Apprenticeships can be built to last even in times of crisis, and this greatly depends on the quality, depth and structure of collaboration among stakeholders, a Europe-wide comparative study published by Cedefop concludes.

The study examines how apprenticeships are affected by crises and how developing a common understanding of their role could help design effective reforms that would benefit learners, employers and societies.

In 2018 Cedefop established a community of apprenticeship experts, which aims at strengthening and expanding knowledge on apprenticeships in Europe, through analysis, exchange of information and input to the Cedefop database on apprenticeship schemes. The database collects and presents structured, comparable information on apprenticeship schemes in EU Member States, Iceland, Norway and the UK.

The community experts also provide analysis on apprenticeship-related topics that they identify to be of interest at European and national levels.

Crisis: a threat and an opportunity

The 2008 financial crisis, followed by the coronavirus pandemic, presented significant challenges – along with some opportunities – for apprenticeship systems and schemes across Europe, bringing into focus their resilience in times of crisis, while putting a spotlight on trends such as the green and digital transitions.

This latest publication, entitled 'Built to last: apprenticeship vision, purpose, and resilience in times of crisis' includes short papers covering eleven countries and exploring two topics:

  • Apprenticeship resilience in times of crisis – aiming to understand the relationship between economic fluctuations and apprenticeship and identify ways to improve its attractiveness for employers, preserving their participation and apprenticeship provision in times of crisis and in view of recovery.
  • Apprenticeship vision and purpose – exploring if and why stakeholders, even within a country, struggle to share a common understanding of ‘apprenticeship’ and its socioeconomic role and reflecting on how a common understanding can be promoted.

Comparing country findings

The publication includes short essays addressing these issues in the light of apprenticeship practice in Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, The Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, the UK – England, Denmark, Germany, Lithuania and Poland.

In addition, to complement the country-specific angle, Cedefop developed a comparative, cross-scheme and cross-country analysis focusing on:

  • Company participation in times of crisis: fluctuations and underpinning reasons
  • Measures taken to increase company participation
  • What could enable company participation
  • Stated vision as per national definition/regulation
  • Vision(s) of national stakeholders
  • Impact of clashing vision on end users
  • How to promote and maintain convergence

The papers show that two seemingly loosely related topics (resilience on the one hand, vision and purpose, on the other) are interconnected, as they are linked by an apprenticeship system's design and set up.

The comparative analysis of the country papers concludes that, although economic crises produce conditions that may undermine the participation of companies, providers and young people in apprenticeships, the design of apprenticeship schemes and systems can facilitate the easier adaptation, resilience and even recovery of apprenticeships.