In Iceland, several qualifications offered at upper secondary level (ISCED 3) are a prerequisite for holding relevant jobs. The most common are journeyman’s exams (in the relevant study programme). There are also exams for healthcare professionals, and captains and engineers of ships and planes. Other professions do not require a VET degree for employment, but graduates enjoy preferential treatment if trained in that line of work.

At post-secondary non-tertiary level (ISCED 4), there are other VET programmes available, such as for tourist guides and captains at the highest level. Certificates for all master craftsmen are also awarded at this level. These programmes last 1 to 2 years and lead to qualifications granting professional rights.

Trades cancelled or merged

Following the New amendment to regulation No 940/1999 on certified trades, issued by the Minister for Higher Education, Science and Innovation, the regulation of 16 trades was either cancelled or combined with other trades. The trades cancelled include:

  • furring;
  • glass finishing and mirror manufacturing;
  • hat making;
  • manufacturing of musical instruments.

The trades merged with others are:

  • Men’s tailoring (combined with tailoring);
  • engraving, cropping, shoe-making (all merged with shoe-making trade);
  • shoe repairs (merged with shoe-making trade);
  • casting, mould construction, ship and boat building (all merged with carpentry);
  • steel ship building (merged with steel-making);
  • steel construction building (merged with steel-making);
  • general photography, portrait photography (both merged with photography).
  • ‘Women's tailoring’ is changed to ‘tailoring’.

Impact of the new regulation

Merging some trades into broader occupations and eliminating others will reduce IVET learners’ obstacles to entering such professions without the appropriate authorisation in their respective trades. According to the previous law on manual trades, only master tradespeople, journeymen, and apprentices in the relevant occupation have the right to work in their specific trade.

This measure will not affect the number of learners or teachers engaged with VET in Iceland – other than how the learners are grouped, their labour relations or prospective salaries.

Currently, course descriptions and study programmes for tailoring, photography, shoe-making, and steel-making have already been adapted to the new regulation and are taught at the Technical College. These subjects have yet to be formally approved by the Occupational Councils. This formal accreditation took place in March 2023. The merging of the trades in question is currently in the phase of being implemented and formally acknowledged.

This measure received some criticism from the Association for Engineers and Metal Industry Workers, which claims that it does matter who is qualified to do what. According to Guðmundur H. Þórarinsson, their chairman: ‘If a person who does not know how to build a ship out of steel or wood does it, it can be dangerous to board that ship.’ In other words, the professionalism of the trades is perceived to be at stake.

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Please cite this news item as: ReferNet Iceland; Cedefop (2023). Iceland: easing access to employment for IVET learners. National news on VET


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ReferNet Iceland