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BIBB President Esser: “Securing skilled labour will be one of the greatest challenges of this decade”

PHOTO Credits: by Sten Rademaker on Unsplash


After the considerable losses last year in the wake of the Corona pandemic and its combating, the current situation on the training market only eased slightly in 2021. With a total of 473,100 newly concluded contracts for vocational training, 52,000 fewer contracts were concluded than in 2019, before the Corona pandemic.

The number of training places on offer in 2021 was 536,200, more than 40,000 fewer than in 2019, before the Corona pandemic (578,200).  

The number of young people seeking dual vocational training fell again by 4,800 (-0.9%) to 540,900 compared to the previous year. The demand for training places thus reached a new low since 1992, when the data for the reunified Germany were first available.

In contrast, the number of unfilled training places continued to rise and reached a new record level. 63,200 training places remained unfilled in 2021. The number of unfilled training places had already steadily increased in previous years (2019: 53,100, 2020: 59,900).

BIBB President Friedrich Hubert Esser said the Corona pandemic also had a firm grip on the training market in 2021. Dual training continues to be a central component for qualifying the skilled workers of tomorrow. Nevertheless, the uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic is palpable among companies and young people. An increasing problem is a steadily decreasing demand for training places by youths and young adults. Because “where there is a lack of trainees today, there will be a lack of skilled workers tomorrow,” said Esser.

Therefore, finding and qualifying enough skilled workers will be one of the greatest challenges of the current decade. An attractive and robust vocational education and training system is needed to meet this challenge.

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Connectief & EGInA: mobility activities

Thanks to the ENNE project, where Connectief and EGInA are partners. Last November, they were able to develop work placement activities for 10 Belgian students in Italy with the Erasdu mobility project. EGInA supported Connectief to research the best companies to host the learners.

The 10 students came from different sectors in the fields: “Care”, “Administration”, “Tourism”, “HORECA” and “Automechanics” of GOTalent (Dendermonde), Petrus en Paulus (Oostende), ZAVO (Zaventem), Atheneum Brakel, Atheneum Mortsel and HTISA (Gent).

The experience lasted 15 days and each student was able to work in companies in the area of Foligno (Umbria). They all expressed a positive opinion and underlined the importance of gaining experience abroad to grow professionally and personally.

Thanks to the companies that hosted the 10 students:

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An overview of the general situation of schools in Bulgaria

In Bulgaria, the school year starts in mid of September. Despite the global pandemic situation on 15 September 2021, all schools opened and welcomed all students for the 2021/2022 school year with strict consideration of the National epidemic measures.

The situation in Bulgaria in the last months was very dynamic and it tested on many occasions the flexibility of all schools and the overall preparation and reactions of the National system.

Despite all factors main driven power of the last 3 months was the motivation of the schools’ authorities, parents and students in close cooperation with the national bodies to ensure the learning is happening in a rather difficult situation. The schools and educational entities were to consider the local circumstances and National recommendations for the organization of the learning process. One major lockdown took all students out of schools in October-November.

For most of the Bulgarian schools that are part of the ENNE network the main focus in the last months was the local organization of the learning processes while introducing online, face-to-face or blended forms of teaching. Since the National regulations and COVID-19 measures were not easily predictable the schools and educational entities were to adapt, invent, cooperate and innovate new measures mainly focused on the local realities and specific needs in their schools’ communities.

Some of the Network members managed also to work beyond the basics and get involved in international activities, competitions and mobilities. PGEE Gylabovo also received VET accreditation for KA1 mobilities under Erasmus +.

The National network members also supported and were involved in the following ENNE project activities related to Job shadowing and VET learners mobilities.


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The virological maleise

After the beginning of a school year when anything was possible, reality has once again caught up with us. Vaccinations, unfortunately, do not make us invincible after all. Thanks to high vaccination rates, schools were able to teach as usual for a long time. However, the elementary school and their unvaccinated young students became the driving force behind the spread of the virus, forcing us to take new measures. The Christmas break was extended to 3 weeks. Once again, extracurricular outings have been banned and mouth masks have been made compulsory from the age of 6 (previously 12).

And yet!

In November, Connectief’s project ErasDu was able to send 71 students abroad for a 2-week internship. For the first time since the pandemic, this was possible again. The quality of the traineeship and the “appetite” of the students did not suffer from the pandemic. You can read that in the testimonials. The students and schools are enthusiastic and eager to get back on track in Europe in April 2022.  

And yet!

Teachers are joining forces again to set up innovative teaching techniques and methodologies. VTIO Hoogstraten, for example, is developing a new HEV learning box for teaching about electric vehicles. With imec’s support, the school is bringing education and the professional field together to create a great innovative teaching tool.

And yet!

Teachers are joining forces again to set up innovative teaching techniques and methodologies. VTIO Hoogstraten, for example, is developing a new HEV learning box for teaching about electric vehicles. With imec’s support, the school is bringing education and the professional field together to create a great innovative tool.

And yet!

Flemish schools are preparing (for the first time in 2 years) for a live Belfair. BELFAIR is the annual Belgian fair for virtual companies, organized by COFEP. It is usually one of the largest virtual company fairs in Europe. At a traditional BELFAIR we welcome more than 230 exhibitors and 2500 visitors, spread over 2 days. The exhibitors are virtual companies from secondary education, higher education and adult education.

And yet!

Students were able to follow important training courses and obtain certificates that facilitate their transition to the labor market, such as a training course in scaffolding construction after which students from directions such as construction, wood, … receive the certificate “working at height”.

And yet!               

Have students undertaken intriguing experiments such as the development of a solar heater from empty soda cans.

Pupils are harvesting strawberries for the first time in their new greenhouses and are making plans for the operation of a store in the school.

Beautiful chairs are designed and made in the style of Gerrit Rietveld (NL).

A youth movement will be able to work in beautiful new buildings next year thanks to the students of a VET school.

Exams and final projects continue 😊

And now…

All options are open for 2022. The air is buzzing with activity and plans are brimming with innovativeness. Good COVID figures were wished for under the Christmas tree to make 2022 a banner year.