“Investing in modern vocational education is an investment in the future”

from Handwerk: Minister, thank you for giving us this interview. In the last interview you said that we should never stop working on the issue of vocational training. Subsequent changes made in recent years to the legal framework were aimed at optimizing and developing the current system. What are your priorities until 2023?

Claude Meish: In fact, in recent years, we have introduced a certain number of legal texts to correct the shortcomings in the system, as well as to improve the situation of people in both initial and continuing vocational training. Thus, by law of July 12, 2019, we made a number of changes to the 2008 reform. The most significant is the return to grades in order to improve understanding of student rankings. The law of August 27, 2017, in turn, improved the co-financing of additional professional education, 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 keep the apprenticeship system alive and meet the needs of the industry. This includes bonuses for companies that host apprentices, extensions to apprenticeship contracts, etc. The study of the OECD Skills Development Strategy is in its final stages. We will analyze in detail whether new legislative measures will have to be taken. But it’s too early to judge today.

from Handwerk: One of the main issues is educational and professional orientation and, in particular, the topic of “orientation through failure”. How are you going to use the system to convince young people and their parents to make a choice in favor of education and a career as an artisan?

Claude Meish: Failure orientation is an expression I don’t like and doesn’t describe the situation correctly. In our society, there are young people who have chosen a more academic path, and others who are attracted to crafts. 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 experience with their own eyes what a craft is. And I think I can say that we managed to achieve this goal during the YEP Scholfoire (Youth, Education, Professions). Thousands of young people from Cycle 4 Primary Schools and Lower Secondary Schools attended the Luxexpo fair to orient themselves and get new ideas for their future professional lives. We have succeeded in giving orientation a new dimension, and this in a new setting.

from Handwerk: You introduced a bill aimed at extending compulsory education to 18 years of age. What specific goal are you pursuing with this measure and how will it affect crafts and craft education?

Claude Meish: Compulsory schooling up to the age of 18 is primarily a means of combating dropouts from school. It is unacceptable for young people to leave school or apprenticeship 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? Man’s obligation to remain in school until he reaches adulthood requires new concepts of supervision that allow him to develop, regain self-confidence, and rediscover a taste for work outside the strict confines of school. What an ambition!

from Handwerk: In 2020, Skillsdësch and an OECD study were launched this fall to develop a “national skills development strategy”. Regardless of the findings of the study, what do you see as defining elements of such a strategy, given the challenges associated with developing key skills in all sectors of the economy and in particular in the handicraft industry?

Claude Meish: I obviously cannot foresee the conclusions of the OECD 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 about answering the questions of upskilling and retraining by creating mechanisms to support both companies in their efforts and train employees. This obviously requires an adequate supply from training organizations and an incentive for companies and employees. But before considering new measures, we are obviously waiting for the OECD report.

from Handwerk: The craft suffers from a glaring shortage of skilled labor. The main reason lies in the discrepancy between the economic and demographic development of Luxembourg. Although training is neither the only nor the main cause of this situation, it will nevertheless play a role. What specific areas are you thinking about?

Claude Meish: All players in vocational education are called upon to ensure that the current shortage of labor does not interfere with the development of our country. Employee training to enable them to advance in their jobs and gain higher qualifications is a tool that needs to be implemented. Directing more young people into professions for which there is a labor shortage and therefore excellent job prospects is obviously one of the aspects we are working on. But we should not forget that, despite the numerous announcements of jobs in Adem, people remain unemployed: and there, efforts should be directed to ensure that these people can integrate jobs that are not currently filled. Moreover, Luxembourg is now a very attractive country for immigration: attracting good talent and then keeping them here is a task for government and business.

from Handwerk: The project to reform the Brevet de Maîtrise, which has been going on for several years, is to unite the Brevets, currently organized along professional lines, according to areas of activity and significantly reduce their number. In your opinion, what is the strategic interest of this approach, which you strongly support? In your opinion, what is the interest in terms of patent valuation?

Claude Meish: In fact, the work on reforming the master’s certificate will eventually make it possible to move from 35 certificates for professions to 12-15 certificates for areas of activity. As you know, companies are undergoing constant structural changes, at the same time they must know how to meet the new expectations of their customers. The owner of the reformed patent will have a broader and more global vision, allowing him to adequately respond to the challenges of today’s and tomorrow’s world.

from Handwerk: In the context of the discussion of the future “skills” strategy, you mentioned several directions or concepts, namely “partial certification” and “validation reform”. What vision do you advocate for these concepts?

Claude Meish: Partial certification is a tool that allows a person to “prove” that they are competent in a particular area without necessarily being qualified. This applies to people without diplomas (or those who want to change their qualifications). This is part of “micro-accreditation”, a subject that is being widely discussed today on the recommendation of the European Union. This is not a replacement for full training leading to diplomas. Partial qualification certificates should always be designed in a way that leads to the award of a diploma or in a way that enhances cross-cutting skills such as digital skills or social skills. In terms of Validation of Experiences (VAE), my services launched an in-depth review of the current system. This analysis will have to show the possible shortcomings of the system and allow us to make the special adaptations necessary in order to make the tool more attractive.

from Handwerk: In terms of continuing education, the ecosystem of participants has changed in recent years, in particular with the creation of skill centers for crafts. How do you see this evolution? What do you think, what framework should be developed to further promote sectoral continuous learning (retraining and advanced training)?

Claude Meish: Skill centers for crafts are very successful today, and I’m thrilled. Who better than the people in the field (employees, bosses and federations) knows how to assess what qualifications companies need? The training funding method allows any company to take advantage of the training offer. The state supports this initiative by providing companies with the opportunity to recover part of the contributions through an application for co-financing. But the state also plays a role in continuing education. Not competing with Craft Skills Centers, CNFPCs today offer a variety of industrial and craft training courses. In order to support the transition to the digital age, I have just opened the Digital Learning Center in Esch-Belval, which completes the offer of teaching in areas or pedagogical methods that have hitherto been little or even absent in teaching in Luxembourg (for example, School 42). An investment in modern professional education is an investment in the future. The task of the state is to intervene in sectors where private supply is absent or insufficient to meet all needs.

from Handwerk: Public co-financing of lifelong learning in enterprises is a key element to stimulate the introduction of systematic learning management in SMEs. In view of future challenges, the Chamber of Commerce is pushing for increased assistance to SMEs and specialized training in key areas such as energy and digital transformation. What are the government’s plans to open this file and further support investment in SME training?

Claude Meish: INFPC is currently conducting a study to determine why SMEs are less likely to seek co-financing than large companies. At the same time, the OECD study also analyzes incentives (“incentivisin”) for continuing education. Therefore, we are waiting for the results of these two studies in order to make the right decisions and thus help our companies invest in learning best practices and adapt to needs.