There are two pathways in Sweden to study a vocational programme at upper secondary school: either as school-based education or as apprenticeship education. Governance and regulations are, with a few exceptions, the same irrespective of whether the vocational programme is school-based or an apprenticeship. Regulations steering apprenticeships education were introduced in the Education Act and in the Upper Secondary School Ordinance following the reform in 2011.
The main difference between these two pathways is the proportion of workplace-based learning. For the school-based pathway, at least 15 weeks of the entire programme should be provided as workplace-based learning. For the apprenticeship education, more than half of the programme should be provided by work-based learning. In other words, if more than half the learning takes place at a workplace, it is referred to as upper secondary apprenticeship education (lärlingsutbildning). Upper secondary apprenticeship education requires tripartite individual education contracts to be concluded between the learner (or, if under the age of 18 years, the learner's guardian), the employer, and the school. Diploma goals, curricula and syllabuses are the same in the apprenticeship pathway and the school-based pathway (CEDEFOP, Flash TCR on apprenticeships in Sweden, 2018). Apprenticeship education can also be found in special needs upper secondary school, in adult education, and in special needs adult education.
Since the middle of the 20th century school-based education has been the main way of organising initial VET in Sweden. Responsibility for VET in upper secondary school lies therefore within the education sector. The same is true for apprenticeship education even though more than half the education is provided at workplace in a company. VET schools are thus responsible for the implementation of apprenticeships, such as finding workplaces, recruiting pupils, and quality assurance of the training.
A vocational work introduction programme (yrkesintroduktionsanställning, YA-anställning) was introduced in 2010 as an active labour market policy measure, outside of the formal education system. Work introduction is not considered as an apprenticeship. In work introduction, work is combined with learning at the workplace. Work introduction agreements cover different labour market sectors. Completion of a specific vocational programme is often a prerequisite to obtain a work introduction position in a company. The introductory employment requires a sector specific agreement, a dedicated instructor and an individual plan for learning and guidance. Work introduction is targeted at unemployed young people (15 to 25-year-old), and immigrants since 2015, that have not completed upper secondary school. The vocational work introduction is steered by the Government but allows the different sectors to develop apprenticeship-like training outside the formal education. The work introduction programme engages employers in different sectors to develop learning and skills together with employment and education authorities,
In addition, companies may arrange work-based learning schemes tailored for their own purposes. For example, Volvo offered in 2012-2015 one-year-long training to 400 unemployed youth annually. However, these training schemes do not lead to formally recognised qualifications. Likewise, some sectors like building and construction offer work-based learning opportunities where the worker is a traditional apprentice and works a certain amount of hours before getting full pay, but this is not linked to the education system.