Strategies and negotiations

National level

In many countries, the social partners are also involved in the formulation of national apprenticeship strategies.

In Germany the Federal and Regional Governments (Länder), as well as the social partners, agreed upon a joint strategy, the Alliance for Initial and Further Training 2015-2018, which acknowledges the need to increase the number of apprenticeship places (by 20,000 from 2014-15), the number of pre-apprenticeship places (by 20,000), and the proportion of young migrants participating in apprenticeship training (Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, 2017). In Denmark, a new reform, Improving Vocational Education and Training, was adopted in 2014, following discussions between the Government and the social partners. It acknowledged the need to: increase the percentage of 16-17 year olds in apprenticeship training;  improve the completion rate;  enhance the overall quality of the training; and to strengthen the overall trust in apprenticeship training. In more practical terms, the reform also proposed to: introduce minimum entry requirements in Danish and mathematics;  enable apprentices to specialize more gradually, by reducing the 12 vocational access routes to four broader areas and by introducing a foundation course; and to offer apprentices the opportunity to obtain a general upper-secondary qualification providing access to higher education. In South Africa, the Government and social partners signed a national skills accord in 2011 to expand skills in the country. It was agreed that companies employing artisans should train sufficient apprentices to ensure the replenishment of this group of skilled workers over time, and that sectoral skills plans should include targets for apprenticeships. The Government committed that state-owned enterprises would enrol at least 20,000 persons as apprentices and learners. In June 2017, the United States Department of Labor announced that it was establishing a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion to identify strategies and proposals to promote apprenticeships, especially in sectors where apprenticeship programmes are insufficient. The task team will comprise members presenting the perspectives of both employers and trade unions.

Sectoral level

In a few countries, sectoral level bargaining may deal with the issue of apprenticeship training.

In Germany, there are numerous examples of agreements, appeals and declarations of intent that have been signed by the social partners to maintain and create apprenticeship training places and to take on apprentices - once their training has successfully finished. The social partners in the chemical industry agreed to offer an average of 9,000 training places for apprentices for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013; in Deutsche Telekom they agreed to keep the apprentice rate at 2.9 per cent of the workforce for the years 2011-13, which corresponds to 13,000 training places; and in Volkswagen they agreed to offer 1,250 places for 2010-14. Agreements were also reached at the regional level– in the plastics processing industry in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, the social partners agreed to increase the number of apprentices by 1.5 per cent in 2011, 2 per cent in 2012 and 3 per cent in 2013, and in the metalworking and electrical industry in Lower Saxony they agreed to take on 1,000 apprentices per year. The social partners in many sectors also agreed to take on apprentices once their training had successfully finished; for example, in Deutsche Telekom, they agreed to offer full-time permanent contracts to 4,700 apprentices during the period 2010-12 (Bispink and WSI-Tarifarchiv, 2012).

Another example comes from the French automotive services sector. In 2015, the social partners signed a joint national agreement regarding the qualitative and quantitative development of apprenticeships in the automotive industry (accord paritaire national rélatif au développement qualitatif et quantitatif de l’apprentissage dans les services de l’automobile). It contained a number of educational and apprenticeship objectives. Inter alia, it set out to:

  • increase expenditure on apprenticeship training;
  • fix the number of apprentices to be trained over a three-year period;
  • tackle the issue of early termination of apprenticeship contracts;
  • continue initiatives to improve the transition to work rate;

increase the number of trained in-company mentors year on year;

  • increase the participation of female apprentices;
  • examine ways of increasing the participation of young people with a disability;
  • make an effort to integrate young people with no secondary school qualification;
  • improve information and guidance and pre-apprenticeship; and 
  • link training more directly to the needs of the apprentice.

Social dialogue in apprenticeship training, both at the national and the sectoral level, is strong in many countries throughout the different regions of the world, but not everywhere. It remains a challenge to ensure that the views of employers in a number of countries, and of trade unions in many countries, are heard and able to contribute to the development of apprenticeship programmes. Having an appropriate institutional framework that promotes social dialogue is also a challenge in many parts of the world. In some countries, agreements emanating from social dialogue may also form one of the basic elements of a sound regulatory framework, a subject that will be examined further in Chapter 6.