The European Alliance for Apprenticeships: What role for VET providers? – Interview with Ms Dana Bachmann, European Commission, Head of Unit for Vocational Training and Adult Education, Erasmus+
What is the European Alliance for Apprenticeships? What are its goals? What is the contribution that VET providers can make?
The societal consequences of the economic crisis are now tangible in many European countries. Unprecedented high youth unemployment rates in several Member States underline the need for urgent action. This has drawn decision makers' attention to Vocational Education and Training (VET). Effective VET systems, in particular those that include a strong work-based learning component, appear to facilitate the transition of young people from education to work. Countries with strong, attractive VET systems, and especially those with well-established apprenticeship systems, tend to perform better in terms of youth employment.
The European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA) is a strong multi-stakeholder policy initiative, launched in July 2013, to spur youth employment, growth and competitiveness by increasing the quality, supply and image of apprenticeships.
The Alliance is supported by the first-ever joint Declaration signed by the European Commission, the Presidency of the EU's Council of Ministers and umbrella organisations of the European workers' and employers' organisations.
In addition, representatives from companies, Chambers, VET providers' associations and others signed pledges on how they intend to contribute to the Alliance. Pledges include actions such as increasing the number of apprenticeship placements, initiating pilot projects in countries that are introducing a dual VET pathway, increasing the numbers and quality in apprentice mobility and establishing new training programmes with a high work-based learning component. In this context, a network of business Ambassadors was set up to share the knowledge and experiences of these business professionals with other companies, in particular with small and medium sized businesses (SMEs). Its ultimate aim is to support the establishment of quality apprenticeships across Europe.
The Commission has a clear role in this process in facilitating interactions, monitoring developments and providing financial support . However, the real success of the Alliance mainly relies on the active engagement of all stakeholders involved.
VET providers therefore play a key role in raising awareness of this initiative in building bridges for cooperation with the world of work, and in creating strategic partnerships with sectorial organisations. VET providers are also crucial for the development of 'ad hoc' training programmes for learning in different environments and for the professional development of trainers and tutors in close cooperation with businesses. The commitment of VET providers is an indispensable condition for the creation of new apprenticeships and for the development of sustainable apprenticeship-type schemes and partnerships for 'dual' learning.
What are 'apprenticeships' in the framework of the Alliance?
Within the context of the Alliance, apprenticeships are defined as part of Initial Vocational Education and Training (I-VET); including post-secondary level. They foresee a formal combination and alternation between company-based training and school-based education leading to nationally recognised qualifications.
This does not mean that apprenticeships do not exist in other forms. The Alliance, fully acknowledges the diversity of VET systems and the different forms of apprenticeships. However, it puts the focus on quality training and sustainable reform of I-VET systems. It will ease the transition of young people from education and training to work, and it will significantly increase their future employability. Quality apprenticeships will not only be to the benefit of VET students and apprentices, but also help to increase the competitiveness of businesses.
What are the results expected in the short and long term?
In the short run, the Alliance aims to boost the offer and increase the attractiveness of apprenticeships in order to tackle the problem of high unemployment rates existing in most parts of Europe. This is done through exchanges of best practices and through facilitating cooperation and partnerships. It is therefore necessary to mobilise stakeholders to work together as there can be no successful apprenticeship system without close partnerships between public authorities, social partners and VET providers.
In the long run, the Alliance will not only contribute to sustainable reforms of initial VET systems. It will help reducing the high unemployment rates of young people through quality training closer to the labour market needs leading to better skills matching. Ultimately, such apprenticeship-type schemes are likely to contribute to increased tax revenue, less welfare payments, and higher levels of social inclusion and will be to the benefit of the society as a whole.
Do you wish to join the European Alliance for Apprenticeships?
The Commission invites all potential partners to join the EAfA: public authorities, businesses, providers of vocational and education training, social partners, chambers of commerce, industry and crafts, youth representatives and employment services at all levels of governance, European, national, regional and local. To find out more about the European Alliance for Apprenticeships, contact us via
Organisations wishing to join the EAfA can submit a pledge, showing how they intend to contribute to strengthening the supply, quality and/or attractiveness of apprenticeships across the EU. Bring visibility to your work!