European Commission proposes a European Framework for Quality and Effective Apprenticeships

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The European Youth Forum welcomes the European Commission’s (EC) proposal for a Council Recommendation on a European Framework for Quality and Effective Apprenticeships, urging EU Member States to shape apprenticeships schemes on the basis of 14 quality and effectiveness

Zuzana Vaneckova, Board Member of the European Youth Forum, comments: “We are pleased to see that the Commission has responded to our call for a legal framework on apprenticeships and that the proposal includes a strong focus on quality – something we have been asking for since the adoption of our European Quality Charter for Internships and Apprenticeships. This proposal is a promising first step, but Member States must still play their part.”

The Youth Forum, together with the Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions (OBESSU), co-chairs the European Apprentices Network (EAN), launched in May 2017 and consisting of young people coming from organisations representing apprentices and, most importantly, apprentices themselves. The EAN has identified 7 key priorities for quality apprenticeships and has been advocating for their implementation: quality education and quality assurance; rights, responsibilities and protection; legally binding agreements; representation; promoting apprenticeships, anti-discrimination; accessible information.

The criteria outlined in the EC proposal are in line with several of the priorities identified by the EAN: we particularly welcome the recognition of the need for a written contract, right to remuneration, and access to social protection. Both the Youth Forum and the EAN strongly believe that apprentices’ special status as workers and students should not undermine their access to social and labour rights!

In line with what the Youth Forum and the EAN have been advocating for, the EC proposal highlights the importance of defining clear and comprehensive learning outcomes, as well as providing guidance and mentoring to apprentices – key elements to support their personal and professional development.

However, we regret that the EC proposal still perpetuates an image of apprenticeships merely as a tool to respond to the needs of the labour market. While we agree that young people should be equipped with the necessary skills to face the ever-changing employment landscape, it shouldn’t be forgotten that apprenticeships are primarily meant to support apprentices to develop their competences and interests.

Lasse Sjøbeck Jørgensen, Board Member of OBESSU and member of the EAN, said: “Apprenticeships are much more than just a way of getting a job – they are first and foremost an educational opportunity. Education is a human right, not a means to an end. We strongly encourage the European Commission to remember the educational part of apprenticeships, in order to secure that young people are provided with competences for their whole life, not just for the labour market.”

A stronger focus on education, paired with better recognition of apprentices’ rights, is also needed to ensure that the most disadvantaged in our society have access to quality opportunities that fit their interests and aspirations.

The EAN will soon publish its paper on 7 Key Priorities for Quality Apprenticeships, and we will be working with the Commission, as well as with all other relevant stakeholders to ensure that quality apprenticeships become a reality.

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