Stakeholders and national experts directly involved in Cedefop’s thematic country reviews (TCRs) on apprenticeships took part in the first policy learning forum on apprenticeships on 7 and 8 September in Thessaloniki.

Cedefop launched the TCRs in 2014 to support cooperation among Member States at European level and to interact with individual countries wishing to develop quality apprenticeships in line with EU policies.

Opening the forum, which gathered 60 participants from 10 countries, Cedefop Head of Department for Learning and Employability Antonio Ranieri stressed that the improvement of Europe's economic context has had a favourable impact on apprenticeship schemes. He warned, however, that apprenticeships are not a shortcut to fighting unemployment – long-term planning is required.

European Commission’s Helen Hoffmann talked about inspirational cases of successful apprentices, pointing out the increasing importance of investing in apprenticeships as young people’s CVs now transcend borders.

Country representatives presented the main findings of the TCRs in their countries and ways of improving the reviews were discussed.

There have been three rounds of TCRs:

  • the first round, in Malta and Lithuania, was concluded in 2015;
  • the second, in Greece, Italy and Slovenia, finished in mid-2017;
  • the third kicked off in early 2017 in Cyprus and Croatia. As part of this round, Cedefop is piloting a light version called flash TCRs in Belgium (French-speaking Community) and Sweden.

The forum workshops examined apprenticeships’ place in education and training systems, governance, training content and learning outcomes, and participation of, and support to, companies.

Cost-benefit analysis of apprenticeships and a lively exchange of views and recommendations for policy-making were on the menu on the second day.

In her closing speech, Cedefop Deputy Director Mara Brugia said that 'promoting interaction among national and regional actors and supporting it with in-depth analysis is at the heart of the agency's thematic country reviews.'

Ms Brugia argued that 'apprenticeships have experienced a revival in EU policy-making in recent years.’ She presented Cedefop’s work in the field, saying that it extends to much more than the TCRs: ‘Our mosaic of initiatives forms an integrated picture where knowledge and evidence inform our activities in a circular manner.’

According to Ms Brugia, due to their inclusive potential, apprenticeships risk being perceived as a cheap labour tool and it takes a joint effort to change this mindset: ‘Apprenticeships are vocational education and training programmes that promote various talents; they can lead to successful careers and can be a pool of talent for enterprises.’

The Cedefop Deputy Director stressed the need for companies to be involved, noting that ‘even the best-designed apprenticeship systems and governance structures will not work if companies do not buy in.’

The forum was a European vocational skills week 2017 event.