European Alliance for Apprenticeships takes stock of achievements A high-level event of the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA) was held on 30 – 31 May in Malta, organised by the European Commission in cooperation with the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and supported by the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology and the Malta Chamber of Commerce. The event was dedicated to celebrating the four successful years of activity of the Alliance since it was first launched in 2013. The purpose of the conference was to take stock of the achievements of the Alliance while also showing its way forward. At the event over 200,000 apprenticeships, training and first-job offers were pledged by new EAfA members. With 34 new pledges, there are at present 208 pledges made by a variety of stakeholders at national, regional and EU level, such as companies, social partners, chambers, education and training providers, youth organisations and others. The objective of these pledges is to strengthen the quality, supply, image and mobility in apprenticeships in Europe. In this context, Commissioner Thyssen highlighted that "more than 700,000 offers have been mobilised since 2013", referring to all the offers pledged so far. The event also contained signing of national commitments by Portugal, Iceland and Serbia. The EAfA now embraces 35 countries, including 27 EU Member States, 3 EFTA and 5 Candidate countries. In addition, the event saw the launch of a new European Network of Apprentices in order to make the voice of young learners better heard on the subject. Results and future activities Supply Almost 2 in 3 EAfA pledges focus on increasing the supply of apprenticeships, demonstrating the efforts of Member States and other stakeholders to make more apprenticeships available. In addition, Member States have included apprenticeships in their Youth Guarantee schemes, leading to 390 000 offers under the Youth Guarantee by 2016. With EU funding, employers’ organisations undertook a study on the cost-effectiveness of apprenticeships, which is central to improving supply. Quality When developing apprenticeships, quality is crucial. 3 in 4 EAfA pledges focus on quality issues. The Education and Training 2020 Working Group on VET has developed a guidance document "High-performance apprenticeships & work-based learning: 20 guiding principles ". Furthermore, the European trade unions developed a study on a “European Quality Framework for Apprenticeships”, with the EU’s financial support. The Commission will propose a European framework for quality and effective apprenticeships to Member States in 2017. Image 3 in 5 EAfA pledges mention concrete actions to enhance the image of apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are too often seen as a second choice. To improve the image of vocational training, including apprenticeships, the Commission organised a European Vocational Skills Week and the first EAfA Awards in December 2016. These activities will be repeated in 2017. Many promotional activities have been organised also in Member States. Mobility 64 EAfA pledges focus on cross-border mobility. While Erasmus+ finances apprentice mobility, stakeholders have called for stronger EU support for long duration mobility. The Commission has announced an ‘Erasmus Pro’ action on this. From 2018, apprenticeships with a work contract will also be included in EURES – the European job mobility portal. More details on the achievements are also contained in a new summary report of a study taking stock of the achievements of the EAfA and a brochure published on 30 May. Under the New Skills Agenda for Europe, the Commission will continue to roll out measures that support quality and effective apprenticeships in Europe, in particular through support services which will include possibilities for knowledge sharing, networking and mutual learning. If you are interested in the Twitter debate, search for the hashtag #ApprenEU. You can also watch the conference again via this webstreaming link.