A unique agreement for regulating wages in Sweden has been reached between unions and employers (IFK Metall and Teknikföretagen, Kommunal and SKL/Pacta). Young people who are trained in school and in a work place will receive a salary during their three years on the scheme. The employer pays the salary; the school is responsible for the education and the National Agency for Education gives support and is in charge of the project.
A pilot project Svensk Gymnasielärling (upper secondary apprentice) has been initiated with a few schools and businesses participating. The short-time goal was to have 200 apprentices in 2017 but a long-term goal is to have around 30 000 high school students in apprenticeships across the country: they will be employed while in training and receive salaries during the time of their apprenticeships. The project was initiated as high youth unemployment coincided with a shortage of skilled and motivated workforce experienced by many Swedish companies, leading to a high rate of mismatch.
Sweden’s approach differs somewhat from traditional apprenticeships in other countries:
- school responsibility; the upper secondary school is responsible for the students’ entire education and ensures that the training objectives are met. It has the main responsibility for the work-based learning part and has to ensure training is safe and of good quality. The vocational teacher at the school is responsible for planning, implementing and monitoring student work and learning, at school and at the work place. The teacher who awards the grade after consultation with the supervisor in the workplace;
- contract; establishing a written training contract for each student and the workplace is mandatory; it is the responsibility of the school to ensure that this is done. The Education Act stipulates what the contract should specify. The school principal, the representative of the company, the student (and/or the guardian for minors) sign the contract;
- government grant; the government provides a grant that organisers (municipalities, small independent schools and those belonging to an association of schools) can apply for to develop such schemes or to cover costs for the company providing the placements.
The project enables companies to be involved in the design of training to ensure that the students’ professional skills match the needs of the labour market. It makes learners versatile and prepares them for further studies as well as professional life. For employers, it is a unique opportunity to help make the new generation employable.