3.4 Career guidance and counselling
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VDAB is a Flemish public service that brings together supply and demand on the labour market and whose main task is to mediate and guide jobseekers to work. If necessary, the skills of the jobseekers are increased in the competence centres of the VDAB.
VDAB is an external autonomous agency and is established by the Flemish Decree of 7 May 2004, offers career guidance services at its competence centres, for (young) people who wish to take charge of their own career. In these centres, VDAB career guidance counsellors help people with their career choices and provide assistance with drafting a personal development plan. VDAB is financed by the Flemish government. The Ministers of the Flemish Community define the policy priorities through a management agreement between VDAB and the Flemish Government (beheersovereenkomst). VDAB is part of the policy domain Work and Social Economy.
At the Flemish level, VDAB plays a leading and coordinating role in the implementation of the Youth Guarantee Plan. In 2014, the Youth Guarantee scheme started in Flanders. However, in 2008 Flanders had already developed an impressive policy on unemployed youth, the so-called ‘Youth Employment Plan’ (YEP). VDAB implemented the YEP to tailor its standard services better to the needs of young job-seekers aged 18 to 25. Its goal is to stimulate young people (18-25 years) to find a job (possibly their first) and to provide them with the training and guidance they needed for long-term employment. VDAB has decided not to create a new plan within the context of the Youth Guarantee scheme, but to optimise and strengthen the existing YEP so that VDAB can offer every young person (i.e. a rate of 100%) either a job or personal counselling within 4 months after registration.
The VDAB chooses the most appropriate method to activate the young people, including:
- vacancy counselling
- mediation, training
- work experience
The method can be offered by VDAB itself or by a partner (TIBB - Trajecten met Intensieve Begeleiding en Bemiddeling: trajectories with intensive counselling and mediation). In addition, VDAB enters into flexible and wide-ranging partnerships with education institutions, companies and sectors. An example is the ‘learning network’, which was established in the context of the Youth Guarantee. The partners in the ‘learning network’ are VDAB, Department of Health, Department of Education and Training, Department of Employment, Department of Culture, Youth and Media, the ESF-Agency, the Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and youth organisations that work with NEET's (Not in Education, Employment or Training) in the field.
VDAB focuses on career guidance for all jobseekers and in particular special target groups, such as young job seekers (who are recently graduated). Young people below the age of 25 are counselled more intensively early on in their spell of unemployment than older job seekers. VDAB also focuses on early school leavers to make them aware of their rights and obligations and of the career guidance service through promotion in schools, payment institutions, media campaigns and e-services for young people.
In order to achieve this objective, the VDAB has various means at its disposal:
- providing information on job vacancies to jobseekers. To this end, vacancies (with their requirements) and jobseekers (with their qualifications) are linked to each other in a vacancy database: the so-called HIS computer (Job Seekers Information System).
- keeping statistics up to date, especially with a view to finding out trends in unemployment and employment; on this basis, the VDAB advises the government.
- providing job application training.
- Providing vocational training to jobseekers, especially for the so-called bottleneck professions, for which there is a shortage on the labour market. The Individual Vocational Training (IBO) is an example of this.
- Dedicated mediators for youth, especially NEET’s
The promotion of further training and education, among other things by providing training cheques, which employees themselves can freely spend at recognised training institutes.
The work of VDAB is largely funded by the Flemish Government and in particular by the Flemish Ministry of Employment and Social Economy. VDAB operates under a management agreement with the Flemish government in this connection. The management agreement defines the policy priorities and the budget allocated to VDAB.
As well as the grant from the Flemish Community, there is also income from the European Union and from the invoicing of employers.
In 2017, the total operating budget was 833.144.000 euros. This budget includes employee costs, operational costs, cooperation with third parties, financial compensation and investments. (source: Schriftelijke vraag Vlaams Parlement).
VDAB is accountable to the Flemish Government. The follow-up, reporting and evaluation of the management agreement is governed by a decree (Decreet tot oprichting van het publiekrechtelijk vormgegeven extern verzelfstandigd agentschap “Vlaamse Dienst voor Arbeidsbemiddeling en Beroepsopleiding”). The Flemish Government is responsible for altering, complementing, replacing or removing the mission, tasks and authorities of the VDAB in accordance of the decree.
In accordance with the decree on ‘Better Administrative Policy’ (‘Beter Bestuurlijk Beleid’ or ‘BBB’), the VDAB has to provide an annual business plan. All reforms and initiatives concerning (youth) employment are included in the annual business plan of VDAB. This plan is monitored, evaluated and adjusted (qualitatively and quantitatively) quarterly by the Ministry, the board of directors of VDAB and the experts.
The mechanisms in place to monitor and ensure the quality of the services and measures are described in the plan. The main mechanisms are: customer’s satisfaction, evaluation reports and result measurements. Furthermore, there are operational objectives (e.g. ‘to guarantee a comprehensive and tailored mediation and counselling offer to all registered job-seekers under 25 years’), objective indicators (e.g. 75% satisfaction rate, 60% of young job-seekers get a job 6 months after registration) and monitoring indicators (e.g. 17.800 IBOs on an annual basis) in the plan.
VDAB is responsible for overall quality assurance in the competence centres.