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The first strategy in Flanders dates back to 2007. The second strategy is the 2011-2014 Action Plan for the Promotion of Entrepreneurial Spirit and Entrepreneurship. The Government has confirmed that this strategy is still ongoing, despite being dated to conclude at the end of 2014. The second strategy identifies four priorities:
- supporting the development of the entrepreneurial spirit
- creating opportunities for practical entrepreneurial learning
- increasing people’s motivation to become entrepreneurs
- and ensuring that teachers show entrepreneurial spirit and demonstrate a balanced view of entrepreneurship.
Actions address the need for a common vocabulary, support for teachers (including methods, networks and placements in industry), communicating with all partners and ensuring that learning progression takes place across education levels and phases of teacher education.
The Flemish Government launched a third specific strategy, the Action Plan for Entrepreneurship Education 2015-2019 (Actieplan Ondernemend Onderwijs 2015-2019), at the end of 2015. This is a shared initiative between the Minister of Agriculture and Sea Fishing, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Economy, Science, Innovation, Employment, Professional education and Sport. The objective of the Action Plan is to prepare students for self-employment as well as providing teachers with the training needed to help them create positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship and self-employment. The Action Plan is also a contribution to the economic growth strategy Flanders in Action 2020.
The Action Plan aims at fostering a sense of initiative and entrepreneurship in young people and adults through regular education. The following groups belong to the Action Plan's target group:
- pupils in nursery and primary education
- pupils in full-time and part-time secondary education, including apprenticeship and Se-n-Se (secondary after secondary education),
- pupils in part-time education in the arts
- students in higher education
- course participants in adult education, with the exception of the training course leading to the business management certificate.
Enterpreneurship has yet to be included in the curriculum. Nevertheless aspects of entrepreneurship such as creativity and sense of initiative are incorporated as cross-curriculum attainment targets in primary and secondary schools. Further up the educational ladder, business-related vocational education and training (VET) and higher education courses incorporate entrepreneurship in the attainment targets. Entrepreneurship education schemes are widely available but mainly optional. The extent of provision varies by educational level. Most of the opportunities are concentrated at the general secondary education level. The decision to get involved in enterprise education programmes is often taken at the school or teacher level. Statutory courses on entrepreneurship are only found in some fields of VET and higher education. However, there is a growing awareness of the importance of enterprise education across all levels.
The Action Plan for Entrepreneurship Education (2015-2019) mentions that the Flemish Government will seek clarification of the role of entrepreneurial learning in the on-going parliamentary debate on secondary school graduation requirements (eindtermendebat). The Action Plan states further that a professional qualification Entrepreneur will be developed in the framework of the Flemish qualification structure.
Vlajo (Vlaamse Jonge Ondernemingen – Flemish Young Enterprises), a non-profit organisation, builds on its partnerships with education institutes, the Flemish Government and the business community to provide practical experience. Vlajo can be found in one out of two education institutions in Flanders. Vlajo specifically provides practical education projects to stimulate entrepreneurship and works with schools to engage students in mini-enterprises. It provides a framework for the creation and management of small businesses in a few months during the school year. Students (mini-entrepreneurs) develop skills by taking key positions in human resources, financial, technical, and commercial departments, and by working in management, advertising, marketing, accounting, and sales.
The Policy Paper on Employment, Economy, Science and Innovation 2014-2019 (Beleidsnota Werk, Economie, Wetenschap en Innovatie 2014-2019) states that young entrepreneurs should develop and maintain their competences. For this reason, SYNTRA Flanders and the Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship are the key partners in an integrated approach for the strengthening of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial training. They make people enthusiastic about entrepreneurship at all ages as an equal choice. Entrepreneurship pathways and entrepreneurship training remain important levers to encourage and strengthen entrepreneurship, both among jobseekers and those in work. Entrepreneurship skills will be strengthened in the future via a five-year Master Call at VLAIO, part of which will be a closed call (via the Syntra not-for-profit organisations with which a management agreement is drawn up) so that their knowledge, expertise and reach can be further exploited.
The Action Plan for Entrepreneurship Education 2015-2019 mentions support for youth cooperation. Youth cooperation schemes enable young people to experiment with their entrepreneurial skills in a supportive and safe environment. There are two types of youth cooperation: Haven is a cooperative of young people, youth centres and motivated partners. Together they provide a safe testing ground where young entrepreneurs are given the space and time to experiment with their own project. This allows them to safely test the viability of their own business while developing the necessary entrepreneurial skills.
There is also e new statute ‘student-entrepreneur’. From the 1st of January 2017, this statute enables students who combine their studies with enterprise to stay tax-dependent. This can be used for student-entrepreneurs who are between 18 and 25 years old and are subscribed for courses in an educational institution in order to receive a diploma that is recognised by the authorised agency. The statute provides a favorable system of contributions concerning the social statute of independent workers. As a result, young people whose income is limited to 6.505,33 euros will not have to pay contributions.
The Flemish qualification structure is a validation system to recognise and validate education, societal functions and non-formal and informal experiences. In this way, the Government of Flanders plans to work on an integrated EVC-policy (policy to value competencies acquired elsewhere).
In addition, there are also specific initiatives taken by Flemish youth organisations with the support of the Government of Flanders. JINT, a coordination body for International Youth Work, promotes Youthpass as an outcome of international mobility projects (Erasmus+: Youth in Action). JINT has also published a document that describes the main instruments for the recognition of competences in a European context. It highlights Europass, Youthpass and the European Portfolio for Youth Workers and Youth Leaders.
STEM is an international acronym that stands for a range of technological, technical, scientific and mathematical training courses and professions. You may immediately think of engineers or programmers, but STEM is much more than that. Just think of it:
- The new techniques in agriculture and horticulture that help provide the food on your plate
- The modern equipment that saves lives in hospitals every day
- The computer screen that now allows you to read this text online
Today's society needs more people with a STEM profile. In order to stimulate young people to opt for STEM training and careers, the Flemish Government has drawn up the STEM action plan. This action plan came into effect in 2012 and should achieve 8 objectives by 2020:
- Making STEM education more attractive
- Support teachers, trainers and supervisors
- Improve the process of study and career choice
- More girls in STEM schools and professions
- Commitment to excellence
- Adapting the training offer
- Encouraging sectors, companies and knowledge institutions
- Improve the social appreciation of technical professions
In the plan, there is not only a role for the government. Education and training partners, schools, teachers, sectoral social partners and the media also help to achieve the objectives.
The Action Plan for Entrepreneurship Education 2015-2019 mentions that educators should be able to facilitate entrepreneurship education. Educators should have the space, time, support and training to facilitate entrepreneurship education and the opportunity to share knowledge and experience. Their educational institution should bring in the expertise for support and training through cooperation with external partners.
In addition, educators and lecturers play a key role in providing Entrepreneurial Education. In this context, different types of support are offered: on-line support, face to face support by third parties, provision of a qualitative offer of activities and the creation of teacher placements in industry.
The Action Plan for Entrepreneurship Education 2015-2019 mentions that Competento, a virtual knowledge centre on entrepreneurial competences, ensures that educators can consult subsidised material and activities on the online platform Klascement. Competento changed into SOHO! ('Stimuleer Ondernemend Hoger Onderwijs', 'Stimulate Entrepeneurship Higher Education'). SOHO! contains more than 500 links to various initiatives, training manuals and guidance documents, all of them focusing on entrepreneurship education at all levels of education. The aim of the portal is to help teachers design courses with embedded entrepreneurship elements. The portal offers access to information on existing initiatives, materials, tools and methodologies that can be used in transferring and developing entrepreneurial competences in the classroom environment and beyond.
Furthermore, SOHO! has developed the Forum Enterprising Higher Education (Forum Oho) which is a stakeholder platform to stimulate and support entrepeneurship and enterprising spirit among higher education students. In particular, SOHO! is developing a learning network for teachers and external partners to translate and concretise the teaching of entrepreneurship.
The placement of teachers in industry
Teachers are also supported by giving them the opportunity to get a sense of entrepreneurship. Teacher placements in industry are an effective means of doing this, especially when the trainee is placed in a smaller enterprise.