On 15-16 March 2021, EFEE attended the joint EAfA/ILO high level conference on “quality and effective apprenticeships and international labour standard on apprenticeships”. In light of the third anniversary of the adoption of the Council Recommendation on a European Framework on Quality and Effective Apprenticeship (EFQEA), a two- day virtual conference was held in order to take stock of the work done by the EU and the ILO and to set quality standards for apprenticeships.

The conference kicked-off with a presentation from Nobert Schöbel, Team Leader, Vocational and Training Apprenticeships and Adult Learning (European Commission) on the input to the EFQEA from the ET 2020 framework and European social partners. Over the last three years, Member State have agreed upon a common definition of apprenticeships, combining learning in education or training institutions with substantial work-based learning in companies, leading to a national recognition of qualification, based on agreement defining the rights and obligations of the apprentice and offering a remuneration or a compensation for the work-based component. The session was followed by two panel discussions, first of all on national reforms on apprenticeships, in particular in Belgium, Greece, China and Tanzania and secondly on the involvement of Social Partners. Speakers of the latter panel discussion came to the conclusion that participation of social partners into the design and implementation is a condition sine qua non for quality apprenticeships. Although social partners are already actively involved in a majority of countries, in some others, employers’ associations and trade unions do not necessarily get access to the bodies in charge of the design and implementation of apprenticeships or lack the capacities and skills to be taken on board. Adequate support must be therefore provided to social partners from the governments.

Among the highlights of the conference was a keynote intervention from Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for jobs and social rights. Commissioner Schmit emphasized on the necessity to support companies and SMEs in increasing the quality of apprenticeships and encouraged the Member States to build their recovery by investing in people, creating sustainable job opportunities and mobilising the EU available funds. Mr Schmit also underlined that the EQFEA has already triggered positive change but subsequent and immediate action is needed. To this end, the youth guarantee has been reinforced, at the European level, and collaboration between key actors, including the European Alliance for Apprenticeship along with ILO will be strengthened to promote the quality of apprenticeships and address the common challenges at the international level.

Two final panel discussions followed this intervention, one on the role of alliance and network in promoting quality apprenticeships around the world and one looking at the future of apprenticeships. During the first panel discussion, representatives from the ILO and the Commission shared the preliminary findings of a joint survey on national coalitions, which identified 30 coalitions in 13 countries that are helping to design, implement and promote apprenticeship schemes. To conclude when considering the future of apprenticeships, key solutions explored were to modernise and increase flexibility in the design of apprenticeships to match the ongoing changes in the labour market as well as to further advocate and promote quality apprenticeships.

For more details, please contact isaline.ossieur@educationemployers.eu