Vickie Dekocker

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The milestone of Vickie Dekocker

Vickie Dekocker is one of the founders of Talentguide, a platform that uses machine learning to link skills and activities to specific jobs. Shifting away from the traditional focus on qualifications is crucial to address the labour shortage that is felt all over Europe and beyond, Vickie argues. This expert in labour and education also helped shape the policy on combining work with study in Flanders. In her free time, she learns Spanish on Duolingo. “It’s the epitome of relaxed learning for me.”

Works to solve the labour shortage

Talentguide takes a skills-centric approach to the labour market, prioritising abilities over formal qualifications. “At first glance, a baker and a lab technician have nothing in common. But both have to measure quantities very accurately. Talentguide uses AI to break jobs down into skill sets, and to link less obvious profiles to job vacancies.”

A periodic table for the labour market

“Essentially, what we have done at Talentguide is create a periodic table of activities that exist in the labour market. Imagine you’re looking for an electrical engineer. You could just pin your hopes on one happening to come your way. Or you could start from the set of activities the job entails and investigate whether there are other possible combinations out there. This is new approach is all the more relevant due to the huge labour shortage we are facing.”

“Talentguide views the labour market through the lens of skills rather than qualifications.”

Vickie Dekocker

In its 2023 “Employment and Social Developments Report”, the European Commission calls labour shortage “a key challenge” for the EU (p. 38). The job vacancy rate surged to 2.9% in 2022, “the highest rate ever recorded”, while labour shortage indicators reveal an “increasing tightness in the labour market.” The manufacturing and construction sector are a case in point, with labour shortages now being “nearly three times the level observed 10 years ago” (p. 14). The new outlook on the job market promoted by Talentguide becomes increasingly significant in this context, as do lifelong and personalised learning.

Duolingo leads the way

And a personalised learning process doesn’t even have to be complicated, Vickie argues. She refers to the Duolingo app as the ultimate proof. “I get a programme tailored to how much I can learn in a certain period. If I want to move on to the next level, I have to keep trying until I get the exercises right. Duolingo is designed for language learning, but why shouldn’t it be possible for other subjects as well? When it comes to learning, the predominant idea is still that inclusiveness stands in the way of excellence, or vice versa: that a good education is only for the happy few. An education system in which learning, supported by technology, is both inclusive and excellent would constitute a societal milestone.”

“An education system in which learning, supported by technology, is both inclusive and excellent would constitute a societal milestone.”

Getting rid of pigeonholes

Vickie was also one of the driving forces behind the introduction of combined work and study in Flanders, a system that allows young people to gain knowledge and skills both at school and in a business environment. “Getting the educational authorities and employers’ associations around the table was a milestone for me”, Vickie says. She contributed to the vision statement on lifelong learning, too, taking inspiration from a European Commission conference. “We adopted the European Commission’s screening method, reviewing all the regulations that had to do with lifelong learning and getting rid of the ones that were redundant. That’s very unusual. Rules are continually created, but seldom scrapped.”

“A conference is the perfect place to do away with pigeonholes.”

“I learned that a method from a different field can be very relevant to your own work. That’s what interests me so much about going to conferences on other subjects. Or to ones where the keynote speaker is not the leading expert in their field but comes from a different background. A conference is the perfect place to do away with pigeonholes.”

Schouwburg Kortrijk - (c) Mark Depaepe

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