A new regulation on workplace learning in Iceland has been approved and will take effect on 1 August 2021, as part of a comprehensive reform of the Icelandic VET system.
The responsibility for finding a suitable workplace for apprenticeship will be in the hands of the VET schools, rather than being the sole responsibility of the learner. This means that if a learner is not able to find a place for apprenticeship (a so-called school-based apprenticeship programme), the VET school will have to ensure that the learner has access to the workplace training needed. Further, the exact duration of workplace learning will not be determined at the outset but will be decided based on the learner’s progress in acquiring a predetermined skillset. The focus will therefore be on competences gained in the workplace rather than duration of workplace learning, making workplace training more competence-driven. The regulation will speed up the learning process, as learners will be able to graduate earlier, rather than being held up waiting for an appropriate apprenticeship to come along.
The skills and competences a learner must have acquired at the end of the workplace learning will be defined for each VET programme and stored in a digital logbook for each learner. This new system will ensure that apprentices get the training they need and are not delayed by potential difficulties in finding a suitable apprenticeship themselves.
The education minister, along with the chairwomen of the federation of Icelandic industries and the association of local authorities, introduced in February 2020 a strategy on how to strengthen VET in Iceland. The priorities included transferring the responsibility for finding workplace contracts for apprentices from learners to VET schools. The education ministry had pointed out the need to develop practical/workplace training further as early as in 2014 (‘White paper on education’), underlining the extreme variability of workplace training and the low share of apprenticeships in upper secondary VET. Traditionally, workplace training has been based on two contracts: the first between employer and learner, defining salary and working hours as well as their respective rights and obligations; the second contract is between the employer and the school, detailing the content of the training to be undertaken.
As before, companies offering training places can apply and receive financial support to cover training costs. Social partners participated in the occupational councils with an advisory role on the design of all VET curricula and study programmes.