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Apprenticeships in work-based learning

Empowering young people by expanding and improving apprenticeships. Young people have been hit particularly hard by the crisis. Apprenticeships and other work-based training schemes help young people make smoother transitions from school to employment. To help increase provision and quality of apprenticeships and to change mind-sets towards apprenticeship-type learning, Cedefop supports network building among countries, reports on development of national apprenticeship schemes and researches governance and financing of apprenticeships.

There is broad consensus today in Europe that apprenticeship-type programmes can be an efficient way of addressing labour market imbalances. Thus, the European Commission’s Communication, Rethinking Education: Investing in skills for better socio-economic outcomes (2012) identified quality apprenticeship and work-based learning as a strategic priority. It also announced the European Alliance for Apprenticeship, which is now being implemented.

Despite this recognition, obstacles to establishing good apprenticeship programmes persist. Several necessary conditions must converge, which are not always present. Also, these conditions vary considerably among Member States, making a single apprenticeship model inappropriate.

The Directorate General for Education and Culture of the European Commission has asked Cedefop to take a leading role in supporting the European Alliance for Apprenticeship and the implementation of youth guarantee schemes. In practice, Cedefop is to support European cooperation on apprenticeships both among Member States and within individual countries.

Cedefop work on apprenticeship: main activities

1. Co-steering: ET 2020 Working Group on VET (WBL and apprenticeships)

2. Event: European Apprenticeship Conference: Steering partnerships for growth

3. Reporting on VET policies and systems

4. Thematic country reviews on apprenticeships

5. Research: Governance and financing of apprenticeships

6. ReferNet articles on work-based learning and apprenticeships

1. ET 2020 Working Group on VET (WBL and apprenticeships)

The Commission’s Working Group (WG) on VET will primary focus on effective implementation of national VET reforms which set up or strengthen work-based learning (WBL) and apprenticeships. The WG will focus on four specific and operational policy challenges identified at EU level and/or of importance for Member States, namely:

  1. Support for companies, in particular SMEs, offering company placements
  2. Positive image of apprenticeships and improved career guidance
  3. National governance, regulatory framework and social partners'
  4. Quality assurance in work-based learning

In line with strengthening country-support to benefit Member State policy development, the WG will strive to achieve the following outputs:

  • Guidance frameworks for clusters of countries that have a common interest in a specific topic related to apprenticeships, based on the results of the learning needs/support offers survey and DGVT consultations
  • Assistance to countries for successful implementation or modernisation of VET WBL, in particular apprenticeships
  • Bilateral cooperation between "mentor" countries and countries which need to strengthen particular WBL aspects of their VET systems

2. Event: European Apprenticeship Conference: Steering partnerships for growth

Cedefop is organising the European Apprenticeship Conference: Steering partnerships for growth, to be held in Thessaloniki, 7-8 May 2014.

The goal of this event is to support countries’ on-going or planned reforms for setting up or strengthening apprenticeship schemes by facilitating the creation of partnerships for policy learning.

The event will provide a forum for cross-country dialogue to:

  1. share approaches and practices used to develop apprenticeships;
  2. discuss results, success factors and challenges in developing quality apprenticeships and reflect on needs for further development
  3. establish areas for bilateral or multilateral cooperation between countries
  4. identify potential partners among those wishing to (further) develop apprenticeships and those willing to share their experience and provide expert support

Besides government representatives, the event addresses social partners who are involved in apprenticeships and are willing to cooperate in such developments. To this end, delegates from participating countries will be invited to express their needs and indicate (i) in which areas/policies they are seeking support/advice and/or (ii) in which areas of apprenticeship schemes and workbased learning they would be willing to provide advice to other member states.

Participants will also learn more about possible financial support for cooperation initiatives under Erasmus +.

3. Reporting on VET policies and system

In 2014, Cedefop will review progress Member States have made in the period 2011-14 on VET policies and specifically in achieving the objectives and deliverables agreed for VET in the Bruges communiqué (2010). Some of them relate directly to apprenticeship, or work-based learning more generally. The information available on WBL/apprenticeship-related issues through policy reporting is, however, brief, as the exercise covers all 22 Bruges deliverables.

Planned outputs are as follows:

  • country fiches (EU 28+ IS+NO (9)) with information on all 22 deliverables, one of them on work-based learning, including apprenticeships (STD 5a), others including related information;
  • deliverable fiches (STD5a either combined with others or presented separately);
  • a report synthesising progress towards the objectives of the Bruges communiqué; it will discuss deliverables and issues related to apprenticeship as appropriate and may include some country examples on these issues.

This work relies on the results of ReferNet surveys in 2012, 2013 and early 2014 and Cedefop’s regular monitoring of the European tools. It also considers Cedefop’s work on statistical data, projects and studies related to the deliverables and relevant qualitative and quantitative sources from European and international organisations (Commission studies, work by OECD, ILO etc). Cedefop also held interviews with ACVT and DGVT members. In several cases they referred to apprenticeships (policies, challenges, success factors).

Traditionally, Cedefop publishes yearly updates of reports and concise ‘spotlights’ describing the key features of VET systems in the EU-28+IS+NO. These publications include sections on apprenticeships or similar schemes where applicable and may include relevant information in other parts. Although information is provided by ReferNet based on guidelines by Cedefop, information on apprenticeship may vary in terms of content and degree of detail, as the reports are country-driven.

(9) 3 fiches for BE, 4 for UK.

4. Thematic country reviews on apprenticeships

Cedefop undertakes in-depth reviews of national developments on apprenticeships, while considering contextual factors. The first pilot thematic country review (TCR) took place in two countries who have expressed interest in engaging in such a review, namely Malta and Lithuania. The exercise is extended to other interested countries in the following years.

Main objectives are:

  1. At national level, to carry out in-depth reviews of the policies to set-up and/or improve apprenticeships in two member states, to identify the strengths and challenges of the policies, and present a set of recommendations to ensure quality apprenticeships.
  2. At European level, to support comparison across countries so as to facilitate mutual learning and gain a wider understanding of the necessary conditions to implement quality apprenticeships.
  3. At methodological level, to develop, test and validate a comprehensive approach to review developments on VET policies/programmes at national level (Cedefop’s thematic country review).

While the output of the country reviews will be directly targeted to needs expressed by each participating country, they will gradually expand the evidence-base on apprenticeships and will enrich it with a high level of details, including contextual factors determining success of apprenticeship initiatives or hampering it. This will support policy- and decision-makers at different levels within the national context, as well as across European countries in designing and implementing policies and measures for preventing and/or reducing unemployment and inactivity of European workforce through the implementation of quality apprenticeships.

Legal acts for VET regulating apprenticeships: Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland (working documents)
Summary of legal acts ¦ Comparative summary based on Cedefop's analytical framework

5. Research: Governance and financing of apprenticeships

The aim of this study is to analyse VET governance structures and financing arrangements in five countries - Italy, Spain, Sweden, Latvia and Portugal - in view of expanding apprenticeships. The study will provide a practical framework and a tool for the assessment of countries’ VET governance structures and financing arrangements, as well as apply the scenario technique to identify possible options on how governance structures and financing arrangements could be further developed to support apprenticeships in a given country.

The study is designed as an action research project where relevant national stakeholders are actively involved. In each country, representatives of employers, employees, governments and independent experts will be invited to participate in workshops to scrutinise their current governance structures, financing arrangements and framework conditions, and discuss the three alternative scenarios for development of quality apprenticeship.

The study will contribute to policy learning. It will provide a better understanding of the strengths and challenges of the current countries’ governance structures and financing arrangements, and of the necessary actions that need to be taken. The analysis will also aim to provide lessons and recommendations which might be helpful for other countries wishing to expand apprenticeship. The study will also contribute to research as its results, including the elaborated research tools (evaluation tool, scenarios, reference framework) can be the foundation for similar studies in the future.

6. ReferNet articles on work-based learning and apprenticeships

ReferNet articles aim to offer analytical and detailed information for comparative analyses and they complement the VET systems reports.

The articles provide a national overview of existing work-based learning and apprenticeships in EU countries, their specific features, main strengths and weaknesses. To this end, the articles take account of existing evidence, in particular (i) ReferNet contribution to policy reporting/VET in Europe, and (ii) recent studies published by the Commission on apprenticeship supply in EU member states, and on apprenticeship and traineeship schemes in EU27.

Building on information provided through VET in Europe and the policy reporting exercise, the articles complement and integrate the analysis with a special focus on areas not fully covered by the policy reporting exercise. In doing so, the articles also support Cedefop in developing a comparative picture of work-based learning and apprenticeship-type schemes across the EU.

More specifically, the information provided contributes to:

  1. Cedefop’s research work on apprenticeships and work-based learning and specifically to support cooperation at European level and among Member States, also in the context of the European Alliance for Apprenticeships;
  2. a snapshot with comparative information and country examples on this issue that Cedefop is to prepare for the meeting of Directors General for VET in 2014 under the Italian Presidency of the EU (Rome, 13-14 October);
  3. inform the activities of the Commission’s ET2020 WG on VET whose primary focus is effective implementation of national VET reforms which set up or strengthen work-based learning and apprenticeships.

Project contacts

Ramona Carmen David Craescu