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The chemical and life sciences sector has been encouraging the development of dual learning for the past ten years. This is an innovative form of education that combines theoretical courses at school with practical training in companies. This apprenticeship method complements the traditional educational training offer, which is struggling to attract new talent among young people. The sector sees this approach to teaching as an appealing way of offering industry-related training.

Thanks to intensive practical experience in a high-tech working environment, study combined with placements, is a particularly effective way of preparing talented people for employment in the chemical, plastics, or life sciences sector. STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) at its best: a work-study degree is often a stepping stone to a job.

In Flanders, essenscia and a number of chemical companies, started in 2013 the Avogadro project which allows students from the professional bachelor in Chemistry at the Artesis Plantijn University College Antwerp and KdG University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Antwerp, to opt for a dual learning pathway in Process Technology. This initiative is one of the first steps of workplace learning in Flemish education.

In September 2016, the Chemical Process Technology course was one of the 6 study programmes in Flanders that were the first to start dual learning in secondary education. Since then, hundreds of pupils spread over a dozen schools have already opted for this dual learning pathway. Many of these ex-students are now valued process operators in many chemical and pharmaceutical companies.

In Wallonia and Brussels, essenscia has been supporting the development of dual learning in higher education since 2006 (document only available in French). Following a decree in 2011, the federation has developed several dual learning courses in partnership with the aptaskil competence centre (formerly Cefochim) and the Haute École Louvain in Hainaut. Some of these courses have been approved by the BioWin competitiveness cluster. Students can follow a master’s degree in production management or a master’s degree in analytical engineering as a dual learning. Jobseekers can enrol in a technician or production operator training course in the biopharmaceutical or chemical industry. Around a hundred people benefit from these courses and training programmes each year.

To reinforce the existing range of work-linked training courses, essenscia wallonie is partnering with three higher education institutions to offer additional work-linked training courses leading to a professional bachelor’s degree in occupations where there have been shortages in the past 10 years in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. If the establishments receive accreditation, two new work-linked bachelor’s degrees will be available from September 2022: one for bioproduction and the other for quality control.