EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life


A 2012 European Commission report (4.77 MB PDF) on the nature and extent of apprenticeship schemes in Member States of the European Union defines such schemes as ‘forms of Initial Vocational Education and Training (IVET) that formally combine and alternate company-based training (periods of practical work experience at a workplace) with school-based education (periods of theoretical/practical education followed in a school or training centre), and whose successful completion leads to nationally recognised initial VET certification degrees’.

According to the report, 24 EU Member States have VET schemes in place which are mainly company-based, in the sense that more than half of the training activities take place in a company. However, in a majority of these countries, company-based apprenticeships coexist with other, mainly school-based, training schemes. In these cases, tuition takes place in a formal educational setting most of the time, but significant components of training are carried out at companies in a real work setting.

Apprenticeships are viewed by the EU institutions as a valuable tool to help young people enter the labour market. They are seen as especially significant in the context of high and rising youth unemployment in the EU.

The Commission’s 2012 report puts forward the following recommendations for policy action:

  • maintaining homogeneous quality standards for apprenticeship-type studies;
  • ensuring a balance between specific occupational skills and general skills and competences;
  • involving the social partners in the design and organisation of apprenticeships, as this is a key factor in their success;
  • taking initiatives to improve the general image of the vocational education system among students.

The Commission’s 2012 Communication Moving Youth into Employment points to three main success factors for apprenticeship schemes:

  • building of effective partnerships between vocational education and training (VET), schools/institutions and companies, with the involvement of the social partners;
  • ensuring that both the qualification gained and the learning process is of high quality to exploit the full potential of apprenticeships and that this model is recognised as a valuable learning pathway, transferable across borders, and opening up access to high-skilled jobs;
  • integrating apprenticeships into the national or regional education and training system, based on a clear regulatory framework.

In the Communication, the Commission commits itself to creating a European Alliance for Apprenticeships, which would bring together stakeholders from authorities, business and social partners, VET researchers and practitioners, and youth representatives. It would also encourage successful apprenticeship schemes and put forward ways to create more of them.

Moreover, the alliance would also help to develop common dual training curricula for various professions, facilitate recognition of apprenticeships undertaken abroad and promote an appropriate regulatory framework.

See also: European Employment Strategy; Traineeship; Young workers; Youth on the move.

Please note: the European industrial relations dictionary is updated annually. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them.
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