Work-based learning is high on the policy agenda all around the world. It improves training quality and learning-transfer, reduces skills mismatches and smoothens school-to-work transition. The term work-based learning refers to learning in a company. Apprenticeships/Dual VET, internships and traineeships are common types of work-based learning. They combine systemic learning in a company with systematic learning in the classroom. The ILO has coined the term Quality Apprenticeship. In Central and Eastern Europe, the terms Dual Education or Dual VET are commonly used.
Quality Apprenticeship - six building blocks
1. Meaningful Social Dialogue: Workers’ and Employers’ Organisations actively participate in shaping the system.
2. A robust regulatory framework that lays the basis for the design of the system and defines e.g. social protection and the legal status of students.
3. Clear Roles and Responsibilities: Clear mechanisms for collaboration between social partners, companies, public authorities and VET schools.
4. Equitable funding arrangements: Costs and benefits for public authorities and employers are well-understood and shared by all parties.
5. Strong labour market relevance based on a demand-driven design of occupational profiles, training plans and curricula.
6. Inclusiveness: Gender-sensitivity and access for disadvantaged groups promote equality, uncover hidden potential and stimulate social responsibility.
Dual VET is a unique type of work-based learning. It can take different forms across countries, but all have common traits: Over the whole training period, a large portion of the learning (e.g. 1 -3 days per week) takes place at a company¹. This is complemented by school-based learning. Dual VET is governed by a contract, follows a full learning cycle for a registered occupation and leads to a recognised qualification.
Montenegro is the first country in the Western Balkans to nationally roll-out Dual VET. In 2017, a Dual Track was introduced in the 3-year VET training (in parallel to the existing school-based track) track. It was established simultaneously for students in the first, second and third year of training. During the first year, students learn one day per week at the company, in the second year it is two and in the third year three days per week. Dual VET in Montenegro is based on the European Framework for Quality and Effective Apprenticeships, which reflects the ILO’s six building blocks of Quality Apprenticeship. The evaluation by ILO and ETF shows that Dual VET in Montenegro is effective and delivers good results. However, fine-tuning is necessary. Here is a selection of the most important findings:
• Popularity: Dual VET is popular among employers and students alike. The total enrolments started with 277 students in 2017/2018. In 2019/2020, 848 students are being trained with 280 employers in 20 different occupations, e.g. chef, waiter, mechanic, electrician, salesperson, hairdresser, sanitary equipment and heating / air-conditioning fitter. Companies’ primary motivation is to train future employees and to increase company reputation. Low labour costs were not an important factor. For young people, Dual VET is attractive because they receive a monthly remuneration², gain work experience and learn skills that are relevant on the labour market.
• Employability: Overall 56% of Dual VET students of the first two academic years (2017/2018 and 2018/2019) found employment after graduation, as compared to 30% of students from school-based VET³. As a result of the evaluation, 88% of the employers indicated they planned to recruit the students currently in training. Companies confirmed that Dual VET is effective for transferring the skills needed in the occupation: Dual VET students perform better than students in the school-based VET track (who do several weeks of internship per year, but acquire most of their practical skills at the VET school).
• Cooperation between learning venues: Communication and cooperation between companies and VET schools is crucial. Planning of in-company training is done jointly by the VET school coordinators (generally the practical training teachers) and the in-company tutors. There is a good alignment of both learning venues, but also room for improving synchronisation. Some occupations would benefit from a more flexible alternation between VET school and company. VET school coordinators regularly visits the companies, but companies often perceive the visits too short for effective coordination. Last but not least, there will always be a certain lack of alignment, because of the differences in work organisation and technologies applied by each company.
• In-company tutors: Well-trained tutors are instrumental in securing learning success and higher productivity of students. A pedagogical course has been developed for in-company tutors. However 65% indicated they did not receive any training at all and 50% of those who did expressed, they felt not effectively prepared. 30% of the in-company tutors indicated they lack the necessary skills to train students. Their main problems relate to motivating students, planning practical training and involving other workers. The evaluation also suggests that company management needs to be more active in sending tutors to pedagogical training. Tutors also show weaknesses in assessing students’ learning progress and achievements. Many of them see their role as an extra-duty for which they do not receive additional pay or other type of recognition.
• Social Dialogue: Close coordination between governments, employers’ and workers’ organisations is critical. In Montenegro, both Social Partners participated actively in designing regulations, e.g. on working conditions and the rights and duties of companies and of students. Dual VET students enjoy a high degree of protection and a good induction into occupational safety and health. Besides their work obligations, they received sufficient support to study and prepare for exams. However, Social Partners could play a more active role, e.g. in licensing in-company tutors, in company selection, providing guidance for companies, as well as in monitoring and evaluation.
• Employers’ participation: A significant part of the companies indicated they did not receive sufficient information and wish for more guidance on implementing Dual VET and companies’ rights and obligations. Dual VET should also be offered for those sectors with labour shortages, e.g. in construction. SMEs face obstacles in providing training places, e.g. in covering the entire training curriculum, as well as in financing salaries during the third training year. This could pose a problem for further expanding Dual VET, as SMEs make up 99% of the total number of enterprises.
• Financial aspects: In the academic years of 2018/2019 and 2019/2020, the number of Dual VET students decreased by ca. 30% in the third training year. It is yet unclear if this is due to a lack of companies’ capacity to pay student salaries in the third year⁴. During the evaluation, companies did not indicate student salaries as major obstacle. At the same time, they remarked a lack of financial incentives, such as tax cuts. As noted before, financing is critical for SME participation. Financial aspects need to be better analysed and adapted to the capacities of different types of companies.
Constant adaptation and fine-tuning is crucial for reaching effectiveness and sustainability in Dual VET. The Ministry of Education of Montenegro recognises that the evaluation conducted by ILO and ETF has helped them to identify strengths and weaknesses in the system. As a result, it plans to take measures to to further improve the quality of dual VET, among them:
• Developing a certification system for companies that wish to train students;
• Improving the training for practical training teachers, coordinators and in-company tutors;
• Designing guidelines and improving instruments monitoring and evaluation instruments, e.g. for the evaluation of practical training in companies;
• Training examiners and employers for conducting the final exams.
The Ministry is committed to periodically reviewing the system and asked ETF and ILO for further evaluations in the years to come.
“The Ministry of Education is extremely grateful to ILO and ETF for conducting the Evaluation of dual education in Montenegro in 2019, and all the support they have been providing us with in other areas in order to further improve our education system. This evaluation has served as a role model for us, and as a result we are going to conduct similar surveys this year and all the years to come.”
Zora Bogicevic, Head of Department for Secondary General and Vocational Education
To support Member States, ILO has developed a series of guides and publications. Currently, Volume II of the ILO Toolkit for Quality Apprenticeship is being developed and will be published in summer 2020. An International Standard on Quality Apprenticeship will be discussed at the International Labour Conference in 2021. For further information, you can consult the following ILO resources:
Recent ILO publications include:
• ILO Toolkit for Quality Apprenticeships – Volume I: Guide for Policy Makers
• Policy Brief on Quality Apprenticeships: Addressing skills mismatch and youth unemployment
• Tools for Quality Apprenticeships: A Guide for Enterprises
• The role of intermediary organizations in apprenticeship systems
• ILO Knowledge Sharing Platform on Skills Development (The filter “apprenticeship” will give you can 179 different resources)
ILO training courses on Quality Apprenticeship:
• Tools for quality apprenticeships in Enterprises (self-paced online learning, available anytime)
• Academy on Apprenticeship and RPL (22 – 26 June 2020, ITC-ILO Turin)
¹According to country, legally they may be considered as students or as employees.
²Around 100 € in the third year, this amounts to ca 20% of the average net salary in Montenegro
³Estimate, country-wide data not available
⁴In the first two years, the Ministry of Education pays the student salaries, in the third year, it is the companies.