Social partners and educational researchers are designing a new training alliance model to support training companies severely affected by Covid-19. Company-based training can now be temporarily taken over by supra-company training establishments, while the costs for the training alliance and the proportionate training allowance are being covered by the public sector.
The hotel, restaurant and catering industry in Vienna has been hit hard economically by Covid-19-related restrictions and requirements (such as mandatory mask wearing, earlier closing times, seating restrictions, curfews) as well as the lockdowns. Due to its high share of city and conference tourism, Vienna is even more affected by the decrease in overnight stays than Austrian tourism as a whole.
Based on the experience of the first lockdown, the Vienna social partners started reflecting on how an economic downturn could be countered as early as in summer 2020 – particularly regarding its negative effects on the number of new apprenticeship places available. In addition to the support instruments at federal level (short-time work, apprentice bonus for newly concluded apprenticeships), three objectives are currently being pursued:
- continue enabling apprenticeship opportunities in the economy despite uncertainty;
- support and maintain training companies;
- ensure high-quality training even in the event of short-time work or temporary company closures.
The training alliance model
The training alliance model enables training companies to outsource their company-based training temporarily to a supra-company training provider in specific economic circumstances (temporary company closure, short-time work or serious decline in turnover or orders). As soon as one of these criteria is fulfilled, the training company can enter into a training agreement. The model was developed by the Economic Chamber, the Chamber of Labour, public employment service Vienna (AMS Vienna) and the Vienna Employment Promotion Fund (waff), with conceptual support from research institutes.
The outsourced training is conducted in modules of a two-month duration. A maximum of two modules can be taken per apprenticeship year. During the pilot phase, an extension of another two months is possible if required. The modules contain selected job profile contents of the respective apprenticeship year, which can be individually adapted.
The apprenticeship relationship between the company and the apprentice remains in effect during the supra-company training and is continued afterwards. This is recorded in a so-called cooperation agreement (between the company and the apprentice) which, in legal terms, is a supplement to the apprenticeship contract.
Training costs and affected apprenticeship occupations
The training costs (apprenticeship income and costs for the supra-company training establishment) are covered jointly by waff and AMS Vienna during the cooperation measure. The apprenticeship income is fully subsidised by waff. This means that the training can be continued in a supra-company training workshop for a specified period of time without any costs arising for the training company.
The model is currently being implemented in Vienna as a pilot project (until the end of August 2021) for apprenticeships such as cook, restaurant specialist, hotel clerk and confectioner. The training modules for the selected professions were developed by the two research institutes, ibw and öibf, and coordinated with all stakeholders, as well as the implementing training establishment.
A maximum of 300 apprenticeships are currently eligible for funding under the pilot project. Implementation began in autumn 2020. By the end of February 2021, 204 people had entered the cooperation model, 40 of whom have since ‘returned’ to their training companies. Currently, 140 apprentices are participating in a training alliance module.
With the necessary changes to the module contents, funding bodies, etc., the Vienna training alliance model could also be suitable for other sectors, apprenticeship occupation groups and/or regions, and could help secure apprenticeship places in economically difficult times.