The French-EU-Presidency-organised conference, on 20 January, was addressed, among others, by the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit, who highlighted the need to encourage this mobility, aiming, as an intermediate goal, to double the percentage figures. ‘The obstacles to apprentice mobility are there but they are not insurmountable – overcoming obstacles, that’s what Europe is all about’, Mr Schmit underlined.
Mr Siebel presented Cedefop research data indicating that mobility is a popular option among school-based vocational education and training (VET) learners but less so among in-company apprentices. This, he said, was due to the nature of apprenticeship, which is at the crossroads between the education and employment, and the greater difficulties apprentices face in getting an in-company training experience abroad, especially when it comes to long-term mobility.
He added that challenges to apprentice mobility are mainly linked to national policy and funding, institutional capacity and know-how at the implementation level, cross-country cooperation and networking.
Analysing these obstacles, the Cedefop Executive Director pointed out that:
- apprentice mobility is not a policy priority, rather just triggered by Erasmus+ programmes;
- VET providers lack the know-how to implement it, while few intermediary organisations are in a position to offer support;
- employers are reluctant, as they fear they might lose staff at a highly productive stage in their careers; they see little benefits from incoming apprentices; they lack the necessary administrative capacity;
- at system level, there is considerable diversity and legal status disparities between Member States, which act as a hindrance.
Mr Siebel concluded by laying out Cedefop’s suggestions for an incremental approach to coordination in order to support apprentice mobility, provided that it becomes a policy priority for Member States and they would commit to harmonising the rules.
- Start with efforts to engage and enable VET providers and intermediary organisations, create them where they do not exist and encourage them to work in cross-border networks.
- Use short-term mobility as a stepping stone for long-term mobility: set a good experience in short-term mobility, gather and analyse evidence and then go to the next level.
- Promote mobility and its benefits among companies and apprentices with the support of social partners, nationally and Europe-wide.
- Adopt a sectoral approach to policy, with national social partners in the driving seat, as part of a strategy to make apprentices more mobile in Europe in the medium-to-long run.