One in 20 staff is an apprentice in Germany and Austria, compared with less than one in every hundred in many other countries.

Source: Cedefop calculations based on Eurostat’s Labour cost survey, 2008 data.

With apprentices helping to fill skills gaps at a reduced cost to employers, policy makers see apprenticeships as an effective means of encouraging relevant employment.

In particular, the recent Bruges Communiqué, which sets out the strategic approach and priorities for the development of vocational education and training in Europe in the next 10 years, calls:

  • to ‘support the development of apprenticeship-type training’
  • for ‘Governments, social partners and VET providers to make the necessary arrangements to maximise work-based learning, including apprenticeships, in order to contribute to increasing the number of apprentices in Europe by 2012’

Key points

  • In dual-system countries like Germany and Austria as many as one in every 20 staff are apprentices. These countries also show some of the lowest relative costs to employers of taking on apprentices.
  • The number of apprentices tends to be far lower than this in most other European countries, with less than one in every hundred staff being an apprentice in 10 of the 17 countries for which data are available.
  • Apprentice labour costs differ significantly across countries. In Austria, costs represent just a fraction of employee costs. At just over 20% of the equivalent labour costs for employees, they are among the lowest relative costs in Europe for which data available. In Austria, apprenticeships are strongly anchored in the crafts and trade sector (see VET in Europe country report).
  • Although many other factors affect the incidence of apprenticeship in countries, and not least regulation, the relative cost for employers of taking on apprentices seems to be higher in countries with fewer apprentices. In Finland the cost of an apprentice is as much as 60% of the cost of an employee.

Note: Data presented here refer to firms of 10 people or more in industry, construction and service sectors (excluding public administration, defence and compulsory social security). In the left axis, apprentices are calculated as a % of employees and apprentices combined. In the right axis, the labour cost for employers of apprentices is compared against that of employees. Data originate from Eurostat’s Labour Cost Survey and are subject to its methodology.

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