Getting an apprenticeship can be a daunting task as employers naturally want to recruit the best possible candidate. Also, some countries stipulate eligibility conditions, including minimum educational qualifications, for gaining admission to an apprenticeship, thereby excluding many persons, particularly women and those belonging to underprivileged groups.

Apprenticeship programmes can be demanding, both intellectually challenging and requiring strong interpersonal skills. Apprentices may not be adequately prepared for the requirements of an apprenticeship programme or the working conditions in the industry, and some may decide to drop out, which represents a significant loss to both enterprise and apprentice.

To overcome the challenges, a few countries have initiated the development of different types of pre-apprenticeship programmes. These programmes aim to provide young people with the necessary preparation that will facilitate their access to a regular apprenticeship programme. Pre-apprenticeship programmes can benefit the potential apprentices in several ways, such as:

  • meeting eligibility conditions by improving literacy, numeracy and soft skills
  • allowing potential apprentices to experience an actual work environment for a particular industry and occupation in order to make an informed decision about whether to commit to a full apprenticeship
  • some programmes provide basic on-the-job skills, which enhance the chances of being selected as an apprentice or being offered a job
  • participants may receive credit for the period of study completed, which could shorten the time it takes to complete a full apprenticeship.1

Pre-apprenticeship programmes can take multiple forms, as shown in Table 7.1.

Table 7.1 Pre-apprenticeship programmes

Country Programme Target group Typical duration Content
Australia Pre-apprenticeship Youth aged 16–24 years old 6–12 months General employability skills, occupation-specific skills
England (United Kingdom) Traineeship Poorly qualified with little work experience and not in employment 6 weeks to 6 months Work experience placement, work preparation training, literacy and mathematics, if needed
Germany Introductory training Youth aged 16–25 years old 6–12 months Work-based learning, optional school-based component
Preparatory VET year Youth aged under 18 years old 12 months (with possible extension up to 18 months) General subjects at vocational school; exploration of three occupational fields (including work placements)
Basic vocational year   12 months Vocational theory and practice in a selected field; work placement
Scotland Certificate of Work Readiness Youth aged 16–24 years old 10–12 weeks Off-the-job training targeting employability skills; work experience
Switzerland SEMO Youth aged under 25 years old 6 months (with possible extension up to 9½ months) 1–2 days a week at a vocational school
Bridging measures   12 months Literacy, mathematics, motivation and career guidance
  Pre-apprenticeship for integration (currently being piloted) Migrant youth (with refugee or provisory status) aged 16–35 years old 12 months Preparation for formal apprenticeship programmes, 3 days in company, 2 days in vocational school, general subject and vocational theory, targeted support on language skills

Source: Based on OECD, 2018b, and Kis, 2016.

To reduce the risk of apprentices dropping out, employers should continuously monitor apprentices’ progress during the delivery of the apprenticeship, to identify those facing the greatest difficulties and provide them with adequate support. While providing sufficient support in the course of apprenticeships can minimize apprentice drop-out, it is equally important to ensure that apprentices are adequately prepared prior to starting the programme.

It is important to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to pre-apprenticeships and how they are organized. While developing countries with apprenticeship programmes will face different challenges, the issue of adequate preparation for apprenticeship is universal. The skills and knowledge gaps among potential entrants to apprenticeship programmes can be extremely diverse. For example, those coming from the informal economy may have strong practical skills but lack adequate literacy skills and the required educational qualifications. In contrast, young graduates may possess sufficient theoretical knowledge and literacies, but have limited work experience and employability skills. The interactive guide from the Learning and Work Institute, produced in collaboration with the J.P. Morgan Foundation, provides support to practitioners in the design and implementation of pre-apprenticeship programmes tailored to specific contexts.

Guide to the design and delivery of pre-apprenticeships, Learning and Work Institute

This step-by-step guide to pre-apprenticeship programme design and delivery has been created for pre-apprenticeship providers who want to develop and expand their programmes, and for providers who do not currently offer pre-apprenticeships but who plan to do so in the future.
This tool is accompanied by a set of case studies and films from across Europe, which demonstrate effective practice in specific aspects of the design and delivery of pre-apprenticeship programmes.