The aim of the survey of 541 training companies was to find out how they assess the development of professional requirements in their apprenticeship occupations, which entry requirements among apprentices are important to them, whether these are met, and which criteria play a role in the application process. The regional survey was conducted by ibw Austria – Research & Development in VET on behalf of the Lower Austrian Economic Chamber.
Requirements are increasing
The survey results were published at the end of 2022, showing clearly that in many apprenticeship occupations the requirements which learners need to fulfil to complete their apprenticeship are increasing or have increased, while the entry-level qualifications of young people are often unable to keep pace with this development. Requirements are rising particularly sharply in technical occupations, such as installation and building technology, motor vehicle engineering, electronics, mechatronics and information technology. The reasons quoted for this are the use of new technologies, methods and processes, advancing digitalisation, increased customer expectations and new ranges of tasks, such as electro-mobility.
According to the companies surveyed, the increasing requirements due to extensive job profiles are in line with the needs of professional practice. At the same time, around 1/5 (21%) of the training companies believe that the existing complex job profiles need to be supplemented with simpler and also shorter apprenticeships in the same specialist field. This need is only evident in individual occupations such as in the hotel, restaurant and catering industries, in IT/electronics and office/administration.
Entry-level qualifications do not keep up
As demands increase, the question of entry-level qualifications among young people arises. The companies name the following four most important prerequisites in the selection of apprentices (Figure 1):
- punctuality and reliability of apprentices (92% very important);
- personal interest in the apprenticeship occupation (89%);
- accuracy and diligence (89%); and
- willingness to perform and motivation to work (88%).
Figure 1: Major entry requirements for the selection of apprentices
Even though the two variables cannot be measured on the same scale, the survey reveals a discrepancy between the importance of the requirements and the satisfaction of the companies with the prerequisites. Some 45% of the training companies are very satisfied with the punctuality and reliability of their apprentices (another 40% are somewhat satisfied), 38% are very satisfied with their personal interest in the apprenticeship occupation, only 28% are very satisfied with their willingness to perform and motivation to work, and 26% with their accuracy and diligence.
The motivation to work is also highlighted by many companies as a particular shortcoming of the current generation of apprentices, while strengths are seen primarily in the areas of digital competence and self-confidence.
Job trial as a door opener
When asked about the importance of selection criteria, 97% of respondents (very important or rather important) put the job interview clearly ahead, followed by the experience gained during job trials/taster days (85%), which often opens the door to an apprenticeship training post. This is followed by practical tests/work samples (79%) and the personal impression of the applicants’ parents with 67%. Aptitude assessments by third-party providers, the analysis of school grades and written entrance tests, as well as recommendations by the school, play a secondary role.