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Employers struggle to fill vacancies in nearly 200 professions
Flemish companies are struggling to fill vacancies in a growing number of professions, according to government employment agency VDAB. Its updated list of bottleneck jobs has 21 new entries this year, making 188 areas where employers find it difficult to find suitable candidates.
New entries on the list include primary school teacher, childcare assistant, landscape gardener, pastry chef, sommelier, tax inspector and medical imaging technologist. Six professions, meanwhile have disappeared from the list, including agricultural labourer, kitchen assistant, building insulator and printing technician.
Professions can appear on the bottleneck list for a variety of reasons. There might be too few people training to enter the profession, or the candidates who apply might not have the right skills for the job.
Another factor can be the working conditions, with some vacancies failing to attract applicants because the hours are too long, the wages too low or the stress involved too high.
Broader trends also come into play, such as increases in demand because of economic growth, the emergence of new kinds of business, or the ageing workforce reducing supply.
For example, one of the new bottleneck professions involves people who make concrete structures on building sites. To begin with, there is a small pool of people interested in the job who have the specific skills required – you have to be able to read plans, have a good knowledge of maths and have good spatial perception. It can also be physically demanding.
Major infrastructure projects such as Antwerp’s Oosterweel Link have increased demand in this area and taken a lot of skilled workers off the jobs market.
Other new jobs on the list, such as lifeguard, shop assistant and hotel staff, require a mix of customer service and language skills that can make vacancies hard to fill. These professions are also complicated by the gap between what the employer demands and what the employee is prepared to give.
For VDAB, many of the 188 bottlenecks on the list can be solved if companies are more open-minded. “I strongly encourage employers to broaden their horizons and look at people’s potential as much as possible,” said Wim Adriaens, chief executive of the agency, adding that extra training and job coaching from VDAB can often seal the deal.