching methodologies and assessments in formal education to ensure they foster intrinsic motivation for learning in later life.

Support learning opportunities for teachers (ED). Strengthen teacher induction, feedback, appraisal, interdisciplinary collaboration, and professional development (e.g. industry internships).

Raise quality and relevance of adult education (ED, EM, G). Place the adult learner at the centre when designing courses, ensure labour market relevance of courses (e.g. shorter curriculum development and approval cycle, guest lecturers from industry), provide continuous development for instructors, introduce quality assurance mechanisms, have clear and measurable targets for adult education within a long-term strategy.

2. Raise awareness among individuals and organisations about the importance of learning

Promote a learning culture in the workplace (EM, T, S). Include training participation as part of the job description, feature learning as part of the vision and mission of the workplace, institute internal job mobility opportunities, have a business training plan, and explore internal and external worker swapping programmes.

Empower managers to support learning (EM, S, G). Train managers in communicating and providing feedback to their employees, conducting regular career and performance reviews; grant managers time and discretion to implement new ideas from training; consider funding source for manager training to come from sector funds.

Disseminate best practices (G, EM). Set up a co-operation network, which could identify and disseminate best practices in adult education programmes offered by employers with a particular focus on providing this information to vulnerable industries and companies.

3. Create incentives for participation in learning

Improve incentives to participate in adult education (G). Instead of restricting incentive mechanisms (e.g. training leave, training vouchers and training credit) to ones that are only relevant for the labour market, consider targeting marginalised groups with specific quotas; consider having an expiration date for diplomas to ensure continuous professionalisation.

Improve financing of adult education (G). Ensure that the many existing financial mechanisms for promoting adult education are managed effectively and well targeted; consider introducing a learning account system; ensure a stable source of financing for adult education providers (e.g. longer time reference for budget and not just annual budget cycle; financing by target group instead of by type of institution); greater transparency and autonomy for adult education centres regarding the use of finances; regularly evaluate the effective use of finances for adult education.

4. Provide tailor-made guidance and support

Disseminate information about education opportunities (G, ED, EM). Have one independent and neutral service provider collecting and providing transparent information about all available education programmes for secondary students and adults; have an online platform with all the information accessible; adapt the information to the specific needs of user groups.

Provide career guidance counselling (G). Reach out to marginalised groups through non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that represent these groups; provide career guidance in a low-barrier environment where there are marginalised groups; work with role models from marginalised groups who can advocate for and encourage others to engage in adult education.

5. Create accessible, flexible, and tailor-made learning pathways at every stage of life

Improve access to adult education (G). Provide adult education programmes in diverse learning environments where uptake is most likely.

Ensure access through mechanisms (T). Include training in collective agreements and reinforce these agreements so that adults in all sectors and companies of all sizes have the opportunity to take up adult education.

Make higher education more accessible for adult learners (G, ED). Encourage and support adults who want to pursue formal education in higher education (e.g. modular courses, recognition of prior learning for admission).

Improve flexibility of adult education (G, ED). Increase flexibility to take time off for education and increase allotted time for adult education (especially in small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs); decrease or remove the minimum 32 training hour requirement to benefit from paid education leave; consider making programmes by the Flemish public employment service (‘Vlaamse Dienst voor Arbeidsbemiddeling en Beroepsopleiding, VDAB’) targeted at those unemployed also accessible for those employed, so that those who are, for example, at risk of displacement can preventively prepare themselves for a transition instead of having to wait until they are officially unemployed.

Remove constraints of participating in adult education (G, ED, EM). Introduce time accounts to allow employees to participate in adult education; provide access to childcare services for parents who would otherwise not be able to participate in adult education.

Facilitate tailor-made learning pathways (G, ED, EM). Match adults to relevant adult education programmes through recognition and validation of prior learning; consider a national qualifications and credit transfer system to facilitate learning pathways.

Note: Stakeholder groups: government (G), education institutions (ED), employers (EM), sectoral training provider (S), trade unions (T), academics (A).

Reducing skills imbalances

Table A.2. Overview of policy recommendations for reducing skills imbalances

General recommendations

Specific recommendations and ideas for implementation

1. Facilitate labour mobility

Raise awareness among employees and employers about possibility of job rotation and worker pooling (G).

Encourage sectoral organisations to co-ordinate training opportunities to facilitate sector-to-sector movement (S).

Continue to provide and subsidise learning and career counselling, and target lower-skilled workers through outreach (G).

2. Make skills visible

Work with employers and providers of recognitions of competences (‘Erkenning van verworven competenties, EVC’) to simplify the EVC system (G, EM).

Ensure that EVC certificates are linked to the education system (G).

Introduce public investments to boost participation in EVC(G).

Recruit employees based on skills (EM). Train managers with a focus on skills instead of only qualifications.

Upon job loss, provide employees with a certificate of skills (EM).

3. Develop work-based learning opportunities

Support employers in developing quality workplaces (G). Introduce a framework for quality internships.

Ensure that the long-term unemployed are not passed over for relevant skills training.

Improve career guidance associated with work-based learning. Match learners with mentors who can help them understand opportunities for advancement.

4. Improve information about current and future skill needs

Conduct forecast studies of future skill needs which involve a range of stakeholders (A). There is a need for sector-specific forecast studies and broader forecast studies, which capture the needs of the entire economy.

Note: Stakeholder groups: government (G), education institutions (ED), employers (EM), sectoral training provider (S), trade unions (T), academics (A).

Strengthening skills use in workplaces

Table A.3. Overview of policy recommendations for skill use in workplaces

General recommendations

Specific recommendations and ideas for implementation

1. Stimulate high-performance work practices

Support and raise professionalisation of managers (G, ED, EM, S). Human capital management should be added for the last year of university for all degree courses and all disciplines; support companies to make their companies more skills intensive, and support companies in introducing high-performance work practices.

Disseminate good examples (G). Make a database of good practices to make them visible; leader appointed if all actors involved in implementation.

Foster a learning culture to prepare employees to transition to another job (G, EM). Support employees in their career to help them better understand their interests and training needs; employ a strength-based approach instead of deficit-approach.

Promote and raise awareness about internal job mobility, make clear the benefits for the employer (G). Consider the financial perspectives of employers, sectoral agreements and agreements between companies. Need for more pilots to promote inter-sectoral movement.

2. Unlock people’s skills through raising self-awareness of one’s skills

Provide training and coaching as close as possible to the workplace (G, ED, EM).

Support competence-based recruitment (G). Assess how salaries can reflect levels of competency as well as seniority.

Promote intrinsic motivation (G). Create incentives for continued learning by providing rewards for more degrees.

Make hidden competences visible through EVC (G). Support ongoing reform.

Transition from training fund to career fund (mandatory for covenants), not just subsidy organ or intermediary (G).

Provide a platform to make competencies transparent (G).

Note: Stakeholder groups: government (G), education institutions (ED), employers (EM), sectoral training provider (S), trade unions (T), academics (A).

Strengthening the governance of adult education

Table A.4. Overview of policy recommendations for strengthening the governance of adult education

General recommendations

Specific recommendations and ideas for implementation

1. Develop a long-term vision for adult education

Initiate process (G). Set a date and location to bring stakeholders together for this process and identify a neutral interlocutor.

Have a single point of contact between government and stakeholders (G). Consider creating an adult education agency that fulfils this responsibility.

Determine common goals, values and actions for adult education (ALL). Create a vision similar to Flanders’ overarching Vision 2050, but focusing specifically on adult education; ensure adult education aspect is featured in each of the six transitions in Vision 2050; have key performance indicators (KPIs) for specific milestones; if possible co-ordinate with the vision at the European level.

Define responsibilities of all stakeholders (ALL). Ensure that those involved have sufficient mandate to make commitments to the vision; involve all sectors.

Determine the sources of funding for all actions (ALL). Have clarity about the sharing of funding responsibilities.

Design a new pact with stakeholders (ALL). Create a lifelong learning pact similar to the training pact, ensure commitment from stakeholders.

Identify “champions”. Have specific individuals promote this vision so that it is widely adopted.

2. Promote collaboration among all relevant stakeholders

Promote collaboration with all (EM, T, S). Foster collaboration within government (i.e. across ministries, levels of government), between government and stakeholders, and within and across sectors; discuss together how to deal with common challenges (e.g. digitalisation).

Have mechanisms that foster collaboration. Have a financing framework that stimulates collaboration; have structural partnerships between the different adult education providers; while these mechanisms should be centralised, they should allow for enough flexibility for regional implementation.

Align quality assurance mechanisms (EM, S, G). Ensure comparable framework, quality standards, evaluation mechanisms and language between different adult education providers.

Disseminate best practices and tools to promote a learning culture (ALL). Set up a co-operation network that can identify and disseminate best practices in adult education programmes; promote transfer of learned experiences within and across sectors; disseminate best practice through magazines, websites and exchanges of “testimonials”.

3. Improve the collection and dissemination of information

Monitor and evaluate adult education policy measures (G, A). Create an evidence-base for policy making in adult education; track implementation of long-term adult education vision in a transparent and open manner without sanctions.

Foster inter-disciplinary research across sectors about the skills needs of the future (G, A). Describe scenarios of how skill needs in society and the labour market will evolve and how the skills system should respond.

Ensure application of research insights into practice (A).

Communicate long-term vision to all. Have coherent, comprehensive and transparent communication channels that are tailored to the diverse profiles of end users; share vision 2050 and long-term adult education vision with stakeholders.

Provide neutral information (G).

Use digital tools to inform, orient and guide (G).

Note: Stakeholder groups: government (G), education institutions (ED), employers (EM), sectoral training provider (S), trade unions (T), academics (A).

Improving the financing of adult education

Table A.5. Overview of policy recommendations for improving the financing of adult education

Generic recommendations

Specific recommendations and ideas for implementation

1. Review and revise financial mechanisms

Review financial incentives to raise training participation for marginalised groups (G).

For paid educational leave, allow a broader selection of eligible courses for lower-skilled adults. Giving lower-skilled adults freedom to pursue courses that interest them could help them to develop a positive attitude towards learning.

Provide wage compensation for the employer, particularly regarding training for disadvantaged groups (G).

Remove obligation for unemployed to carry out job search when they are enrolled in adult education and training (G). This requirement may introduce barriers to participation in training for the unemployed.

Revise wage mechanisms/legislation to assess if there are any barriers to participating in training.

Conduct research on the returns on investment in adult learning (A).

2. Repackage existing financial incentives

Repackage existing financial incentives to provide each learner with a “training backpack” (G) to simplify and improve accessibility.

Commit to transforming the C4 (document for firing someone) into a skills portfolio (EM).

Through social dialogue, the government should consider partly converting severance pay to a training fund (G, EM, T).

3. Ensure financing supports flexible modes of training delivery

Ensure that financing supports flexible modes of training delivery, including e-learning, blended learning, modular learning and distance learning (G).

Note: Stakeholder groups: government (G), education institutions (ED), employers (EM), sectoral training provider (S), trade unions (T), academics (A).

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