Netherlands now has more highly-educated residents than high school graduates
Highly educated has become the norm in the Netherlands, with 42 percent of employees having completed an HBO or WO education. They now form the largest group of employees, Trouw reports based on figures from benefits agency UWV. The downside is a painful shortage of workers with secondary education.
In 2007, highly-educated people still made up 30 percent of employees in the Netherlands. Now there are more highly-educated workers than workers with a high school diploma only. “The turnaround was imminent, and it has happened quite silently,” Rob Witjes of the UWV said to Trouw.
The figure confirms several labor market trends. First, that work is getting more complicated, requiring higher education. And secondly, fewer and fewer young people are picking vocational education as they expect to need higher education for future job prospects.
“The number of secondary vocational education students will decrease in the coming years due to an expected contraction in the age group and because more young people are entering higher education,” said Witjes. At the same time, the number of highly educated people is increasing so much that the current shortages in the labor market are increasingly evident in professions requiring a secondary education level.
Gertrud van Erp, who is involved in education on behalf of employers organizations VNO-NCW and MKB-Nederland, confirmed this trend. “We’ve been hammering on higher and higher education for a long time, and that’s not the best way. Now, there’s a mismatch between work and education.”
Van Erp thinks that a radical reappraisal is needed. “Now, parents are sometimes shocked when their child receives a pre-vocational secondary education recommendation. That image has to change,” she said to Trouw. To achieve this, there needs to be more flexibility in education, and learning on the job, or lifelong development, must become much more common. “It is now too self-evident for an MBO student to continue to HBO. That should absolutely continue to be possible, but we can do much more to encourage learning on the job.”
Van Erp also wants to eliminate the often self-evident link between education level and employment conditions, above all salary. “Everyone will have to put their sacred topics aside because we are getting stuck. Then you won’t fix it with a public campaign for the appreciation of MBO students. We really have to show it.”