Support for young people to gain advanced qualifications (beyond compulsory schooling) has been a key objective of the Austrian youth-related policy agenda since end of the 1990s, starting with the introduction of supra-company apprenticeship training. In mid-2016 the Training up to the age of 18 schemes was adopted, marking a major development.
The Austria-wide scheme targets young people up to the age of 18 who have not yet acquired a qualification beyond compulsory schooling and are not in education or training.
This affects around 7% of youths between 15 and 18, slightly over 21 000 young people. They are increasingly faced with the risk of exclusion from the labour market, poverty and social marginalisation. The scheme pursues key objectives of encouraging conditions for stable professional careers and social integration.
The Youth Training Act imposes a statutory obligation for these young people to attend a training programme until the age of 18. This can be school attendance, completion of an apprenticeship, participation in non-formal programmes, such as those provided in the adult learning sector, or measures which prepare for (re-)integration into the education system, such as German courses. The law permits a few exceptions from compulsory participation: for medical reasons, if the young people have their own children, or if they take part in programmes such as a voluntary social year. Asylum seekers are excluded from the Training up to the age of 18 schemes even if they are among the early school leaver group. The law foresees fines for parents whose children below the age of 18 do not attend a programme. This is considered the last resort: the primary objective is to support young people even before they might leave the education system and/or help them return. Pupils who are in their last year of compulsory schooling during 2016/17 will be the first affected by this new law.
In the coming years, a monitoring system will be set up to provide information about learners entering and leaving formal and non-formal education. The information will be passed on to coordination offices in the individual provinces so they can contact learners under the Training up to the age of 18 scheme; individual support for entry or return to an education or training measure beyond compulsory schooling will be organised. This makes it necessary to form close networks between existing programmes, such as youth coaching, production schools or those organised via the public employment service. It is also planned to increase the number of these programmes: an additional 6.8 million EUR will be invested in 2016 and the budget will be increased annually, reaching EUR 57 million from 2020.