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Empowering young people by expanding and improving apprenticeships. Apprenticeships and other forms of work-based learning help young people make smoother transitions from school to employment. Thus, they are central to the development and implementation of the youth guarantee schemes.

There is broad consensus in Europe that apprenticeships 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 apprenticeships and other forms of work-based learning as a strategic priority. It also manages the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA).

Despite this recognition, obstacles to establishing good quality apprenticeship schemes 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 European Commission adopted a proposal for a European Framework for Quality and Effective Apprenticeships in October 2017. This initiative is part of the New Skills Agenda for Europe, launched in June 2016.

Within the EU policy framework, Cedefop carries out activities across countries and also within single Member States to provide evidence to support policy making at the EU and national levels and to support European cooperation on apprenticeships among Member States.

Cedefop activities on apprenticeships

1. Support to the ET 2020 Working Group on VET

2. Policy Learning Forums on Apprenticeships

3. Reporting on VET policies and systems

4. Thematic country reviews on apprenticeships

5. Research

6. ReferNet articles on work-based learning and apprenticeships

7. Bibliography: Apprenticeships in work based learning (2010-2016)

1. Support to the ET 2020 Working Group on VET

The key purpose of the WG on VET is to respond to the objectives of ET 2020, Rethinking Education, and the Bruges Communiqué as well as the Riga conclusions of June 2015; notably the call to governments, social partners and VET providers to promote work-based learning in all its forms, with special attention to apprenticeships, and to make related policies more effective and more targeted to the labour market needs. The rationale is that promoting work-based learning, including apprenticeships, can help young people make a smoother transition from school to work, improve their employability and hence, contribute to reducing youth unemployment.

The work of the ET 2020 WG on VET changes focus every two years.

In the period 2016-2018, the focus is on teachers and trainers in work-based learning.

In the period 2014-2015, the focus of the ET 2020 WG on VET was on apprenticeships and work-based learning. As a result of this work, the European Commission published

 High-performance apprenticeships & work-based learning: 20 guiding principles (12/2015). This document presents 20 guiding principles developed by the ET 2020 WG on VET in 2014-2015. These principles were developed during a series of meetings, in-depth country focus workshops and webinars. Representatives of the EU Member States, EFTA countries, and Candidate Countries as well as EU Social Partner and VET Provider organisations, Cedefop and the European Training Foundation (ETF) participated in the Working Group, which was chaired by the Commission. Cedefop and external consultants have contributed to the working group through background documents and research activities.

2. Policy Learning Forums on Apprenticeships

With the Policy Learning Forums on Apprenticeships, Cedefop supports countries exchange and generate knowledge on apprenticeships to take their reforms and policies further. The forums may take different formats (different events, platforms for info exchanges, etc).

The first policy learning forum (PLF) on apprenticeships was linked to the thematic country reviews on apprenticeships (TCRs), which Cedefop launched in 2014. The aim was to exchange and generate knowledge and maybe build consensus around shared problems - bring, generate more evidence to support evidence-based policy making at the national and EU levels.


3. Reporting on VET policies and system

In 2015, Member States agreed on priorities for VET until 2020 to achieve the objectives decided in 2010 (Bruges communiqué). One of them relates directly to apprenticeships, or work-based learning more generally. Cedefop regularly reports on progress in this ‘deliverable’ and the others in collaboration with the European Training Foundation.

Planned outputs are as follows:

  • country-based information (EU 28+ IS+NO) on all deliverables agreed in 2015, one of them on work-based learning, including apprenticeships, others including related information;
  • an interim report in 2017 synthesising progress in the deliverables including issues related to apprenticeship;
  • a final report expected by 2020.

This work relies on qualitative and quantitative data provided by Cedefop’s ReferNet and other Cedefop work related to the deliverables. It also draws on discussions with Directors General and the Advisory Committee for vocational education and training.

Traditionally, Cedefop publishes 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. Information on apprenticeship may vary in terms of content and degree of detail, as the reports are country-driven.


4. Thematic country reviews on apprenticeships

In line with EU policies, Cedefop supports cooperation at European level among Member States and interacts with individual countries that wish to develop quality apprenticeships.

Since May 2014, Cedefop has carried out Thematic Country Reviews on Apprenticeships in 5 volunteer countries: Lithuania and Malta as part of a first wave (2014-2015); Greece, Italy and Slovenia as part of a second wave (2015-2017). The apprenticeship reviews for Greece and Italy have been completed and are expected to become available by the end of 2017. Cedefop is carrying out a third wave of reviews in two more countries, Cyprus and Croatia (to be concluded in 2018). In this round, Cedefop is piloting a lighter version of the TCRs on apprenticeships (flash TCRs) in Belgium (French-speaking Community) and Sweden. It is foreseen that Cedefop organises a fourth wave of reviews planned to be implemented in the 2019-2020 period.

The main objectives of the country reviews are:

  • at national level, through close cooperation of Cedefop with national stakeholders, to carry out in-depth review of apprenticeships in selected countries to identify their specific strengths and challenges and propose a set of policy recommendations for ensuring quality apprenticeships;
  • at European level, to increase the evidence base supporting policy- and decision-makers in European countries, at different levels, in designing and implementing policies and measures for developing and/or improving quality apprenticeships; also to support comparison across countries.

With findings from each country participating in the project, the thematic country reviews will gradually expand the knowledge on apprenticeship across Europe. They will add a high level of detail, including factors determining or hampering the success of apprenticeship initiatives in different national contexts.

The review methodology relies on:

  • a common analytical framework;
  • an inclusive, participatory and collaborative approach and policy learning;
  • an evolving and iterative approach.

A broad range of stakeholders in the country (such as responsible ministries, social partners, and VET providers) are involved at different stages of the review.

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 assessing countries’ VET governance structures and financing arrangements, and apply the scenario technique to identify options on how governance structures and financing arrangements could be further developed to support apprenticeships in a given country.

The study is an action research project where relevant national stakeholders are actively involved. In each country, 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 strengths and challenges of the current countries’ governance structures and financing arrangements, and of actions that need to be taken. The analysis will also aim to provide lessons and recommendations 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. 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 apprenticeships across the EU.

Past event
Policy Learning Forum (PLF) on apprenticeships
7-8 September 2017, Cedefop, Thessaloniki

New publication

Apprenticeship review: Slovenia

Project contacts

Ramona Carmen David Craescu