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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 2 July 2012

Youth unemployment: studies show apprenticeships and traineeships useful but need to be improved

The dramatically high youth unemployment rates in Europe call for immediate action by Member States. One of the priorities for action is to ensure a smooth school-to-work transition for young people. Two studies undertaken for the European Commission on apprenticeships and traineeships in all EU Member States recommend that these schemes should be more responsive to labour market requirements, better adapted to business needs and offer more guarantees in terms of quality and perspectives for young people.

European Commissioner of Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor said: "The European Council has underlined the importance of apprenticeships and traineeships for young people, especially in the context of youth guarantees and new mobility schemes. These new studies shed more light onto these schemes and help us to prepare our upcoming initiatives on improving the transition from school to work. Apprenticeships and traineeships can build bridges for young people to enter the labour market and so help to tackle Europe's excessive levels of youth unemployment. But such apprenticeships and traineeships must ensure that youngsters are given the best possible chance of getting a sustainable job afterwards. We also support this through more targeted use of the European Social Fund."

The studies' results will provide input to the preparation of two Commission initiatives by the end of 2012; a draft Council Recommendation on Youth Guarantees, to ensure that young people are either in employment, education or training within four months of leaving school, and the definition of a Quality Framework for Traineeships.

The study on apprenticeships recommends that there should be:

  • homogeneous quality standards for apprenticeship-type studies

  • a balance between specific occupational skills and general skills and competences

  • the involvement of the social partners in the design and organisation of apprenticeships, as this is an essential factor for their success and

  • initiatives taken with students to improve the general image of the vocational education system.

The study on traineeships indicates that:

  • there is a need for a clear definition of traineeships at EU level

  • where possible, traineeships should take place as a part of the study curriculum rather than after students leave education

  • a concerted effort should be made at both EU and national levels to increase the supply of traineeships, especially in SMEs

  • there is a need for some financial support to trainees, especially those from less privileged backgrounds and

  • steps should be taken to encourage open and transparent recruitment processes for traineeships.

The traineeship study complements the public consultation on the quality of traineeships launched as part of the Commission's April 2012 Employment Package (see IP/12/380, MEMO/12/256 and MEMO/12/252).


Both surveys present facts and figures for each Member State and include more in-depth cases studies in selected countries. The rise in youth unemployment, combined with considerable skill mismatches on labour markets, have prompted Member States across the EU to increasingly focus on schemes to facilitate the school-to-work transition such as traineeships and apprenticeships. European enterprises currently offer company training positions for a total of about 9.4 million students. Apprenticeship-type students represent approximately 40.5% of total secondary education students in the 27 Member States.

Apprenticeships are defined as "dual" initial vocational education and training (IVET) that combine and alternate company-based training (periods of practical work experience at a workplace) with school-based education (periods of theoretical/practical education followed in a school or training centre), and whose successful completion leads to a nationally-recognised IVET certification. Most often there is a contractual relationship between the employer and the apprentice. Experience shows that in countries where such apprenticeship schemes exist, young people have a better chance of a smooth school-to-work transition. Dual education systems exist in several EU Member States (most common in Austria, Germany and Denmark but also in The Netherlands, France and Slovenia).

Traineeships are defined as time-limited work experience that includes an educational component. They have similar objectives to apprenticeships: to help the school-to-work transition by providing practical experience, knowledge and skills that complement the theoretical education. They can be part of higher education programmes. For some professions (e.g. doctors, lawyers, teachers), and in many other university curricula, traineeships are a mandatory element of the education course. But there is an increasing trend for young people to do postgraduate traineeships that involve only the trainee and the employer and are not linked to a curriculum or a graduation procedure.

Further information

Executive summary of apprenticeship survey:

Executive summary of traineeship arrangements survey:

Full apprenticeship supply report:

Full traineeship arrangements report:

László Andor's website:

Follow László Andor on Twitter:!/LaszloAndorEU

Subscribe to the European Commission's free e-mail newsletter on employment, social affairs and inclusion:

Contacts :

Jonathan Todd (+32 2 299 41 07)

Nadège Defrère (+32 2 296 45 44)

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