4 years of the European Alliance for Apprenticeships

A high-level event was organised by the European Commission in close cooperation with the Maltese Presidency, with the support of  the Malta College of Arts Science and Technology and the Malta Chamber of Commerce on 30-31 May in Malta to celebrate the success of 4 years of the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA) and looking ahead. EPA has been a member of EAfA for 2 years now, and EPA was represented at the event by Vice President Claudio Masotti. 

After the launch of the Alliance in Leipzig in 2013, and the re-boost in Riga in 2015, this event marked 4 years of the Alliance. It gave particular attention to new members of the Alliance as well as to apprentices, highlighted through the launch of a new network of apprentices. Around 230 participants took part from all over Europe, including existing and new members of the Alliance, such as companies, social partners, VET providers, chambers, NGOs and youth organisations, as well as policy-makers from national, regional and European level.

Main Highlights of the event: 

Commitments: Portugal, Serbia and Iceland joined the Alliance in Malta by signing a commitment on their engagement in apprenticeships. Currently out of all Member States, EFTA and Candidate Countries, UK and Liechtenstein are the only ones that have not yet made a commitment. This means that altogether 27 Member States, 5 candidate countries and 3 EFTA countries have made commitments on reforms and actions to strengthen apprenticeships. 

Pledges: The number of pledges from across Europe increased from 174 pledges to above 208, with the pledge from the Maltese Chamber of commerce being "no. 200". 230,000 new apprenticeship offers were pledged at the event – 735,000 in total since 2013; 230 persons participated in the conference. 

Apprentices: The European Network of Apprentices was officially launched and more than 10% of the participants were apprentices or young people.

Social media and video: The plenary was web-streamed and shared online, and watched by over 570 viewers (top countries: DE, IT, MT, UK). A summary video is to follow. 430 tweets using #ApprenEU were registered during the conference (most of them were retweets), coming from approximately 150 users and reaching more than 1 million unique users. The Facebook Live session reached almost 30 000 people and was watched by almost 7 000 people.

Concluding remarks:

The event created very positive momentum combining policy, practice examples and content around the 4 year anniversary of the European Alliance for Apprenticeships.

A critical mass has now been reached in terms of pledges and national commitments, with nearly all countries on board.

As a next step, the European Framework for Quality and Effective Apprenticeships should be adopted in the second half of the year. The apprenticeship support services will be rolled out and a 5 year EAfA event was announced for 2018.

Follow-up and up-coming events

EAfA meeting jointly organised with the Basque government and Petronor in Spain on 14-15 September and EAFA Regional Seminar with candidate countries in Montenegro on 26-27 October. Expressions of interest to follow for a limited number of reimbursed places.

EAfA meeting in Brussels on 22 November in the context of the 2nd European Vocational Skills Week. Focus on digital skills, but also presenting the candidates for the EAfA Awards.

Upcoming EAfA newsletter: contributions to be sent by end of June to EMPL-EAFA@ec.europa.eu

A new Erasmus+ Call for proposals on "Joint qualifications in vocational education and training including at higher level" will be launched in the autumn.

Summary of the sessions 

Day 1

Welcome session
The moderator Tamsin Rose welcomed participants and introduced the agenda.
Dr Silvio De Bono, President Board of Governors, MCAST: Stressed the importance of MCAST involvement with local companies to enable quality and effective apprenticeships and also mentioned the success of a former MCAST student who was now a successful singer.
Mr Evarist Bartolo, Minister for Education and Employment of Malta: Underlined the significance of apprenticeships and soft skills for social cohesion.
Video message by Ms Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Labour Mobility and Inclusion: Recalled the key steps and growth of the Alliance from the launch in Leipzig via Riga and now Malta and also announced new initiatives to support the Alliance (e.g. European Framework for Quality and Effective Apprenticeships, ErasmusPro and the apprenticeship support services).

From Leipzig to Valletta – 4 years of EAfA: Highlights from stakeholders of the Alliance
This session gave an overview of the milestones within the EAFA from the perspective of stakeholders.
Ms Frédérique Naulette, Ms Monique Abela, Mr Frederico Milanetti – Nestlé: As one of the founding members of the EAfA they gave an update on their European-wide Alliance for Youth initiative involving over 200 companies and enabling over 115,000 youth opportunities including apprenticeships and how they set up apprenticeships in Nestlé Malta cooperating with MCAST.
Mr Jürgen Siebel, Ms Kim Morgan, Mr Agostino Trotta – Siemens: As a very experienced provider of apprenticeships they presented the Europeans@Siemens apprenticeship programme which was now expanding to countries beyond Europe (e.g. Africa). Two former graduate apprentices of the programme gave testimonials about their positive experience and who had now successfully found jobs in other countries; they also recalled some of the highlights of Siemens' involvement of the Alliance, such as the model Atomium built by apprentices for the Vocational Skills Week in 2016.
Ms Sarah Foxall- Microsoft: Presented the award winning apprenticeship scheme in the UK in which thousands of employers had participated, in particular SMEs and which enabled cost-return for them. She also pointed to the evolving apprenticeship legislation and standards in the UK.
Mr Menno Bart – Adecco: Explained their participation in EAFA was part of a broader institutional commitment, such as membership of the Nestlé Alliance for Youth and the Global Apprenticeship Network. He outlined their strategic priorities, including the need to convince companies to invest in apprenticeships - which is where the EAFA can help -, to better connect education reforms to businesses and social innovation.
Ms Gertrud Hirtreiter, Ms Céline Windmüller, Mr Torben Jucknat- German Confederation of Skilled Crafts: as EAFA member since Riga in 2015 they stressed the role of the SME sector in apprenticeships and presented their video on "Einfach machen – just do it" aimed at providing information and raising the image of apprenticeships. The two former apprentices also highlighted a positive experience from Erasmus+ VET mobility.
Ms Maria Todorova, Ministry of Education, Mr Alexander Chobanov, Assarel-Medet JSC – Bulgaria: the Ministry pointed to the upcoming EU Presidency of Bulgaria in the first half of 2018 and referred to the key VET reforms in recent years and that apprenticeships were part of the formal system and employers were now also paying for apprenticeships and involved in the governance. The company is a newcomer to the Alliance and he reported on apprenticeships in the mining copper industry in Bulgaria and that employers investments aimed at keeping Bulgarian apprentices in the country.
Ms Jugatx Ortiz, Mr Indalecio Estrada Lozano – EARLALL: Underlined in particular the role of regions to develop VET learner mobility and their new European working group on foreign language and acquisition of marketable skills in VET.
Ms Clémence Lemonnier, Ms Georgiana Enculescu - Riga 2015 Apprentices: Both former apprentices reported on the professional developments and new opportunities in their career since.
Mr Joaquim Santos, Mr José Luís Rodrigues Maia - National Federation of Education, Portugal: explained the progress in Portugal on apprenticeships and the role of the federation in this respect, while the apprentice reported on the cultural and social skills learnt in Austria.
Mr Martin Schmid - Austrian Federal Economic Chamber: Gave an update on apprenticeship pilot projects conducted with the involvement of the Chamber in other countries and showed their video "Deine Lehre – your apprenticeship" to promote the Austrian dual VET system to young people including with a migrant background.

From commitments to action - developments across Member States
Mr James Calleja, Director, Cedefop: Presented the national priorities reported by Member States in the field of VET with references to the medium-term Riga VET priorities, the work done by Cedefop on the thematic reviews on apprenticeships and outlined concrete actions at Member State level.
Towards a European Framework on Quality and Effective Apprenticeships
Contributions from European Social partners: Mr Robert Plummer, Senior Adviser, Businesseurope, Ms Liliane Volozinskis, Director, UEAPME, Ms Agnes Roman, Policy Adviser, ETUC: As founding members of the EAFA the social partners outlined the large body of evidence they have produced on apprenticeships since Leipzig and in particular the joint projects on apprenticeships on cost-effective (employers) and quality (trade unions) which have brought forward the knowledge and understanding on apprenticeships in Europe. Building on this work, the European Commission is preparing a proposal for a Council Recommendation on a European Framework for Quality and Effective Apprenticeships

Balancing quality and quantity in apprenticeships
Mr Arnaldo Abruzzini,CEO, EUROCHAMBRES: Presented the perspective of the chambers of commerce and industry. He underlined the role of SMEs in apprenticeships, including through the support of intermediary bodies, such as Chambers and called for a quantitative target on apprenticeships in Europe.

Evening reception at the Malta Chamber of Commerce
Welcome by Mr Frank V. Farrugia, President of the Chamber and Mr Eckert, Director Skills, DG EMPL : Mr Farrugia underlined the importance of the EAFA for mobilising apprenticeships in Europe. He also thanked Cedefop for the valuable policy review on apprenticeships carried out in Malta. Mr Eckert thanked the Chamber for their new commitment to the Alliance, signed as the 200th pledge.

Day 2

EAfA@MALTA – Where do we go from here?
The aim was to discuss how to implement quality and effective apprenticeships in future and reflect also on the next objectives of the EAFA. In this context, the moderator Tamsin Rose presented some elements from the new study on the European Alliance for Apprenticeships which had been informed through EAFA stakeholder input.
Ms Karin Ruul, Ms Ilze Buligina - Baltic Alliance for Apprenticeship and Work-based learning: Latvia mentioned the Erasmus+ project on the "Baltic Alliance on WBL" increasing notably the numbers of students and employers involved in apprenticeships, a new Baltic project on teachers and trainers and pointed to 15 new EAFA pledges from Latvia. Estonia gave the priorities their EU Presidency in the second half of 2017, underlined a 3x increase of apprenticeships and pledged to move forward with the upcoming European Framework on Quality and Effective Apprenticeships.
Ms Kornelia Haugg - Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany: Referred to the bilateral activities and cooperation with other Member States since 2012 with the Memorandum of Understanding on VET and mentioned the Apprenticeship Toolbox developed by 5 dual VET countries. She highlighted the role of the state to prepare refugees for apprenticeships (e.g. language learning, cultural values) and the cooperation with the public employment services and crafts chambers.
Ms Cristina Cofacci - Enel: Presented the good practice how Enel worked with the Italian Education Ministry to introduce apprenticeships in 7 Italian regions three years ago, the commitment to help train other companies on apprenticeships, such as SMEs, the pertinence of health and safety at work and the need to better tackle the issue of early school leavers.
Mr Eckhard Vetter - Heinrich Weber Construction Company: Presented his family business which was a medium-sized company with 80 employees representing 10 different nationalities and has a long tradition in apprenticeships including dual degrees. Entrepreneurship was an important topic since every small company had to be very entrepreneurial and getting employers to invest in apprenticeships needed effective economic policy.
Ms Virpi Spangar - Oulu Vocational College: Underlined the good cooperation with employers to adapt curricula to changing labour market needs and individual needs of learners, as well as a balance between transversal and specific skills.
Mr Claudio Masotti - European Parents Association: Stressed the necessity to provide a range of education and training opportunities to young people and their parents and the role of social inclusion in apprenticeships including for disabled people to unleash creativity.
Ms Clara Bassols - Fundación Bertelsmann: Showed the Spanish Alliance for Apprenticeships as a good practice at national level cooperating to mobilise hundreds of companies and VET providers to expand apprenticeships without additional financing and helping to implement the changes of the 2012 legal act on apprenticeships.
The debate with the audience highlighted some particular issues, such as broadening the social inclusion topic to those with special needs, boosting entrepreneurship and setting-up companies, as well as "degree apprenticeships" and exposure to higher education.

Boosting VET mobility
Mr Jean-André Lasserre, Vice-President, NETINVET: Presented the lessons learnt from activities and projects undertaken by the Network of VET learners promoting European VET mobility for learners in international trade, transport and logistics.
Mr Joao Santos, Deputy Head of Unit, DG EMPL: Gave an update on VET mobility in Europe which has benefited 1.5 million VET learners and staff to date and outlined the plans for the ErasmusPRO initiative aimed at strengthening long-term mobility of apprentices for more than 3 months which was expected to be particularly beneficial for acquiring relevant skills for the labour market.

Apprenticeships support services: Making it happen!
Mr Felix Borg, Head of Division Corporate Planning, Jobsplus, Malta: Outlined the lessons learnt on bench-learning in the context of the European Public Employment Services (PES) Network. The PES was involved in implementing the Youth Guarantee, which includes an apprenticeship offer, and with the help of quantitative and qualitative indicators the idea was to determine whether systems and practices being adopted actually worked, but it did not mean an overall assessment of PES' results.
Ms Dana-Carmen Bachmann, Head of Unit, DG EMPL: On the way forward, she emphasised ownership and commitment during the process in order to produce systematic and successful reforms. The PES work to bring together peers could inspire the EAFA, but it was not imposed. A study would be undertaken and some challenges needed to be addressed, such as ensuring a coordinated network before the launch in mid-2018.

Launch of a new European Network of Apprentices
Introduction by Ms Zuzana Vaneckova, Board Member, European Youth Forum and Lasse Sjøbeck, Board Member, OBESSU and moderation by Ms Ela Jakubek, Secretary General, OBESSU.
During the interactive part the network members asked some questions to the floor via an online real time survey application. A video showcased apprentices’ personal stories on some of the issues raised. The apprentices also expressed 7 key priorities for the network:
 Quality education and Quality assurance
 Rights and protection
 Legally binding agreements
 Representation
 Promoting apprenticeships
 Anti-discrimination
 Accessible information
Finally, there was a ceremony launching the network aimed at better expressing the needs of VET learners in Europe.

Two side meetings involving apprentices also took place in the context of the event: one of the members of the network and a joint one of the Network members and the other apprentices participating in the event.

Welcoming newcomers

The new national commitments and pledge were signed, with some short statements from selected stakeholders from the following organisations:

National Commitments: Portugal, Iceland and Serbia joined, with a short statement from the European Training Foundation.
Regional and public authorities: Authority for Transport in Malta , Castile and León Region and Lombardy Region, Metropolitan City of Rome Capital , Veneto Region
Companies and businesses organisations: Actavis Limited, Airbus, Assarel Medet, Association Hotels and Restaurants Latvia, Bankia, S.A., British Telecom, Carrefour Group, Erciyes Teknopark, HansaMatrix JSC, Gestamp Technology Institute, Latvenergo Group, Lufthansa Technik Malta, Motherwell Bridge Industries Limited
Social partners: Employer’s Confederation of Latvia, General Workers Union & The Reggie Miller Foundation
Chambers: GRTU Malta Chamber of SMEs, The Malta Chamber of Commerce
Non-profit and youth organizations: CIOFS Formazione Professionale, CORE Platform – Corporate Citizenship for Responsible Enterprises, EuropeActive, Fédération genevoise des métiers du bâtiment, Latvian Agricultural Organization Cooperation Council, Partnership for Young London, Swisscontact, Youth ProAktive
VET Providers: Centro Studi "Cultura Sviluppo", CCCA-BTP, ENAIP NET, E.N.F.A.P. Marche

This was followed by a performance of Maltese VET learners from MCAST. Optional site visits took place in 5 different companies in key sectors of the Maltese economy namely Motherwell Bridge- shipping, Actavis - pharmaceuticals, Seifert system - manufacturing, SR Technics – aviation and Go – Telecommunications.

Source: European Commission

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