In Greece VET often seemed incomplete and disorganized and as a result it was almost always a second choice. Moreover, there were significant structural weaknesses such as low attractiveness, high school drop-out rates, discontinuity and lack of focus on policy design and implementation, large percentage of disappointed and often frustrated teachers, and unclear connection of VET with the labour market. However, there was ground on which to support VET upgrade, such as the technical equipment and infrastructure and highly qualified teachers. Furthermore, a strong incentive to improve VET was the fact that it is chosen by a large percentage of students with social, economic and family problems, with learning difficulties, low self-esteem or low expectations.
Keeping in mind, firstly the existing strengths, the wish to support those in need of help and finally the economic and social crisis that started tormenting Greece a decade ago, the Greek Ministry of Education drew up a detailed Strategic Plan for VET in 2016 with a view to upgrading secondary vocational education and training thus responding to the need for economic recovery and paving the way to reducing youth unemployment.
Before the agreed Strategic Plan for VET between European Commission and the Greek Authorities the apprenticeship system in Greece was developed in a piecemeal fashion: each line ministry had established its own rules. In effect, the system was highly fragmented and there were no common rules as regards a series of features (e.g. content and duration of practical exercise, terms of remuneration, legal rights of graduates with respect to professions, etc.).
According to the Strategic Plan for VET, new national level bodies are introduced to increase cooperation and coordination in apprenticeship provision, bringing together Ministries of Education and LAbour, OAED (the Greek PES providing EPAS apprenticeship), national institutions responsible for Qualifications and Educational Policy, and in certain cases also social partners, chambers, regional authorities etc.
According to the Strategic Plan for VET, there are guidelines that the country has to follow in order to achieve VET upgrade:
- To regulate VET systems and monitor the implementation of the strategic goals of VET
- To reinforce and improve the social perception of VET
- To actively promote and enhance the existing EPAL apprenticeship program.
- To strengthen the link among VET, the labor market and society
- To upgrade VET quality
- To enhance VET effectiveness
- To enhance VET attractiveness
- To achieve and maintain a high standard in vocational training
- To ensure and deploy VET infrastructure in public schools
- To enhance permeability and cross-border mobility in VET
Implementation of the reform proved to be a challenge as the establishing of the regulatory basis demanded laws/amendments, one presidential decree, eleven Joint Ministerial Decisions and eighteen Ministerial Decisions. Law 4610/2019 integrated all the amendments related to apprenticeship and addressed the issue of VET graduates' access to tertiary education. This issue needed to be addressed due to a recent restructure of tertiary education which led to Technical Education Institutions being merged in Universities. At this point, the legislative framework regulating upper secondary VET and apprenticeship is considered complete.
- Law 4186/2013: It lays the foundation for VET and the apprenticeship class (not implemented from 2013-2016).
- Law 4386/2016: It develops VET and its new structure and the post-secondary apprenticeship class.
- Ministerial Decision No 491/2017: It defines Apprenticeship Quality Framework
- Ministerial Decision No 490/2017: It defines VET Curricula Quality Framework (including vocational education, apprenticeship scheme, initial and continuous vocational training)
There are other types of workplace-based learning arrangements that do not fit under the scheme-specific sections that should be taken into consideration:
- Post-secondary vocational training institutes (public or private IEK) provide an option of six-month internships (as an alternative to apprenticeships, due to the lack of apprenticeship places and administrative issues).
- Secondary and post-secondary schools supervised by ministries of tourism and agriculture offer programs with strong workplace training elements that are not formally regarded as apprenticeships or their schemes enroll a very small number of students and are not further explored.
- Higher education studies may include internships.
Notable aspects of the variations in apprenticeship-type schemes in Greece:
- Institutes for Vocational Training in Tourism sector are subject to the responsibility of the Ministry of Tourism.
- Institutes for Vocational Training in Health sector are subject to the responsibility of the Ministry of Health
- EPAS apprenticeships In Agriculture sector are supervised exclusively by the Ministry of Rural Development and Food.
- Apprenticeships in Vocational Training Schools (SEK) were foreseen to replace the EPAS scheme but due to low interest, inter alia, they were permanently abolished on 31/8/2019.