Unizo surveyed 358 mostly small businesses from the retail, food service, industrial production and other key sectors. No fewer than 93% of those surveyed confirmed the usefulness of this type of training, and 63% said they would be more likely to employ an applicant with this sort of experience. Only 60%, however, had offered workplace training.
The most common reason given for not offering such places to young people were too few employees and no time for supervision. Another reason seems to be a lack of information on how to take part and how to communicate job opportunities to students.
In more than half of cases, the students took the initiative to make contact with businesses. In 47% of cases, supply and demand were brought together by an education or training establishment. Most of the students come from professional education (BSO) and technical schools (TSO), with only 12% coming from the general humanities-based secondary schools (ASO).
The fall in the numbers taking part is, according to Unizo secretary-general Karel Van Eetvelt, “a pity, because this is a perfect method to find new and worthwhile employees. With the labour market as tight as it is, businesses cannot expect to stumble on exceptional talents. Instead they need to take people with the right attitude and give them the chance to gain work experience.”
Unizo is now working to improve information on the availability of places and has called on the education minister to make room for practical, experience-based learning in his plans for reforming secondary education. The organisation also pressed for knowledge of labour markets and starting a business to be an integral part of not only secondary education but also higher education curriculums.
The Job Student of the Year for 2012 is Niel Deckx from Antwerp, awarded the €1,250 prize last week for his “initiative, ambition and determination” in developing his own smartphone game Turtle Soup. Niel worked this summer for games company Webcomrades. “Niel is a very ambitious job student,” said Webcomrades boss Tom Claes. “He contributed knowledge we didn’t have ourselves. What more could you ask for? He could start work with us today except he has to go to Finland for six months to finish his Master’s in informatics. But we’ll certainly be keeping in contact.”