Belgium (DE): The DuO training grant initiative for a skilled workforce
To counteract the shortage of skilled workers, the government of the German-speaking Community wants to rely on a combination of several measures by introducing the DuO training grant. Inspired by successful models implemented in South Tyrol and some Austrian provinces, its aim is to attract more candidates to pursue studies or training in occupations facing shortages, and at the same time retain these professionals in East Belgium.
For this initiative, the government created a budget fund through the decree issued on 26 June 2023. Through this fund, trainees or students who are no longer subject to compulsory education and who are enrolled in a higher education institution recognised by the German-speaking Community with the aim of obtaining a journeyman's certificate, a practitioner's certificate, a brevet or a bachelor's diploma or who have concluded a training contract with a recognised training company in the German-speaking Community through the Institute for Training and Further Education in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (IAWM) can be granted a DuO training grant under certain conditions.
Recognising the importance of public health and ensuring access to healthcare for all citizens, the government has also implemented an interest-free loan system for the six-year basic training of medical and dental students in state-recognized higher education institutions within the European Union and other contracting states of the European community.
Within the framework of the DuO training grant, the government publishes annually, a list of the courses of study, training programmes and fields of study in mainstream secondary education that prepare students for a shortage occupation and thus entitle them to receive an interest-free loan. The shortage occupations are determined annually by the Minister responsible for employment based on an analysis by the Labour Office. These shortage occupations include the teaching profession as well as care and craft occupations.
Following the system of minimum compensation for apprentices, the amount of the interest-free loan has been set at a monthly payment of 350 euros for the entire duration of the standard period of study or the standard duration of the apprenticeship contract. However, a maximum extension of one year is possible.
This is a new financial aid, in addition to the already existing support measures such as study grants for pupils and students. In the case of apprenticeship training and dual Bachelor's degree programmes, the compensation paid by the training company to the apprentices can be added up with the interest-free loan. The start-up and traineeship bonus for apprentices can also be added up with the interest-free loan.
The loan received does not have to be repaid if those who borrowed pursue at least part-time employment in the German-speaking Community for at least five years (in some cases: shortened to three years) within a period of ten years after completing their studies or training. The idea behind this is that the borrowers will get to know the advantages of a job in our community and will thus be available to the labour market of the German-speaking Community even after the obligatory period has expired.
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