Italy: Framework agreements signed to strengthen school-to-work transitions

The Italian government plans to strengthen school-to-work transitions by means of apprenticeship contracts. Therefore, an experimental plan allows students to spend training periods within companies. In order to implement this plan, public institutions and a firm or an employer organisation are required to set up framework agreements. Two such agreements have been signed to date.

Introducing apprenticeships contracts

Decree Law No. 104 of 12 September 2013 on ‘Urgent measures on matters of education, university and research’, converted into Law No. 128 of 8 November 2013, aims to strengthen school-to-work transitions by setting up an experimental plan in 2014–2016 allowing students in the last two years of upper secondary education to spend training periods within companies via apprenticeship contracts.

Legislative Decree No. 167 of 14 September 2011, referred to as the Consolidated Act on Apprenticeships (Testo Unico (TU) sull’apprendistato), sets out three different kinds of apprenticeship contract. Law 128/2013 aims to foster school-to-work transitions especially by means of the so-called higher education and research apprenticeship (apprendistato di alta formazione e ricerca). According to Section 5 of the Consolidated Act on Apprenticeships, this kind of apprenticeship contract will allow the workers involved to gain an upper secondary school diploma or an academic degree, including a PhD. Companies can set up an apprenticeship contract with individuals between the ages of 18 and 29.

Experimental project underway

Law 128/2013 entitles the Ministry of Education, University and Research, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Economy and Finance to enact a decree establishing the implementing regulation. Therefore, Interministerial Decree No. 473 of 17 June 2014 provides for an experimental programme in the period 2014–2016 aimed at easing training periods in firms, addressed to the students in the fourth and fifth years of upper secondary professional and technical schools. Through this programme, students will be allowed to obtain an upper secondary school diploma and at the same time enter the labour market.

According to Section 4 of the Interministerial Decree, a framework agreement must be entered into by the Ministry of Education, University and Research, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and/or a Region, and a firm or an employer organisation. Within these provisions, upper secondary education schools can sign an agreement with public or privately owned firms interested in the programme.

The educational courses, with a flexible structure and involving both classroom training and workplace learning, are designed jointly by the school and the firm. Up to 35% of the annual timetable can be used for workplace training activities. However, implementing the programme must not imply layoffs. Training activities will be organised in line with the student’s educational and professional interests.

Each student will have a personalised training plan that integrates classroom training with professional skills gained during workplace training. Workplace activities are part of the training process and are relevant for admission to the final examinations, pursuant to the assessment and certification of the skills procedure by Presidential Decree No. 122 of 22 June 2009. Each student will be assigned a tutor designated by the company and a tutor selected by the school, among the teachers. Both tutors will follow specific and appropriate training activities, including activities organised by the company. Classes will be set up depending on whether the students will participate in school-to-work transition projects.

Law 128/2013 does not introduce new study courses or curricula, as the experimental programme operates within the current upper secondary education system. Nor has a new kind of apprenticeship contract been introduced. The experimental project is fully integrated in the apprenticeship scheme, as defined in Legislative Decree 167/2011.

In the event of an early termination of the apprenticeship contract, students are allowed to leave the experimental project and to resume their study programme.

All costs arising from the conclusion of apprenticeship contracts shall be borne by the companies and should not create any new or additional burdens on public finances.

Framework agreement in metalworking sector

On 12 June 2014, the Ministry of Education, University and Research and the Federation of Metalworking Industries (Federmeccanica) signed a framework agreement as defined in Section 4 of Interministerial Decree 473/2014. The agreement aims to foster collaboration between firms and schools, reducing the mismatch between labour market demand and supply.

The pilot project called ‘Traineeship’ involves Federmeccanica member companies (about 16,000 firms employing 800,000 workers) and is available to students in the last year of upper secondary technical and professional education. The courses of study involved are mechanics, maintenance, technical support, transportation and logistics, electronics, electrotechnics, information technology and telecommunications.

About 100 technical and professional schools will be involved over the 2015–2017 period (50 are expected to join the programme within the first year) across the country (at least one school in each region).

Framework agreement in energy sector

In July 2014, the Ministry of Education, University and Research and the Italian electric utility company ENEL also signed a framework agreement according to Section 4 of Interministerial Decree 473/2014. The agreement will involve 145 students in the last two years of upper secondary education and seven technical upper secondary schools across Italy.

Students will spend one day a week within the firm (280 hours per school year) and will work during the summer. At the end of the fifth year, after achieving the school diploma, a second apprenticeship programme lasting one year is scheduled for deserving students.

Commentary

Decree Law 104/2013 aims to promote school-to-work transitions. This practice has been tried successfully in other EU Member States but it is almost unheard of in Italy. This provision represents an innovation in the Italian school system, and could be a response to the alarming level of youth unemployment at present. For these reasons, improving school-to-work transitions is one of the aims of the guidelines for education reform proposed by the Italian government on 3 September 2014. The education reform, in fact, is expected to improve apprenticeships during the last two years of secondary school pursuant to Decree Law 104/2013.

The procedure involved in this particular kind of apprenticeship contract may entail the risk that only large companies will use them. The involvement of employer organisations will be crucial to foster participation of small and medium enterprises in the project.

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