• A
  • A
  • Bridging education and work

    - The EU is determined to prevent a ‘lost generation’ and reduce the number of youngsters that are unemployed and not studying. Apprenticeships and vocational training should bridge education and work, although “it is important to make sure they are not marketed as a panacea for youth unemployment”, industry states.

    The economic crisis has devastating effects on the life opportunities of young people. “A particular concern for us is the growing number of people that are neither in employment, nor in education and training, the so-called NEETs - 7.5 million under the age of 25, and 14 million under the age of 29. Many of them have simply lost all hope and stopped searching for a job altogether- a worrying sign of mistrust in our society and institutions”, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor said.

    Skills mismatch

    “These numbers tell us not only about the economic crisis but also about the challenges faced by our education and training systems. Too many young people today leave the system either with no qualifications, or with skills which do not match those expected and required by employers. This is particularly evident in certain sectors, such as ICT, the green economy and the health sector. The gap between the worlds of education and work is still too big”, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Androulla Vassiliou adds.

    “To reap the benefits of work-based learning, very close collaboration is needed between all actors involved, notably the companies and the schools where the education and training takes place, and social partners. Teachers and trainers are of course also at the heart of this. They need the competences to deliver high quality teaching and guidance in classrooms and in companies”, Vassiliou explains.

    Higher education still pays off

    Education at a Glance showed that countries with strong vocational training, like Germany, the Netherlands and Austria have less youth-unemployment than countries in which most students attend general upper secondary education.

    “However vocational training might reduce the chance of unemployment, it still pays off to pursue a degree in tertiary education. Especially in countries with world-class vocational education like Germany, it might be appealing to enroll in vocational training when you’re sixteen. For many students, working on BMW’s is more attractive than spending two more boring years at school. However, in the long term you have more benefits from higher education. On average, adults that have a degree in higher education earn 50% more than people with a degree in upper secondary education”, said OECD education-expert Andreas Schleicher.

    The European Commission sees a solution in more quality apprenticeship programs and proposed country-specific recommendations on apprenticeships and reforms in vocational training to sixteen countries. Seven other countries were asked to tackle the problems in their segmented labor market. “The Alliance for Apprenticeships is thus of highest political importance for the Commission. Let's be clear: developing dual learning systems will not be an immediate solution to the youth employment crisis, but it is a very important structural reform for the medium term, with which we must start now”, Andor stated.

    First-ever joint declaration

    The social partners of the European metal, engineering and technology-based industries, industriAll Europe and CEEMET welcome this focus on apprenticeships. “Nevertheless, it is important to make sure that apprenticeships and dual systems are not marketed as a panacea for youth unemployment. The benefits of the dual principle are real, but the implementation of such systems does not happen overnight and requires proper governance, including involvement of sectoral social partners and local industry. Not least, it requires companies with job and training vacancies that are able to provide high quality work-based learning reflecting labor market needs. Otherwise this type of training is unlikely to have the desired effect on youth employment.”

    By signing the joint Declaration, the European representatives of trade unions and employers have committed to focus their efforts in the next six months to:

    • Raise awareness of the benefits of apprenticeships to employers and to young people
    • Spread experience and good practice in their own organizations
    • Motivate and advise their member organizations on developing quality apprenticeships attuned to the skills needs of the labor market.

    They will also encourage their members to:

    • Cooperate with schools and employment services
    • Support training of in-company mentors and coaching of apprentices
    • Increase the supply and quality of apprenticeships

    The Commission has committed to:

    • Promote peer learning/review to support policy reform in Member States, in particular those with VET-related country-specific recommendations
    • Ensure the best use of EU funds to contribute to the objectives of the Alliance (support systems-level development, learning content and mobility of apprentices and staff)
    • Explore the inclusion of apprenticeships in the EURES network, in close cooperation with relevant stakeholders
    • Invite Eurochambres and other relevant stakeholders to pledge measures contributing to concrete delivery of the Alliance.

    The goal is to make the Youth Guarantee a reality as from 1st January 2014.