It was initially launched in 1984 and last revised in 2008 with no end-date.

Fully operational


Policy area

The apprenticeship courses are work-linked initial vocational training courses targeting young people.

Policy goal

The apprenticeship courses are dual training courses that provide double certification (educational and a professional), targeting young people and their integration into the labour market, and/or allowing the continuation of studies to higher education. The main principles of this measure are: intervene among young people in transition to active life, in order to improve their employability levels and social and professional inclusion; recognize the importance of on-the-job training, improving the valorisation of the company’s contribution to training; alternating training methods, that is theory and practice and the contexts in which both occur. The number of apprenticeships courses places and their professional areas is defined annually by the Institute of Employment and Vocational Training (IEFP), based on an assessment of the dynamics of the labour market.

Part of broader programme, yet with explicit focus

This instrument is part of a broader national policy that aims to prevent early school leavers and to develop the generalization of the secondary education as a minimum qualification of the population. The potential skill mismatch is an important driver of this policy instrument, prevented with the LMSI used in the definition of courses and the on-the-job training.

Aim of policy instrument

To match the skills of young people with secondary education.

Administrative level
Main responsible body

Institute for Employment and Vocational Training (IEFP)


The system is run by national agency for employment and training, the Institute of Employment and Vocational Training (IEFP), who is responsible for the general and technological in-school components. Companies are responsible for the in-company practical training. IEFP is the primary stakeholder, who coordinates and regulates the measure and its training centres network. The EU and Portuguese Government co-fund through European Social Funs. Other partners:
- External training entities (to provide training when IEFP centres do not have enough capacity) - public and private accredited training institutions;
- Entities to ensure the on-the job training: public and private companies and other employers;
- Entities for the development of the qualification (e.g. providing human and physical resources): elementary, secondary and professional schools; universities and polytechnic institutes; technological centres and business incubators.


Data from December 2016 indicated that the total public expenditure with this measure was €64,047,104. The apprenticeship courses are co-funded by European funds (ESF) (to a maximum of 85%) and the national state budget. The private contribution is not quantified, though involves the time allocated by company employees and the adaptation to the requirements of the training components.

Intended beneficiaries

Young people who are aged under 25 years and who have completed the 9th grade or over, without having completed secondary education. The programme is intended to provide the beneficiaries a more practical teaching (with on-the-job training), oriented to the labour market integration through both professional and scholarly qualifications (double certification).


Use of labour market intelligence

Every two years IEFP defines a list of priorities based on LMSI tools. Current priorities were defined for 2016-2017 and will be revised for 2018. The IEFP uses the Qualification Needs Anticipation System, which aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of skills supply and demand, together with its own research, as input of information. The priorities can be adapted regionally as a result of cooperation with local partners and consideration of regional and local strategies and action plans.

Financial schemes

The students are entitled to a monthly allowance of a maximum value of 10% of the IAS ("indexante dos apoios sociais", a social support Index), where the grant is dependents on attendance. In 2017, the IAS was €421.32. Students with economic difficulties have an allowance for school supplies depending on the level of economic difficulties of the student/household (level one of the family allowance is €163; level two of the family allowance is €81.50). The students with more than 3h/day of training are entitled to a food allowance of a maximum of €4.52 per workable day. Students are also entitled to transport (up to 15% of IAS), child care (to children and dependent adults of the students, up to 50% of IAS) and housing allowance (if the training centre is more than 50km from the place of residence of the student he/she can have an allowance of up to 30% of IAS).

Frequency of updates

The training priorities of IEFP used for the definition of apprenticeship courses are updated every two years.


The apprenticeship courses adopted in 1984 are inspired by the German dual system and were revised several times. One of the reasons for adaptation was the progress in youth schooling. In an early phase, there were early dropouts from the educational system and mostly courses with low qualification level were provided. In the 1990s, they were redesigned to adapt to level 4 EQF and adopted a broader scope, both with more time allocated to general and technological education, and with a redefinition of professional components. The last revision was in 2008, aiming at giving more flexibility to training providers in managing the curriculum, though maintaining the approach to training, with classroom and work contexts.


The dual training is demanding from companies participating in the training scheme. The involvement and readiness of companies to perform their role in training is one of the issues that is permanently discussed. Furthermore, the trainees don't have a professional status in the companies, they just have a training contract. The development of the model led to increase the time allocated to a component that was called "simulated practice", which is a work simulation in training context. It also led to giving flexibility to training providers to define the duration of the different parts of practical training.

Success factors

There is a political priority to this scheme that led to high levels of funding and commitment of IEFP in its implementation. There is also a national network of partner companies solidified as major partners in the system. The flexibility in curriculum management allowed the scheme to be adapted to different local and economic contexts.


IEFP monitors the financial expenditure and number of students enrolled in the measure monthly. The same information on a national and regional basis is provided in its annual report, which is made public via the website.

Slightly innovative

The innovation in the adaptation of a dual system to the Portuguese system refers to the way training is coordinated. Instead of being based only on the commitment of each party involved, there is a coordination by IEFP that allows for compensation of weaknesses of training partners, and there is a flexible management of curriculum to adapt to different contexts.


Evidence of effectiveness

The number of beneficiaries reached in 2016 was 30,077. The more recent evaluation on the results of the instrument, dated 2013, draws on data covering the period 2007- 2013. The aim of the evaluation was not the apprenticeship courses, but the measures to fight early school leavers, which covers the training measures with double certification (including apprenticeship courses). This evaluation concluded that the employability levels associated with the apprenticeship courses are always higher, compared to those associated with training in general, especially in the case of male participants. In this sense, as a training measure, the results in terms of employability are very positive. These courses also present very low failure and drop-out rates. In this report, it is stated that the number of beneficiaries will reach 100,000 by 2020. The evaluation concluded that 9 months after the conclusion of the training, 44.2% of the apprenticeship courses students were working, comparing to 10% of the students that were in the regular secondary education. Former apprentices also have less precarious employment conditions.

Engagement of stakeholders

The relation between stakeholders is established at local level through protocols in order to stimulate the partner’s network. The regional delegations of IEFP have a list of certified training providers that cooperate when IEFP training centres do not have the capacity to provide all the training or local priorities advice the involvement of partners. The companies/employers where the on-the job training takes place are selected by the training centres and a protocol is established between the entities. The training centre monitors the conditions provided by the employer for the on-the-job training. There is a monitoring committee that monitors and evaluates the apprenticeship courses. This committee meets quarterly and consists of two members from IEFP, representatives from the social partners, one representative from the Ministry of Education, one representative from the National Agency for Qualification and two people of recognised merit in the area of employment and vocational training (appointed by the government).

Easily transferable

This instrument draws on existing experiences of dual apprenticeship schemes in other European and non-European countries. The Portuguese experience can be considered to increase the transferability of a dual system to weak economic contexts and to countries with industrial microenterprises and SME, not ready to sustain an environment of work with enough diversification for the requirements of level 4 EQF courses.


The apprenticeship system has been a public priority over the years and is seen as having very good employment ratios. It is also an established training alternative for youngsters who left regular schooling. In recent years, the attention on dual system was renewed. IEFP is highly involved in the organisation of the courses. It is expected that the system will continue running over the coming years.