Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lifelong learning – an official degree thanks to workplace learning

In my previous blog post you could read that education should be accessible for everybody. There is also a clear link between lower education and poverty. Still comparing with Belgium where the education is almost for free, there is a clear link between low education and poverty. They have a hard time on the labor market and on top of that they have a high risk to be socially excluded. The level of education determines in our society the position someone can take on the social ladder. A lower education leads to a remarkable higher risk of poverty (in Belgium 23,8% versus 6,5% for people with a higher education).

Percentage of risk to poverty: according to education level (population 18+) in Belgium

Lower education
Mid-level education  
Higher education

No need to say that this figure is even a lot higher in countries where education is expensive. Maybe we can convince governments to subsidize education and make it accessible for everyone, but even than there are still people who drop out of school. Some reasons might be that their family situation requires them at to help them financially, or they don’t want to go to school anymore, or they have a health problem, … Or also immigrants that come to the country but didn’t get proper education.

Education level of population (15+) in Belgium  - in percentage (2000-2010)

Obtained degree
26 . 3
26 . 1
25 . 6
24 . 5
24 . 1
22 . 9
21 . 4
20 . 6
20 . 2
19 . 2
19 . 2
High school (12-15)
23 . 2
22 . 7
22 . 1
22 . 5
21 . 4
21 . 1
21 . 6
21 . 3
20 . 5
20 . 2
20 . 2
High school (15-18)
29, 9
30, 0
30, 7
30, 8
31, 4
32, 4
32, 6
33, 4
34, 2
34, 6
33, 2
College (short)
11 . 4
11 . 5
11 . 9
12 . 3
12 . 9
13 . 3
13 . 8
13 . 9

Professionele Bachelor

12 . 3
12 . 5
14 . 0
College (long)
2 . 5
2 . 5
2 . 6
2 . 7
2 . 6
2 . 6
2 . 5
2 . 5

Academic Bachelor & Master in college

4 . 2
4 . 5
3 . 8
6 . 7
7 . 1
7 . 1
7 . 2
7 . 6
7 . 7
8 . 1
8 . 2

University:  Academic Bachelor & Master at a university

8 . 6
9 . 1
9 . 5
Note: The education system for college and university changed in 2007, that explains the ‘bridge’ between the figures. As from 2007, the system is comparable to the US system. As you can see, even if education is almost for free, only 1 out of 3 as a higher degree.

So what are the alternatives? What about the ones that dropped out of school without a college or university degree? Lifelong learning and learning at your workplace can be a good solution. What does this mean? In Belgium some companies took the lead on this project.
McDonald’s Belgium, B-Post (government institution) and Carrefour (retail, comparable to Walmart), sat together with some colleges and compared the training that is given on the work floor in these companies, with the classes that are given in the area of Shop Manager (which is the closest to the job and the training on the work floor).
They compared all different classes and training that is given in these companies, and the colleges allocated credits to the training that is given on the work floor (or externally – for example for McDonald’s Belgium, assistant managers and restaurant managers get also some training classes abroad, of which the most known is the Hamburger University).
Next to the credits that are given to the training they have on the work floor, they need to obtain some extra credits to get an official degree. These credits can be obtained through self-study (at home). They only need to go to school for their test (examination). A special degree was created for them – a degree in between High school and College. And once they obtain this degree, they have a ‘short cut’ to a bachelor degree – they get a lot of credits for their degree. This degree is officially recognized by the Belgian government and is a real diploma. At McDonald’s in Belgium, the same will be possible as from September for people who do not have a high school degree.
“Thanks to the training our employees receive on the floor, and some self-study, they will be able to get a high school degree. And once they obtain this and want to continue, they can work hard to get a college or even a university degree. This is another way of giving people the possibility to get an official degree” says Sabine Gekiere, Human Relations Director at McDonald’s Belgium.

Some critics might say that this is too expensive for the employer. Sabine says that “Training people on a day to day base, all year round, is indeed very expensive. But what most employers forget is that there is a clear link between the wellbeing of the employees and the financial results of the company. The happier and the more motivated our employees are, the better the service will be they give to our clients, and the happier the clients will be. And a happy client will come back. They will also use what they have learned in their classes in their job, so they will also to a better job and be proud because they will bring new ideas to the table”. And what if people leave after they get a degree because they can get a better (paid) job? Sabine answers that “Although we see that people are grateful for the opportunities that are given to them and they show it by their loyalty, someone might decide to leave. In this case, his person is one of our best ambassadors because he will never forget the opportunities that were given to him”. I think this example can be followed in many other companies.

“Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.” - Brian Tracy

“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” - B.B. King

Indeed, all the knowledge you have, you have for life. All the degrees you have, you have for life. And wisdom will always follow its owner. Nobody can take that away from you. If employers know that their employees might leave to get a better job, they will treat them kind and not exploit them. When employers know that more satisfied employees will have a positive financial impact on their business, they will treat them well. And better educated and trained employees will have them more involved in your business and will help your business to grow. So education is a win-win for everybody.


(FOD Economie – Algemene Directie Statistiek en Economische Informatie: EU-SILC 2009.)
www.armoedebestrijding.be. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Apr. 2013.<http://www.armoedebestrijding.be/cijfers_onderwijs.htm>.

www.knack.be. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. <http://www.knack.be/nieuws/belgie/bedrijfsopleidingen-binnenkort-beloond-met-diploma/article-4000005763131.htm >.

Tracy, Brian. http://www.goodreads.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. <http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22033.Brian_Tracy?auto_login_attempted=true>.

King, B.B. www.goodreads.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. <http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag?id=learning&page=2&utf8=%E2%9C%93>.

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