Reference year 2019
Apprentices are at least 15 years old according to the Act of Labour Code and executive regulations. To start an apprenticeship, learners may not be over 18 years old.
In the Polish education system apprentices are only those who have status of a juvenile worker and are between 15-18 years old.
2Overview of the scheme
ISCED-2011 level (ISCED-P, 3-digits):
Basic vocational school (for youth) / juvenile workers; Basic vocational school leaving certificate (basic vocational education) - 353, Diploma confirming vocational qualifications (at the basic level) or Journeyman certificate - 353.
Basic vocational schools are renamed to branch (sectoral) schools as of 2017/2018.
Apprenticeships can be organized by employers who may or may not be members of craft guilds. Branch (sectoral) schools that most usually offer the theoretical part can be public and non-public, the latter established by associations, NGO’s and craft guilds and chambers.
The Ministry of Education has a significant role in elaborating the training standards (Programme Basis for branch education, followed by minimum learning programme standards). School directors enjoy some level of autonomy to specify further apprenticeship learning in collaboration with the employer.
The Ministry of Education develops and updates its classification of professions (qualifications) for branch schools (KZSB), whereas the Ministry of Labour maintains a much wider classification for labour market professions and specialties. Apprenticeships, and especially craft ones, can be organised for professions in any of the two classifications.
Regarding apprenticeships in crafts, which represent the majority of all apprenticeships, at national level, the Polish Craft Association (Związek Rzemiosla Polskiego) supervises the apprenticeship processes and the development of professional examination standards for journeyman and craft master titles.
The scheme has been functioning since the 1930s and was further developed in the 1950s by the Act of 2 July 1958 on professional learning, certain jobs training, conditions for employment of juveniles and initial practice Journal of Laws, no 45, item. 226 .
It was reshaped n 1970s, by the Act of Labour Code and special rights for apprentices and – later on – it was widely spread by the end of 1989. In the following next three decades the apprenticeship system has been changed several times (1989, 1998, 2005, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2019) and the number of apprentices has fallen from 291,250 apprentices (schooling year 2000/2001) to the level of 122500 (schooling year 2016/2017) . It is estimated that the drop continues since.
Apprenticeship has not gained popularity despite some actions undertaken by the Ministry of National Education (which are mostly focused on technical schools where apprenticeship is not offered) and the Polish Craft Association.
 Ustawa z dnia 2 lipca 1958 r. o nauce zawodu, przyuczeniu do określonej pracy i warunkach zatrudnienia młodocianych w zakładach pracy oraz o wstępnym stażu, Dz. U. nr 45, poz. 226
 Stępnikowski A. (2019), Master Craftsman’s competencies in the craftwork apprenticeship, Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Special Pedagogics Academy in Warsaw, p. 99
The apprenticeship scheme started from traditional craftsmanship (master-apprentice relation) to prepare apprentices for the occupation and in the 2nd half of the 19th century it was being enriched by schools. In the period 1918-1939 the craft system was developed in parallel to industry and strengthened by the school-based system. After 1945 apprenticeships in the industry were gradually more and more expanded. Starting from 1958 more and more apprentices had “dual status” of a juvenile worker and student. Nowadays only about 2-2.5 thousand apprentices have the status of a juvenile worker without being a school student (~5% of all apprentices).
Employers pay a wage to apprentices participating in the scheme and cover parts of the social security insurance costs (See Q35).
They can be reimbursed for these expenses by the state budget, largely using company contributions, and by the Polish Craft Association (see Q13).
Employers can be reimbursed for the apprentices’ wage and social security insurance costs from the Labour Fund (Fundusz Pracy), which is part of the state budget, but is supported by 96-98% from contributions from all companies in the country.
The Labour Fund provides incentives for employers involved in apprenticeship in two ways:
- Remuneration apprentice’s salary (70-90 Euro/month) in the minimum form up to the level of 5-7% of average salary
- Subsidy for employers le who had successfully trained an journeyman or led an juvenile to the acquisition of qualification after the apprenticeship (one-time “reward” 2,000-2,500 Euro per apprentice) – but only in certain professions which list is announced by Institute of Educational Researches and published by the Minister of National Education – such as: Notice of Minister of National Education of 22 March 2019 on prognosis of the employers needs in the professions of branch schooling at the national and regional labour markets.
More information on the instruments used to finance apprenticeships in Poland is available on Cedefop’s database on financing apprenticeship schemes.
Basic vocational schools renamed lately to 1st Level Branch Schools (SBI) have recently introduced initiatives to attract learners and employers and collaborate with the crafts (38 non-public VET schools are conducted by craft organisations) . Nevertheless, school directors and public schools are rather supported to promote other forms of VET and WBL at this level: technical classes, school workshops and practical learning centers.
Vocational preparation of juvenile workers in crafts, that are obliged to sit the relevant journeyman exams are also supported by the Polish Craft Association “Educational Fund” (Fundusz Oświatowy ZRP). This Fund supports promotional spots, publications and articles that promote apprenticeship.
Some actions connected to the final journeyman / craft exams are also financed by the EFS project “New quality of craft exams” (2016-2020) conducted by the Polish Craft Association  – in parallel to the Central Examination Board (CKE) project  (which include also the development of on-line exams applications) – dz. 2.15 PO WER (2016-2020).
Wages and their subsidisation are based on several regulatory documents, e.g.:
- The Regulation of the Council of Ministers of 13 August 2019 on changes in Regulation of vocational preparation of apprentices and their remuneration (Journal of Laws of 2019, item. 1636)
- The Regulation of the Minister of Family, Labour and Social Policy of 24 July 2019 on changes in the Regulation on Labour Fund’s remuneration of salaries paid to the apprentices (Journal of Laws of 2019, item.1395)
- Funding for costs of training juvenile workers/apprentices (subsidy) – art. 122 of the Act of 14 December 2016 on the education law (Journal of Laws of 2019, item 1148, 1078).
 Stępnikowski A. (2019), Master Craftsman’s competencies in the craftwork apprenticeship, Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Special Pedagogics Academy in Warsaw, p.35.
According to the Ministry of National Education (in the review of public expenditures) there were about 96,600 juvenile workers (apprentices) in the schooling year 2016/2017 . Approximately 2,000 apprentices that are not students (trained entirely at employers’ premises) are not included in the calculations, as their data are not included in System of Educational Information (SIO).
There are no complete statistical data as apprentices are caught “in-between” two ministries – that of education and of family, labour and social policy. They are also not included in the GUS statistics (General Statistics Office).
 Przegląd wydatków publicznych: wydatki na zadania realizowane przez Ochotnicze Hufce Pracy, Ministerstwo Finansów, Warszawa październik 2017, s. 48
Starting from 2019 each VET student is obliged to take the professional exam for vocational qualifications.
In the case of appernticeships where the employer is a craftsman (in the vast majority), apprentices take the journeyman exam at the Chamber of Crafts, in accordance with the regulations for qualification exams for the titles of journeyman (and for adults, of master) in the profession.
Where the employer is a non-craft company, apprentices take the exam in the relevant qualification at the Regional Examination Boards (OKE - Okręgowa Komisja Egzaminacyjna)
Apprentices in non-craft employers, who complete their theoretical education outside a branch school, i.e. in a further education and vocational qualification centre (ośrodek dokształcania i doskonalenia zawodowego), or at the employers’ premises, takes extramural exams.
Yes, all apprentices who pass the professional exam receive qualifications at Level 3 of the NQF/EQF.
This applies to graduates of 1st level of Branch School (former basic vocational school) that complete the apprenticeship qualification or the journeyman’s certificate in professions listed in Classification of professions for Branch schools (KZSB, see Q20) .
 Act of 22 December 2015 on Integrated Qualification’s System (Journal of Laws of 2016, item 64. Ustawa z dnia 22 grudnia 2015 r. o Zintegrowanym Systemie Kwalifikacji, Dz. U. 2016, poz. 64
The same qualifications can be achieved through apprenticeship or the school-based VET programmes at the corresponding level. Not all the qualifications offered at this level are envisaged for apprentices (and generally for students under 18 years old).
Information about the form of education cycle is included in Europass (diploma supplement) and in a form of a number of NQF level written in “latin” (roman for school connected path qualification – but also students-apprentices in crafts).
Graduates of the apprenticeship scheme (mostly run in the context of the 1st level branch schools) receive qualifications at level 3 of the National and European Qualification Framework. They are not entitled to proceed to higher education, but they can progress to the 2nd level branch schools which, upon successful completion, lead to higher education.
About 5% of apprentices are juvenile workers without the status of a student (carrying out the apprenticeship entirely at the employer premises), still need to finish post-gymnasium (or nowadays post-primary school) education to become technician or acquire “matura” and continue their studies at higher level.
The Ministry of Education develops and updates its classification of professions for branch schools (KZSB) (branch schooling), whereas the Ministry of Labour maintains a much wider classification for labour market professions and specialties. Apprenticeships, and especially craft ones, can be organised for professions in any of the two classifications, as there are 136 craft professions available in the two classifications (but there are exceptions on those taught to juveniles, in particular through branch schools).
Vocational programmes are based in the Programme Basis for Branch Education (podstawy programowe kształcenia dla szkolnictwa branżowego). They are created for all professions listed in the Ministry of Education classification of professions for branch schools (KZSB). A programme basis comprises competencies for all students (personal and social), competencies to be developed in all professions of a specific sector and occupation-specific competences within a sector. They also provide the ground for the examination standards for relevant journeyman exams in crafts apprenticeship (2/3 of craft apprenticeships are included in the KZSB classification) .
The examination standards are the basis for apprenticeship training in ‘non-school’ apprenticeships that belong to the classification of the Ministry of Labour, although the theoretical part does not take place at schools.
After recent amendment of the education law there are some new possibilities for school directors to shape learning programmes, including access to additional vocational skills.
 Regulation of Minister of National Education of 16 May 2019 regarding programme basis for education in branch schooling professions and added vocational skills in certain professions (Journal of Laws of 2019, item. 991)
Full apprenticeship programmes last for 3 years (vocational preparation of juvenile worker – przygotowanie zawodowe).
The number of hours of practical vocational education depends on the occupation and is specified in the core curriculum for vocational education (Regulation of the Ministry of Education). It is further defined in the framework curriculum (Regulation of the Ministry of Education).
The Regulation of 16 May 2019 on practical vocational education defines the minimum and maximum percentages of education at the employer’s premises. In the case of apprentices, the share of the workplace component depends on the agreement with the employer and the school: the minimum is 970 hours for 3 years, or approximately 60% of the total programme duration.
The range of knowledge and skills acquired by students during practical activities including apprenticeships as well as the number of hours of these activities is determined in the curriculum for a given profession (approved for use in the school by the school principal.
After recent amendment of the education law there are some new possibilities for school directors to shape learning programmes, including access to additional vocational skills.
5Alternation of work-based (in-company) training and school-based training
In line with the Regulation on vocational preparation of apprentices and their remuneration (2019, (§1.2), to prepare a juvenile to work as a qualified employee or journeyman, vocational education should include 1) practical vocational training, which is organized at the employer’s premises on the principles set out in separate regulations, as well as 2) additional theoretical education.
The theoretical part of the learning process may be organized at the company or at the training center. In this case the employer must ensure those delivering the theoretical learning hold a pedagogical qualification, statutorily specified.
Generally, a typical form of alternation is as follows: Apprentice is directed by the employer to undertake theoretical training in a 1st level branch school usually in the following pattern:
- 1st year of apprenticeship: 1 day at the enterprise and 4 days at the vocational (branch) school a week
- 2nd year of apprenticeship: 2 days at the enterprise and 3 days at the vocational (branch) school a week
- 3rd year of apprenticeship: 3 days at the enterprise and 2 days at the vocational (branch) school weekly.
Different patterns also exist, as e.g. an alternate system of 2 weeks at the company and2 weeks at school, or 1 week at school and3 weeks at the workplace etc. Form of alternation depends on the year of learning and the negotiations between the school and the employer (supported sometimes by craft organisations).
6Formal relationship with the employer
The legal basis for practical activities is an employment contract for vocational training concluded between the juvenile worker/apprentice and the employer.
It is a mandatory document required mainly on the basis of the Labour Code (Article 195 § 1 of the Labour Code) and its executive acts.
The employer is obliged to conclude a written employment contract with a young apprentice, according to the provisions of Article 195 § 1 of the Labour Code. This means that a young person is formally employed.
The contract is based on the Labour Code, but it is a specific type of contract resulting from the Regulation of the Council of Ministers of 28 May 1996 on vocational preparation of apprentices and their remuneration - and its further changes (Journal of Laws of 2019, item. 1636).
An employer who concludes an employment contract with an apprentice shall notify the mayor competent for the place of the apprentice residence.
If an employer is a craftsman, the appropriate chamber of craft shall be also notified (§3a of the Regulation on vocational preparation of apprentices).
When necessary, additional copies of the contract are passed by a craftsman/employer to the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS), Tax Office and the vocational school, as long as a young apprentice is undertaking education in the school system.
Starting from 2019, an agreement with apprentice candidates’ certification on finishing primary school is also notified to the school’s director. Some arrangements (like number of days to spend at company and ways for monitoring processes) are also attached to the apprentice-employer contract.
Firstly, the apprentice is formally an employee, then he is a student and a learner of the profession.
In most cases, an apprentice carries out its training both at the workplace and in 1st level branch schools (SBI). In such case, in line with the Act on the education law (2016), the apprentice acquires a dual legal status:
- a juvenile worker to whom the rules of the Labour Code apply as well as the resulting implementing regulations;
- a student to whom the rules of the Act on the educational law apply as well as the relevant implementing regulations.
There are cases that the apprentice does not attend school at all and therefore does not have the status of learner.
Employers, who employ young people within the scheme of vocational preparation of juvenile workers, are obliged to pay a salary to their apprentices.
In addition, an employer who employs juvenile workers: 1) covers the costs of the examinations if they are passed in the first available exam period; 2) may cover costs for apprentices retaking the exams.
An employer may finance the costs of travel and stay for juvenile workers who attend schools or training centers outside their place of residence and work.
The employer can also provide additional remuneration on top of the minimum one, but this is not mandatory.
According to the Regulation on vocational preparation of apprentices and their remuneration (1996; 2019), a juvenile worker is entitled to remuneration throughout the whole period of vocational training, for which the contract has been signed.
According to the Regulation on vocational preparation of apprentices and their remuneration (1996; changes in 2019), apprentice remuneration is calculated as a percentage of the average monthly wage in the national economy in the previous quarter (in force since the first day of the month following the announcement by the President of the Central Statistical Office in the "Polish Monitor").
Since September 2019, the percentage of remuneration was increased by 1 p.p, as referred to above, and actually is at the level of: 1) not less than 5% in the first year of study; 2) not less than 6% in the second year of study; 3) not less than 7% in the third year of study.
This development increases the averages monthly remuneration by approximately 12 Euros, from 60-80 Euros a month before September 2019 to 70-90 Euros a month afterwards. Despite being a positive development, is considered as insufficient to significantly improve attractiveness of apprenticeships, especially in the context of an increased attention given to other forms of upper secondary VET (see Q4 of the Polish country fiche).
Employers pay the wage, but they can get reimbursement for the apprentices’ wage and social security insurance costs from the Labour Fund, which is part of the state budget (although it is created mainly by contributions from all companies in the country). See more in Q13.
8Responsibility of employers
An employer is obliged to hire and train a juvenile worker/apprentice in accordance with the curriculum of practical vocational education and an agreement with the corresponding school director (since 2019).
According to the law, the contract concerning practical vocational education defines, among other things, the form of practical training and its scope; dates of vocational training start and completion; the rights and obligations of the parties.
Programme Basis for branch schooling set the ground for the content of training, and are further elaborated by the Ministry of Education (see Q20).
Since 2019, increased autonomy of school directors is introduced, as they can further specify the content of training in written in cooperation with the employer.
In line with the Regulation on vocational preparation of apprentices and their remuneration (§10.1, 1996; 2019), an employer:
- directs young people to the theoretical training at a basic vocational school (now 1st level branch school); or
- directs young people to a training center for theoretical education and vocational training; or
- organizes theoretical training on its own.
The employer is obliged to:
- recruit and train a juvenile worker/apprentice in accordance with the programme of practical vocational education;
- plan the practical training of the apprenticeship;
- equip the learner with personal protective equipment required at a given position, protective clothing and working tools, materials and other necessary equipment, and adhere to the provisions on the protection work and health of young people.
In line with the Regulation on practical vocational education (2019), the entities (including employers) that host students or young people taking part in practical vocational education (including apprentices), among others:
- provide the material conditions for the implementation of practical training;
- appoint the appropriate teachers, apprenticeship instructors and tutors;
- familiarise learners with the organization of work, work regulations, and with the provisions and principles of safety and health at work.
An employer that does not provide sufficient training can lose the right to conduct training and must return the financial subsidies. In case the apprentice does not pass the final vocational examination(s), the employer does not receive the additional subsidy of the training costs that is paid at the end of the programme (dofinansowanie).
Craft chambers are supervising the learning process. Together with Polish Craft Association they develop standards and requirements for journeyman and craftmaster examinations. They are also invited by ORE (Centre of Education’s Development) to support VET curricula development, including those used in apprenticeship programmes.
They can initiate development of new specialties with their curricula and examination standards. They are members of the newly created sectorial councils and the Programme Council for Competencies (rady sektorowe I Rada Programowa ds Kompetencji).
Social partners have the right to draft opinions on developed proposals regarding the apprenticeship system. Those opinions can be in written or presented also at the forum of Social Dialogue Council (RDS). Members of those organizations can be nominated for members of other competent bodies (like sectorial councils, etc.). In Poland there are five employer representatives (LEWIATAN, ZRP, BCC, Pracodawcy RP I ZPP) and three trade unions (Solidarnosc, FZZ, OPZZ).
Both employers and employees’ representatives are members of the newly created sectorial councils and the Programme Council for Competencies (rady sektorowe i Rada Programowa ds Kompetencji).
They are also involved by ORE in the process of designing curricula, and they can also disseminate opinions on the developed curricula.
For apprenticeships, an employer may submit to the principal of the school requests regarding the curriculum content, in terms of practical work that should be carried its premises.
If an employer is an organiser of an apprenticeship, it is obliged to prepare an education programme (usually uses programmes made by crafts for their members) together with school’s principal, that builds on the relevant programme basis (see Q20, Q35).
The interim and annual (semester) assessments of practical activities organized at the workplace are set by the apprenticeship instructor.
Employers must issue a certificate that the students completed their practical activities and followed a training programme. Without this certificate it is not possible for students to participate in the corresponding exam.
Craft guilds supervise the in-company training process, inspecting how training takes place at the workplace. They are also middlemen for remuneration of juveniles’ salaries in front of public authorities. They also act as a “bridge” of communication between the employer and the school. Guilds also draft reports about number, professions and progress of apprentices, including their preparation for the journeyman exam.
Craft companies that train juvenile workers are obliged to be members of craft guilds (on the basis of the Craft act), but other non-craft companies are not obliged to such an affiliation.
Craft chambers (it takes at least ten craft guilds to create a chamber) conduct exams and the Polish Craft Association supervises process of qualification assessment for apprentices and develops examination standards.
No other chambers have such rights in Poland, although they are also involved in apprenticeship (but rather as EU project’s beneficiaries).