The economic crisis has hit young people particularly hard and more young people face increasing difficulties in setting their foothold into the labour market. Against this context, there is a broad consensus today among policy-makers, social partners and experts that apprenticeships can be an efficient solution to some of the present labour market imbalances and benefit both learners and employers.

By combining study and work, apprenticeships and work-based learning (WBL) can offer them an opportunity to acquire work experience while enhancing skills in close alignment with employer requirements. Because of their inherent relevance for the labour market, apprenticeships and work-based learning can help to reduce skills mismatch and ease transition from education to work.

Promoting alternate learning and work has been one of the key policy tools of the European policy agenda for youth employment from the Bruges Communiqué (7 December 2010) through the Council recommendation on establishing a Youth guarantee (22 April 2013) to the Council Declaration on the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (15 October 2013).

Cedefop supports the European alliance for apprenticeships (EAfA) through a range of complementary activities aimed at assessing the potential of apprenticeship and work-based learning (WBL) in different contexts. It supports Member States, social partners and other vocational education and training (VET) stakeholders in developing quality apprenticeships.

The Thematic focus on Apprenticeships and work-based learning structured programmes complements the information provided in VET in Europe country reports and through VET policy reporting. It offers detailed information for comparative analyses and helps understanding the specific features of apprenticeships and WBL programmes in each Member State, Iceland and Norway, in relation to policy challenges identified at the EU level, such as:

  • support for companies, in particular SMEs, offering company placements;
  • programme attractiveness and career guidance;
  • national governance, regulatory framework and social partners’ involvement; and
  • quality assurance.

It also identifies the main strengths and weaknesses of these schemes/programmes in each country.

Prepared in cooperation with ReferNet partners, this Thematic focus feeds into Cedefop’s activities relating to apprenticeships, in particular its support to the European Alliance for apprenticeships (EAfA). It has informed Cedefop’s expert input to the ET 2020 thematic working group on VET, which focuses on apprenticeships and WBL. It has also provided information for Thematic country reviews on apprenticeships piloted by Cedefop in Malta and Lithuania in 2014/15. Such Apprenticeships reviews, carried out in cooperation with volunteer countries (2015/16: Greece, Italy and Slovenia), will gradually expand the knowledge on apprenticeship across Europe.

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