VDAB and Le Forem, respectively the Flemish and Walloon Public Employment Service, are teaming up at Hack Belgium. They’re bringing more than 100 participants – job seekers, job seekers representatives and their own employees – to think hard about how to solve the trickiest of challenges in the Belgian job market.
Your goal is ‘Meaningful Work For All’. What does this mean?
Fons Leroy, CEO of VDAB: Meaningful work is a combination of employability and enjoyability. It allows you to apply and develop your competences, and at the same time have a good match between your values and those of your employer.
Yves Magnan, General Manager at Le Forem: In my eyes, meaningful work is work that makes sense. When you know why you are working and what your added value is, your work is meaningful.
How is the situation in Belgium?
Fons Leroy: In Flanders, research by the Socio-Economic Council shows that 51% of people are happy at work. This number hasn’t changed since 2004, even though our goal was to increase it to 60% by 2020. This means that we have some persistent issues regarding enjoyability at work, for instance, people experiencing too much stress or not enough autonomy.
Yves Magnan: What we see with Le Forem is that the way people approach work is changing. Where 20 years ago hierarchical systems of command and control were common, this way of working is unacceptable today, especially to young people entering the job market. They are looking for project driven, collaborative work. We also see more and more ‘slashers’: people who work on two or three jobs or projects. They don’t do so necessarily because they want to make more money, but because they want to develop their creativity. They see work as a way to obtain self-realisation.
Fons Leroy: Regarding job seekers, together with all the Public Employment Services in Europe, we decided to switch from a strategy of activation to one of sustainable activation in 2014. Job seekers all around Europe were saying: we don’t just want a job, we want a sustainable career. That’s why we now look at job activation in combination with competence building and lifelong learning. Even when you already have a job, you can call on your Public Employment Service for training and guidance.
Which obstacles stand between Belgians and meaningful work?
Fons Leroy: In Flanders, the most difficult challenges we face at the moment are the NEET generation and diversity in recruitment. NEET means a young person who is not in education, not employment and not in training. We don’t yet know how to reach out to them and include them in the system. Concerning diversity, we see discrimination towards people who are older than 55, who have disabilities or who have a migrant background. Often this is because, unknowingly, recruiters recruit people who look like themselves. We call this the mirror effect. We want to change this into a window effect, where a recruiter recruits in accordance to what the world looks like.
Yves Magnan: In Wallonia, the challenge of youth unemployment reaches beyond the NEET generation. The situation is quite difficult. We have more job seekers than jobs. 30% of young people in Wallonia are unemployed. Among those, we see higher educated youngsters who don’t know quite well what they want. Those we help with orientation. But we also see a much more vulnerable group of those who haven’t had higher education or specific trainings. They often depend on their parents or a social security system and have a hard time becoming self-reliant. We try to help them with a combination of quick activation in a first job and competence building in the long term.
Another challenge and at the same time big opportunity we see is digitalization. A substantial part of our job seekers doesn’t have the digital skills needed to work in a fast-moving digital work environment. However, many employees don’t have these skills either. We are developing a training and a certificate for digital skills, so that job seekers can tell their potential future employers that they have the necessary digital skills and that they can teach those digital skills to the people already employed.
Why did VDAB and FOREM decide to take part in Hack Belgium?
Fons Leroy: Because the issues we face are persistent. It’s time to create and try new solutions. We learned in the past couple of years that working together with job seekers and giving them the opportunities to create their own services and tools, creates better performing services. Hack Belgium is another occasion for us to collaborate, co-create and find new answers.
Yves Magnan: The laboratory approach of Hack Belgium is a win-win for both Le Forem and job seekers. By co-creating solutions, we’ll be able to develop better services and perhaps find some quick wins that we’ve been overlooking. Furthermore, many of our young job seekers have a natural knack for creativity and collaboration. By inviting them to take part in Hack Belgium with us, we want to help them feel confident that these are valuable job competences.
Are you distributing free tickets to job seekers?
Fons Leroy: Certainly! Anyone currently registered with VDAB can ask for a free ticket via [email protected].
Yves Magnan: Anyone at Le Forem can ask for a free ticket in their training center or via [email protected]. Be fast though, the available spots are filling quickly!
What will you do to help participants of the Hack Work Challenge?
Fons Leroy: At Hack Belgium, Yves and I will be present to coach teams tackling the work challenge. We’ll be there to introduce the topics, bounce ideas, give feedback and answer any questions on the Public Employment Services.
Yves Magnan: After Hack Belgium, we’ll be available to further co-develop ideas tackling the Belgian work challenges. If you and your team at the end of Hack Belgium decide to make your project idea a reality, you’ll able to do so in collaboration with one of our 5 training centers in Wallonia.
Fons Leroy: Additionally, VDAB is setting up a digital and physical Work Out Room, where the teams of the Hack Work Challenge can continue developing their ideas in collaboration with VDAB.