“Investing in modern vocational training is investing in the future”

from Handwierk: Minister, thank you for giving us this interview. In a previous interview, you said that we should never stop thinking and working on vocational training. Further changes to the legislation in recent years have been aimed at optimizing and developing the existing system. What are your priorities until 2023?

Claude Mache: In recent years, we have submitted a number of legislative texts to address shortcomings in the system, as well as to improve the situation of people in both primary and continuing vocational training. Thus, the law of July 12, 2019, we made a number of changes to the reform of 2008. The most significant is the return to grades in order to improve understanding of student ratings. The law of August 27, 2017, for its part, improved the co-financing of lifelong learning, especially for small businesses. I would also like to mention all the legal measures taken in the context of the health crisis. Their goal was to support the apprenticeship system and meet the needs of the industry. I’m talking here about the bonus for companies that accept students, the extension of the term of signing contracts for training, and so on. The OECD Skills Strategy Study is in its final stages. We will analyze in detail whether it will be necessary to take new legislative measures. But today it is too early to judge.

from Handwierk: One of the main problems is educational and professional orientation and, in particular, the topic of “failure”. How are you going to implement the system to persuade young people and their parents to choose the training and career of an artisan?

Claude Mache: Failure to focus is an expression that I do not like and that incorrectly describes the situation. In our society, there are young people who choose the academic path rather than others who are attracted to handicrafts. We need everything. It is important to show the opportunities that exist in the labor market. The best example for young people is the “hands-on” approach, the opportunity to see and feel with your own eyes what a craft is. And I think I can say that we managed to achieve this goal during YEP Scholfoire (Youth, Education, Professions). Thousands of young people from the 4th cycle of primary schools and junior high schools visited the fair at Luxexpo to orient themselves and get new ideas for future professional life. We managed to give the orientation a new dimension, and this in new conditions.

from Handwierk: You have submitted a bill aimed at continuing compulsory education up to the age of 18. What is the specific goal of this event and how will it affect the crafts and training of the craft?

Claude Mache: Compulsory schooling under the age of 18 is primarily a means of combating weaning. It is unacceptable to see young people stop studying or studying at such a young age. But raising the age of compulsory education is not enough. We have to ask ourselves why: why do these young people no longer want to go to school? Forcing a person to stay in school until he or she reaches the age of majority requires new concepts of supervision that allow him or her to develop, regain self-confidence, and rediscover a taste for work outside the rigors of school. That’s such an ambition!

from Handwierk: In 2020, a study by Skillsdësch and the OECD was launched to achieve a “national skills strategy” this autumn. Regardless of the findings of the study, what do you think are the defining elements of such a strategy, given the challenges in terms of developing key skills in all sectors of the economy and, in particular, in the craft industry?

Claude Mache: Obviously, I cannot predict the OECD’s conclusions and the proposals that Skillsdësch will make after them. But it is clear that the country needs qualified people with the skills that the labor market is looking for. Thus, it is necessary to answer the question of professional development and retraining by creating mechanisms that will support both companies and train employees. This obviously requires an adequate offer from training organizations and an incentive for companies and employees. But before considering new measures, we are obviously waiting for the OECD report.

from Handwierk: Handicrafts suffer from a glaring shortage of skilled labor. The main reason lies in the mismatch between economic development and demographic development in Luxembourg. Although training is neither the sole nor the main responsibility for this situation, it still plays a role. What specific paths do you think?

Claude Mache: All vocational training players are called upon to ensure that the current labor shortage does not hinder the development of our country. Training employees, giving them the opportunity to improve in their work and obtain higher qualifications – these are the tools that need to be implemented. Referral of more young people to the profession, for which there is a shortage of labor and, therefore, excellent job prospects, is obviously one of the aspects we are working on. But we should not forget that despite numerous declarations of positions in Adem, people remain unemployed: and there efforts should be made in the direction that these people can integrate positions that do not hold today. Moreover, Luxembourg is now a very attractive country for immigration: attracting good talent and then keeping it here is a challenge for government and business.

from Handwierk: The Brevet de Maîtrise reform project, which has been going on for several years, is to unite the Brevets currently organized by profession and significantly reduce their number. What do you think is the strategic interest of this approach, which is supported by you? In your opinion, what is the interest in terms of patent evaluation?

Claude Mache: In fact, the work of reforming the master’s certificate will eventually move from 35 certificates organized by profession to 12-15 certificates organized by field of activity. As you know, companies are undergoing constant structural changes, but they need to know how to meet the new expectations of their customers. The owner of the reformed patent will have a broader and more global vision, which will allow him to adequately respond to the challenges of today’s and future world.

from Handwierk: In the context of the discussions around the future skills strategy, you mentioned several areas or concepts, namely “partial certification” and “experience validation reform”. What is your vision for these concepts?

Claude Mache: Partial certification is a tool that allows a person to “prove” that he is competent in a particular field, not necessarily having a qualification. This applies to people without diplomas (or wishing to change qualifications). This is part of “micro-accreditation”, a topic that is much discussed today on the recommendation of the European Union. This is not about replacing full-time education, which leads to diplomas. Partial qualification certificates must always be designed in such a way as to lead to a diploma, or in such a way as to enhance international skills such as digital skills or soft skills. As for the Experience Test (VAE), my services have begun an in-depth analysis of the current system. This analysis should show the possible weaknesses of the system and allow us to make the special adaptations needed to make the tool more attractive.

from Handwierk: From the point of view of continuing education, the ecosystem of actors has developed in recent years, in particular with the creation of Centers of Craftsmanship. How do you see this evolution? In your opinion, what structure should be developed to further promote the industry’s continuous training (retraining and advanced training)?

Claude Mache: Craft centers are very successful today, and I am delighted. Who but people in the industry (employees, managers and federations) know best how to assess what skills companies need? The method of financing training allows any company to take advantage of the training offer. The state supports this initiative by giving companies the opportunity to reimburse part of the contributions through a request for co-financing. But the state also plays a role in continuing education. Without competing with craft centers, today CNFPC offers a variety of industrial and craft training courses. To support the transition to the digital age, I have just opened a Center for Digital Learning in Esch-Belval, which fills in the offer of training in areas or teaching activities that have so far been little or not even present in Luxembourg (ie School 42). Investing in modern vocational training is investing in the future. The mission of the state is to intervene in sectors where private supply is lacking or insufficient to meet all needs.

from Handwierk: State co-financing of lifelong learning at the enterprise is a key element for intensifying the implementation of systematic learning management in SMEs. In view of the challenges ahead, the Chamber of Commerce insists on increasing aid for SMEs and on specialized training in key areas such as energy and the digital transition. What are the government’s plans to restore this file and further support investment in training for SMEs?

Claude Mache: The INFPC is currently conducting a survey to determine why SMEs are less likely to co-finance than large companies. At the same time, the OECD study also analyzes incentives (“incentivisin”) for further education. Therefore, we look forward to the results of these two studies to make the right decisions and thus help our companies invest in learning excellence and tailored to needs.