Any solution obviously would be complex but the renewed focus on apprenticeships and their job-creation potential is welcome at a time when 75 million young men and women are unemployed.
Good apprenticeships provide young people with the skills they need to enter the marketplace and match the supply of skilled labour to the needs of employers. They can help reduce the incidence and duration of unemployment, while supporting economic growth.
“Better and more broadly available apprenticeships and other training opportunities, can reduce youth unemployment and poverty when combined with national efforts to spur job growth,” says Christine Evans-Klock, who heads the ILO’s Skills and Employability Department.
|A lot of people are looking to apprenticeships as the silver bullet in tackling the youth employment crisis.”|
In countries where a fifth or more of all 16-24 year olds are in apprenticeships, such as Austria, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark – which all have dual systems – youth unemployment is lower than in other European countries where apprenticeships are not that common.
Apprenticeship systems have a centuries-old tradition in some countries but it is only fairly recently that their job creation potential has been gaining widespread acceptance, says Michael Axman, a skills development expert at the ILO.
“A lot of people are looking to apprenticeships as the silver bullet in tackling the youth employment crisis.”
“Interest has really boomed in recent months. There’s an increasing number of conferences around the world on apprenticeships, and we’re getting a lot of phone calls from constituents seeking advice on how to set up a good apprenticeship system,” says Axman.
While the wholesale export of even the most tried-and-tested apprenticeships – such as the much vaunted German system – makes little sense, countries can pick and choose elements that can be adapted to their own needs.
Axman believes it is possible for developing, emerging and developed economies to set up apprenticeship systems, citing Haiti, Jordan and Israel as countries that have recently expressed strong interest in doing so.
However countries choose to set up apprenticeship programmes, involvement of the private sector is fundamental and must be a starting point, says Axmann.
Private sector involvement
“What is needed is a commitment from companies and preferably whole sectors.”
One of the main reasons for relatively smooth school-to-work transitions in dual system countries is that the availability of apprenticeships is closely linked to the needs of employers.
Worker organizations also have an important role to play in the design of quality apprenticeships, while the government needs to assure quality basic education, facilitate private sector involvement and share the costs of the dual training system.
Improving and rethinkingThere is also scope for scaling up, strengthening and improving apprenticeship programmes in countries that already have them.
This is all the more important as the emergence of new jobs – for example in the clean energy sector – means new skills are needed.
Delivering quality apprenticeships entails ensuring that the curriculum is relevant to the needs of today’s world of work. In some cases this involves a rethink of the way skills are imparted, with less focus of memorization and more on analytical thought, says Axmann.
“Rather than a brain like a computer with a small processor and a huge memory, what is needed to succeed in today’s world of work is a brain with a much bigger processor unit.”
|The call for action on the youth employment crisis adopted at the International Labour Conference in June 2012 highlights the importance of apprenticeships. |
It urges governments to seriously consider improving the range and types of apprenticeships by: