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Frequently asked questions

Last update: October 2017

About the Alliance

Launched in 2013, the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA) is a multi-stakeholder platform to strengthen the quality, supply, image and mobility of apprenticeships in Europe through national commitments and voluntary pledges from stakeholders.

At the launch, a Joint Declaration between the EU Presidency, the Commission and the European Social Partners was signed, acknowledging the aims of the Alliance, recognising the value and benefits of apprenticeships for youth employment, social inclusion, skills matching and economic competitiveness, stressing that apprenticeships are one of the main elements of the Youth Guarantee, and committing to concrete measures to strengthen apprenticeships.

This was followed by a Council Declaration, where Member States agreed to common guiding principles for quality apprenticeships, and individual pledges.

Apprenticeships are a particularly successful form of work-based learning, which is based on the following principles:

  • Apprenticeships are formal vocational education and training programmes;
  • Apprenticeships combine company-based training (periods of practical work experience at a workplace) with school-based education (periods of theoretical/ practical education in a school or training centre);
  • Apprenticeships lead to a nationally recognised qualification.

Most often there is a contractual relationship between the employer and the apprentice, with the apprentice being paid for his/her work.

Apprenticeships differ from other types of in-company learning, such as internships/traineeships, which are often outside formal education and training programmes, and not linked to recognised qualifications. For open market traineeships, a Quality Framework for Traineeships was adopted in 2014.

VET-systems with strong work-based learning, such as apprenticeships, are effective in easing the transition of young people into jobs.

By alternating between school and work, the apprentice develops the skills and knowledge that employers are looking for. This benefits the companies which get a better access to skilled workers. Typically, 60-70% of apprentices secure employment immediately upon completion, and training firms usually recoup their training investments by the end or shortly after the training period.

Moreover, countries with strong apprenticeship systems tend to have less youth unemployment than others.

The Alliance is open to all EU, EFTA and Candidate countries, and stakeholders from these countries.

All stakeholders involved in apprenticeships and contributing to the objectives of the Alliance can join. In addition to governments, members include businesses, social partners, chambers of commerce, industry and crafts, sectoral and professional organisations, vocational education and training (VET) providers, regions, youth and non-profit organizations, and research bodies.

Apprenticeships depend on the willingness of companies to engage with VET schools and training centres, and to invest in the future skills of young people. Larger companies are more likely to be active in this type of training. Across the EU, 44% of companies with more than 250 employees offer apprenticeships, compared to only 22% of companies with 10-49 employees.

At the same time, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), including micro-enterprises are the backbone of the European economy providing around 2/3 of private sector employment in Europe. They can face more difficulties in providing apprenticeship placements due to a lack of resources and personnel to supervise apprentices, as well as expertise to manage administrative requirements.

Supporting companies, and in particular SMEs, is crucial in order to boost the supply of apprenticeships across Europe. Member States have increased efforts focused on targeted support and enabling measures for SMEs involvement in apprenticeships along three lines of action:

  1. financial incentives;
  2. infrastructure and non-financial support;
  3. support to in- company trainers.

The Education and Training 2020 Working Group on Vocational Education and Training (VET) has developed a Guidance Framework on ‘Support for companies, in particular SMEs, offering apprenticeships', which will be published in 2015. The aim is to help Member States introduce or reform support for companies, in particular SMEs and micro enterprises, taking part in apprenticeship schemes. It includes seven principles:

Principles

Examples

1. Supporting measures that make apprenticeships more accessible to SMEs

Institutional setting with intermediary bodies, matching services

2. Finding the right balance between the specific skills needs of training companies and the general need to improve the employability of apprentices

Formal procedures for approval of training companies, involvement of social partners

 

3. Sharing costs and benefits that motivates training companies, VET schools and training centres as well as learners

Sectoral training funds managed by social partners, non-financial support

4. Focusing on companies having no experience with apprentices

Subsidies for an initial period, support through tailored training guidelines

 

5. Supporting companies providing apprenticeships for disadvantaged learners

 

Individualised coaching or mentoring, specific equipment eg for hearing impairment

 

6. Promoting systematic cooperation between VET schools, training centres and companies

 

Regular contacts/visits between all parties, theme specific or general partnerships

 

7. Motivating and supporting companies to assign qualified trainers and tutors

 

Recognise their identity and work, support their competence development

 

The Alliance is a platform for sharing experiences and learning from best practices. You can also find partners, promote your activities, develop new ideas and initiatives, and access the latest news and tools on apprenticeships. During EAfA networking meetings you will have the opportunity to inform the other members on your latest developments and activities.

Submitting the pledge

To get involved, all you need to do is to make a short pledge by using the standard template. You should clearly describe your aims and actions. You will receive our feedback and we will help you to finalise the pledge, before it will be published on our website.

The Alliance is a platform for sharing experiences and learning from best practices. You can also find partners, promote your activities, develop new ideas and initiatives, and access the latest news and tools on apprenticeships. During EAfA networking meetings you will have the opportunity to inform the other members on your latest developments and activities.

The pledge should demonstrate concrete commitment and actions that will strengthen apprenticeships. You can choose between one or more of the following objectives of the Alliance:

  • Increasing supply – How do you increase the number of apprenticeships offered by your organisation?
  • Improving the quality – How do you plan to raise the quality of apprenticeships? You may choose to develop new tools, schemes, research projects, studies etc.
  • Improving the image – How will you enhance the image of apprenticeships? Some of the options may include awareness campaigns, media involvement, new partnerships, research projects, etc.
  • Enhancing mobility – How will you enhance apprenticeship mobility between countries? How many apprentices will be involved in the mobility scheme? What type of mobility (e.g. short or long duration, EU scheme or private company scheme, etc.)?

If you are an employer providing apprenticeships and/or other labour market integration activities for migrants and refugees, please consider also joining the Employers together for Integration initiative.

Your pledge should be as concrete as possible, aiming to achieve a goal in one or more of the four EAfA objectives (supply, quality, image, mobility). After having identified the goal, applicants should indicate specific targets, indicators of success and a timeline, whenever possible. Moreover, the document should indicate how you want to achieve the goal set in the pledge.

Here are three examples:

"We pledge to increase the supply by offering n apprenticeships in the period 2017-2020, with an increase of 10% if compared with the period 2013-2016."

"We will enhance the quality of apprenticeships by funding a research project on work satisfaction of apprentices working in German SMEs"

"We pledge to improve the image of apprenticeships in the period 2017-2020 by involving local media in our region to share the success stories of our apprentices."

We suggest you to not exceed 2000 characters per item, most pledges are clear and to the point. Please consider that the finalised document will be published online. We would suggest producing a user-friendly brief description of your activities in order to reach out to those stakeholders within the Alliance that might be interested in your organisation.

All the pledges are in the online database. You will see that they vary in length and content. The most important is that your pledge is clear and shows ambition. Please find at these links (company, chamber, VET provider, social partner) four examples of pledges that might help you develop your pledge.

Joining the community

Once finalised, you become a member of the Alliance. As a member, you will be invited to attend and participate in our events. Moreover, you will benefit from access to:

  • Network – European network of apprenticeship experts
  • Learning – Sharing experiences and best practices
  • Tools – Guidelines, practical tools and resources
  • Information – News, reports, workshops, events and funding
  • Visibility – Visibility and publicity around your initiatives

The European Alliance for Apprenticeships will be your community to networking, exchanging good practices and learning from other stakeholders from all around Europe.

By joining the Alliance, you engage in a network for:

  • Promoting – Promote the value and benefits of apprenticeships
  • Networking – Join up with apprenticeship stakeholders and potential partners from across Europe
  • Sharing – Share learning and practices within the Alliance network and other stakeholders

The added value of the Alliance relies on the active involvement of its members and the quality of their inputs, particularly when it comes to EAfA meetings, workshops and conferences, EAfA Newsletter and social media and the yearly EAfA awards (companies and apprentices)

If you are participating in an EAfA networking meeting, you are requested to take part in a short online feedback survey (2-5 minutes). Once a year, you are also invited to participate in an on-line survey in relation to the implementation of your pledge (time-wise, the burden will be limited).

Pledges should not be funding applications or project proposals, and they do not give any preferential treatment in access to EU funds and instruments. By joining the Alliance, you may have easier access to information about EU funds and instruments through the EAFA Newsletter and the information sharing through social media.

However, a number of relevant funding schemes are available for apprenticeship projects.

Subscribe to our EAfA LinkedIn group to share your ideas, forthcoming activities and useful resources with other experts and stakeholders on apprenticeships. Our group currently engages more than 1,500 users.

Contribute to the latest developments on Twitter by using #ApprenEU.

Subscribe to the EAfA Newsletter, which is a tool open to all members to disseminate the latest developments on apprenticeships, as well as a source of information on the European Commission's activities related to the EAfA. Send us your contribution at EMPL-EAFA@ec.europa.eu.