Apprenticeship is intended to aid the gradual insertion of young people into the world of work. According to Law No. 25/1955, it can be defined as a special employment relationship whereby employers undertake to instruct (or provide instruction for) an apprentice taken on by them within their enterprise, such that the apprentice can acquire the technical capability to become a skilled worker, by making use of work within the enterprise itself.
The provisions laid down in Law No. 25/1955 have been amended several times: the most recent changes were introduced by Articles 21 and 22 of Law No. 56/1987.
Young persons aged between 14 and 21 can be taken on as apprentices, the only exception being in the artisanal sector, where collective agreements can raise the maximum age to 29 years for occupations requiring a high level of skill.
The young person's training includes both periods of practical instruction, intended to provide the apprentice with the skills required for the work, and periods of theoretical tuition, designed to provide an organized framework for the knowledge acquired during the practical work experience. The division of time between practical instruction and theoretical tuition is established by collective bargaining.
In order to promote the spread of the apprenticeship system, the law allows employers to benefit from the relaxation of regulations (the employer is permitted to recruit apprentices by name) as well as economic advantages (substantial state assistance towards social security contributions).
Also, under the system of collective bargaining in the artisanal sector apprentices receive much lower pay than skilled workers.