In March, the European Council adopted a recommendation on a framework for quality and effective apprenticeships that aims to help young people enter the world of work. The recommendation encourages the development of a highly skilled and qualified workforce that is responsive to the needs of the labour market. By applying common criteria for the quality and effectiveness of apprenticeships, member states will be better able to develop and promote their national apprenticeship schemes. The criteria are described as follows:
Criteria for learning and working conditions
- Before the start of the apprenticeship, a written agreement should be concluded to define the rights and obligations of the apprentice, the employer, and where appropriate the vocational education and training institution, related to learning and working conditions.
- The delivery of a set of comprehensive learning outcomes defined in accordance with national legislation should be agreed by the employers and vocational education and training institutions and, where appropriate, trade unions. This should ensure a balance between job-specific skills, knowledge, and key competences for lifelong learning supporting both the personal development and lifelong career opportunities of the apprentices with a view to adapt to changing career patterns.
- In-company trainers should be designated and tasked to cooperate closely with vocational education and training institutions and teachers to provide guidance to apprentices and to ensure mutual and regular feedback. Teachers, trainers and mentors, especially in micro-, small-, and medium-sized companies, should be supported to update their skills, knowledge, and competences in order to train apprentices according to the latest teaching and training methods and labour market needs.
- A substantial part of the apprenticeship, meaning at least half of it, should be carried out in the workplace with, where possible, the opportunity to undertake a part of the workplace experience abroad. Taking into account the diversity of national schemes, the aim is to progress gradually towards that share of the apprenticeship being workplace learning.
Pay and/or compensation
- Apprentices should be paid or otherwise compensated, in line with national or sectoral requirements or collective agreements where they exist, and taking into account arrangements on cost-sharing between employers and public authorities.
- Apprentices should be entitled to social protection, including necessary insurance, in line with national legislation.
Work, health, and safety conditions
- The host workplace should comply with relevant rules and regulations on working conditions, in particular health and safety legislation.
Criteria for framework conditions
- A clear and consistent regulatory framework should be in place based on a fair and equitable partnership approach, including a structured and transparent dialogue among all relevant stakeholders. This may include accreditation procedures for companies and workplaces that offer apprenticeships and/or other quality assurance measures.
Involvement of social partners
- Social partners, including, where relevant, at sectoral level and/or intermediary bodies, should be involved in the design, governance, and implementation of apprenticeship schemes, in line with national industrial relations systems and education and training practices.
Support for companies
- Financial and/or non-financial support should be envisaged, particularly for micro-, small-, and medium-sized companies, enabling cost-effective apprenticeships for companies, taking into account, when appropriate, cost-sharing arrangements between employers and public authorities.
Flexible pathways and mobility
- To facilitate access, entry requirements for apprenticeships should take into account relevant informal and non-formal learning and/or, if relevant, the accomplishment of preparatory programmes. Qualifications acquired through apprenticeships should be included in nationally recognised qualification frameworks referenced to the European Qualifications Framework. Apprenticeships should allow access to other learning opportunities, including at higher education and training levels, career pathways and/or, where relevant, the accumulation of units of learning outcomes. Transnational mobility of apprentices, either at the workplace or education and training institutions, should be progressively promoted as a component of apprenticeship qualifications.
Career guidance and awareness raising
- Career guidance, mentoring and learner support should be provided before and during the apprenticeship to ensure successful outcomes, to prevent and reduce dropouts as well as support those learners to reengage in relevant education and training pathways. Apprenticeships should be promoted as an attractive learning pathway through widely targeted awareness-raising activities.
- The transparency of, and access to, apprenticeship offers within and between Member States should be ensured, including with the support of public and private employment services as well as other relevant bodies, and, when appropriate, by using EU tools such as EURES as provided for in the EURES regulation.
Quality assurance and tracking of apprentices
- Quality assurance approaches should be in place taking into account the European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for Vocational Education and Training (EQAVET), including a process allowing a valid and reliable assessment of the learning outcomes. The tracking of employment and career progression of the apprentices should be pursued, in accordance with national and European legislation on data protection.
Implementation at national level
Within the scope of this Recommendation, for its implementation Member States should:
- Promote the active involvement of social partners in the design, governance and implementation of apprenticeship schemes, in line with national industrial relations systems and education and training practices;
- Ensure equal access, promote gender balance and tackle discrimination in apprenticeship schemes;
- Include the relevant implementing measures in the National Reform Programmes under the
- Take into account this framework when making use of EU funds and instruments supporting apprenticeships.
The Commission should provide the necessary support, including through the following actions:
- Developing a set of support services for knowledge sharing, networking, and mutual learning to assist Member States and relevant stakeholders to implement apprenticeship schemes in line with this Framework. This should include the further training needs of VET teachers and trainers regarding digital innovations in apprenticeships.
- Promoting the excellence and attractiveness of apprenticeships, as well as a positive image among young people, their families, and employers, through awareness-raising campaigns such as the European Vocational Skills Week;
- Supporting the implementation of this Recommendation through relevant EU funding, in accordance with the relevant legal framework;
- Monitoring the implementation of this Recommendation with the support of the tripartite
Advisory Committee on Vocational Training, building on the existing monitoring instruments used in the framework of the European Semester;
- Reporting to the Council on the implementation of the Framework within three years from the date of its adoption.
The content of this blog article is kindly provided by ENQA