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The sectoral approach to skills transformation

Year/Date: 30/05/2018


‘When it comes to anticipating future trends and skills needs, we tell the schools what is happening, not the other way around,’ says Jules van Well, from CBL, an employers’ organisation representing food retailers and wholesalers in the Netherlands.

‘Our members benefit from good education systems – we are well aware that we need to tell the school what the needs are, today and tomorrow. We describe what we want the job descriptions of future workers to be. We don’t look back!’

CBL is a member of the Commerce Sectoral Committee. Led by employers, business associations, trade unions and other social partners, it is one of eight sector-specific committees in the Netherlands, working to anticipate skills needs and align education and training.

With more than 17 million mouths to feed in the Netherlands, food is big business. The 4,300+ food retailers are turning over €36 billion a year, says Jules, who has more than 20 years’ sector experience. And there’s a new trend emerging - online shopping. In order to bring shoppers back through the doors, retailers are reinventing the in-store experience, combining hospitality and fine-dining dining with a workforce of increasingly specialised foodies.

CBL’s own member-led Educational Committee, helps to feed suggestions for curricular improvements, aligned with their projections. But upskilling a future workforce means upskilling teachers too. CBL is addressing this through its network of Food Ambassadors – a coalition of teachers with a taste for new knowledge and insight which they receive through practical, innovative in-store experiences, shopping excursions and trend updates.

Skills anticipating and matching – Dutch-style!

The Sector Committees in the Netherlands work closely with the national public agency overseeing vocational education and training - SBB. Governed by social partners, the agency produces up-to-date labour market information, strengthens business-education links, standardises vocational qualifications, including emerging sectors, and in-line with the European Qualifications Framework, and accredits companies that offer quality work-based learning and apprenticeships.

Discovering the SBB approach was part of a two-day peer-learning visit by a Moldovan Delegation working to develop Sectoral Skills Councils. The ETF has been assisting Moldova with labour market and skills’ trend analysis, preparing sectoral reports and the overall strengthening the capacity of committee members.

This year the Moldovans are taking the lead, currently preparing reports for the agriculture and food, IT and communication, transport and road infrastructure and trade sectors. The study visit was an opportunity to share updates and approaches with the Dutch sectoral committees.

Anna Gherganova from the Moldovan Ministry of Education, Culture and Research Development, says the peer-learning visit highlights the important role of employers in sectoral committees. ‘We want to have employers more involved and we are working towards this. We need companies to be part of these Sectoral Committees and to be a voice. Our goal, looking forward, is to have the six Sectoral Committees that function well, and for them to be a discussion platform in the sector involving many companies.’


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