New apprenticeship law to improve access to employment
On 28 July 2011, the Italian government approved a reform to the law covering apprenticeships, which aims to help young more people into employment and redefines the terms of apprenticeships and how companies can use them. The document was written following consultations with the regions and social partners, who approved the text of the reform with two different agreements. Apprenticeships are now defined as open-ended contracts aimed at training young people.
Apprenticeships are designed to favour the gradual entry of young people aged between 15 and 29 into the labour market. The new reform aims to better clarify the legal and institutional position of apprenticeships.
The government consulted the regions and social partners before giving final approval to the document, and modifications which followed these dialogues led to two new agreements:
- Agreement of 7 July between regions and government (in Italian, 886Kb PDF);
- Agreement of 11 July between government and social partners (in Italian, 1015Kb PDF).
Previously, on 27 October 2010, an agreement had been signed between the government, regions, provinces and social partners to re-launch the apprenticeship contract, because the use of such contracts had fallen considerably in recent years (IT1102029I).
Main innovations of the reform
The Consolidated Act on Apprenticeships (in Italian, 51Kb PDF) sets out regulations that define apprenticeships as open-ended contracts aimed at training young people. It means that at the end of a vocational training period, if neither the employer nor apprentice withdraws from the agreement, the working relationship will continue and be considered open-ended.
Enterprises will also be able to hire workers on apprenticeship contracts with mobility in order to provide them with professional retraining.
The type and duration of the training, and also the number of apprentices that can be employed, will be established by national collective bargaining agreements covering the relevant sectors, and by intersectoral agreements. However, an employer can not hire more than one apprentice for every qualified or specialised worker. As for the pay of apprentices, their salary has to be at least two levels lower than the salary figure established in the national sectoral collective agreement. Alternatively, salary levels can be established at a specific percentage of the full salary.
Three types of contract are foreseen for all sectors.
Training apprenticeships for young people aged between 15 and 25 (it will be possible to substitute the final compulsory school year from 15 to 16 with an apprenticeship (IT1012019I)). The contract can last up to a maximum of three years (four in the case of regional diplomas). The training programme for these types of apprenticeship will be established by the regions, in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour (LPS) and the Ministry of Education.
Professional apprenticeships designed for young people aged 18 to 29 who require a form of professional training. This form of contract can also be used in the public sector. The contract can last no more than three years (five for artisans). The minimum length of contract and type of training will be established in collective and intersectoral agreements. The training organised by an apprentice’s company will be integrated with public training programmes aimed at providing basic professional skills, for a maximum of 120 hours spread throughout the three years of the apprenticeship.
Advanced training and research apprenticeships for people who require high levels of professional training in the field of research, doctorates and to enter professional associations. This type of apprenticeship is for young people aged 18 to 29 and can also be used in the public sector. The regulation and length of the apprenticeship is established by the regions, in agreement with regional employer associations, universities, technical and professional institutes and other training and research institutes.
In any of the above cases it will be possible to extend apprenticeships where periods of illness or injury last 30 days or more.
As the reform comes into force, three negotiating rounds will be set up. The first will regulate and monitor irregularities between apprenticeships and internships, the second will improve the regulation of project contracts and VAT numbers and the third will use the financial resources of the European Social Fund to promote apprenticeships and improve employment levels in general for young people.
Social partner reactions
Fulvio Fammoni, the Confederal Secretary of the General Confederation of Italian Workers (CGIL), is satisfied with the agreement because most of the suggestions made by his organisation were included in the new law regarding apprenticeships. In particular, he underlined the importance of reducing apprenticeships to a maximum of three years and the possibility of also establishing a minimum length.
For Giorgio Santini, the Confederal Secretary of the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Unions (CISL), the new act represents a considerable step forward, made possible through collaboration with the regions and social partners. It will transform apprenticeships into contracts that will help young people access employment.
The General Secretary of the Union of Italian Workers (UIL), Guglielmo Loy, also views the agreement positively.
Sofia Sanz, Cesos