The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) launched a European quality framework for apprenticeships at a conference on 14 April. Cedefop Director James Calleja praised the initiative saying that the focus on quality emphasises the need for high standards, a professional approach and a relevant context in which learners experience a combination of real work and education and training.

Speaking at the conference in Brussels, he stressed that the framework covers all key aspects of apprenticeships, with quality as a common point of reference. The framework is based on evidence from at least 20 countries and provides a logical and practical roadmap to reform or start up an apprenticeship programme.

Mr Calleja said that the ‘framework itself is endogenous – it comes from within existing systems in the employment, and education and training sectors to achieve a higher profile for apprenticeships.’

The Cedefop Director highlighted five key quality standards needed in Member State systems:

  • quality learning, particularly in behavioural skills and key competences;
  • updated guidance and counselling services in secondary education which may make or break apprenticeship systems – it is vital to give young learners a positive and professional outlook of the apprenticeship experience;
  • teacher, trainer and mentor training for apprenticeship programmes in which the blend between work experience and formal education is unique and requires special pedagogical skills;
  • recognition of qualifications as key to the success of apprenticeship programmes and a main element of quality apprenticeships;
  • structures in which businesses meet schools nationally or locally, depending on country size.

Mr Calleja reiterated that vocational education and training and apprenticeship programmes need systematic implementation in practically all Member States: ‘It is time to act; time to put reports, publications, recommendations and frameworks into practice so that learners enjoy the benefit from the enormous body of work all over Europe since the Copenhagen process took place.’

The conference was addressed by ETUC Confederal Secretary Thiébaut Weber and Detlef Eckert, Director at the European Commission’s DG Employment. Other speakers included Jeff Bridgford who conducted the research leading to the European quality framework for apprenticeships.