3.5 Traineeships and apprenticeships
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Traineeships, apprenticeships, and various types of internships are organised for pupils of vocational schools, general upper secondary schools and higher education students, as well as graduates from school education, but each are governed by different regulations.
On the job traininig (praktyczna nauka zawodu) is an integral part of the education process of pupils of stage I and II sectoral vocational schools, technical secondary schools and post-secondary schools. Its aim is to prepare students to work efficiently in the taught profession. It can have two forms:
practical classes, usually held in school workshops or organised at the employer's premises in the form of 1-2 days of classes per week;
traineeships organised at the employer's premises, usually lasting for an uninterrupted period (for example, two weeks or a month).
On the job training takes place on the basis of a contract concluded by the employer with the school head. The employer can be reimbursed for the costs of training from two sources - the district governor's office and the vocational school whose pupils they enrol.
Vocational preparation of juveniles - is a comprehensive form of apprenticeship, in which the employer is responsible for the entire training process, for persons aged 15-18. This training takes place in two forms:
apprenticeship, the aim of which is to prepare the student for work as a skilled worker or an apprentice; it includes practical vocational training organised at the employer's premises and theoretical supplementary training, usually at a vocational school of the first stage; vocational training lasts from 24 to 36 months;
an apprenticeship to perform a specific job, the purpose of which is to prepare the apprentice to work as an associate worker; the apprenticeship lasts from 3 to 6 months and concerns only minors who already have a vocational certificate or diploma.
The employer may be reimbursed for remuneration and social insurance of the apprentice under the condition that: - s/he employs the apprentice on an employment contract, - s/he has pedagogical rights specified in the regulation on professional preparation of the juveniles, - s/he declares to employ the juvenile after completing the training for a period of at least 6 months.
Work placements for students - tertiary education institutions offer two types of work placements: compulsory and non-compulsory ones. Until 2014, the Law on Higher Education did not impose on higher education institutions the obligation to include work placements in their curricula. Exceptions to this rule included teacher training courses, veterinary studies, architecture, medical studies, dentistry studies, pharmacy studies, nursing and midwifery.
Since October 1st 2014, study programmes with practical profiles must include work placements for students, which last three months at minimum. Faculties may organise student education in an alternate fashion: classroom instruction at the higher education institution and traineeships at the employer’s.
For many bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes, the study programmes include compulsory work placements of a shorter duration.
Non-compulsory work placements are governed by individual arrangements between the employer and the student. Compulsory work placements are based on a contract for compulsory student placement. The employer contracts directly with the higher education institution. The employer defines the curriculum, and undertakes to provide instructional and organisational supervision, as well as a specific position/workstation and tools for the work.
Apprenticeships and work placements are also available for school leavers. These include:
Graduate apprenticeship - is designed to help graduates gain experience and acquire the practical skills necessary to perform their jobs. It takes place on the basis of a contract concluded between the apprentice and the entity accepting the apprenticeship. It may be completed by persons who have completed at least the eighth grade of primary school and are under 30 years of age. A contract for graduate traineeship cannot be concluded for a period longer than three months. The traineeship may be paid or unpaid.
Internships for the unemployed - persons registered with an Employment Office are also offered internships with an employer, which are financed by the Labour Fund. The internships may last up to 6 months, and in the case of unemployed persons under the age of 30, up to 12 months. The intern is employed on the basis of an internship agreement (without entering into an employment relationship), during which the unemployed person is entitled to a scholarship of 120% of the amount of the unemployment benefit rate.
An additional form of activation is the internship voucher, which is an instrument for activating unemployed people under the age of 30. After completing the 6-month internship with an employer selected by the unemployed person, the employer is obliged to employ them for another period of 6 months after completing the internship.
Internship and student internship offers submitted by employers to labor offices can be found in the Central Job Offer Database, which is also available as a smartphone app (internship offers are also published on the websites of companies and public institutions). Young people can also find an employer by themselves, who can arrange an internship (tailor-made).
NEET group – in 2016 -2017 a paid internship scheme was launched for young people from the NEET group through the projects “Unlock Your Potential – ESF” and “Unlock Your Potential – YEI” implemented by OHP under the Youth Guarantee Initiative. Project participants are on internships with local employers in professions for which they had acquired qualifications during their courses. In 2022-2023, the project "Active Up!" is being implemented with EU funds. The main objective of the project is to provide support to 1,500 young people aged 15-20 leading to the acquisition of qualifications or competencies important in the labor market during the project. It is assumed that the implementation of the project will contribute to the smooth transition of participants from education to work and counteract the NEET phenomenon in Poland by ensuring the continuation of education for young people.
Activities of higher education institutions
Higher education institutions provide internship and work placement databases on their websites, often complete with reports on past placements completed by their students. Internship and work placement offers are advertised by student career centres, which often also participate in or organise career fair/expos, and prepare brochures on work placements and internships for students.
An important source of information for students are online forums and Facebook groups (such as Erasmus groups) and the websites of organisations that help find a work placement, such as AIESEC or Global Citizen.
In 2014, the Parliament of Students of the Republic of Poland launched an online student work placement database: lepszepraktyki.pl .
Activities of the Foundation for the Development of the Education System
The Foundation implements work placement projects financed from European funds. An example is the project “Transnational Mobility of Students and Graduates and Vocational Education Staff” (Ponadnarodowa mobilność uczniów i absolwentów oraz kadry kształcenia zawodowego). This project is implemented within the framework of the 2014-2020 Knowledge Education Development Operational Programme (Programu Operacyjnego Wiedza Edukacja Rozwój 2014-2020 - PO WER).
The Foundation acts as the National Agency for the Erasmus+ Programme for 2014-2020. The work placement abroad scheme may be availed of by undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students.
The Foundation is the organizer of EuroSkills, an international industry skills competition held in Europe since 2008. This is the first time that Poland is the organizer of this competition, colloquially known as the "Olympic Games of industry occupations." This largest event in the history of vocational education and training education in Poland will take place in September 2023 in Gdansk, Poland. More than 600 qualified young professionals under the age of 25 from 32 countries will participate in competitions and demonstrations in 43 different skills and professions, grouped into the following industry categories:
Activities of public institutions of the labour market: Employment Offices and Voluntary Labour Corps (Ochotnicze Hufce Pracy, OHP)
Information on internships offered by public institutions of the labour market is available on the websites of those institutions and directly from career counsellors and work agents at those institutions.
These institutions, in addition to standard services, also perform additional activities under the Youth Guarantee Initiative. Those are local actions. Participation in projects and terms of participation are available at the respective institutions that are implementing the projects.
Vortal of Public Employment Services contains current offers of jobs, internships, traineeships, internships from Employment Offices, aprenticeships for adults, and work placements for students in the public administration institutions.
Vocational (branżowe) schools for young people, vocational schools for adults, lifelong learning centres, and practical training institutions are financed by public funds. The key source of income is the education subsidy received from the central budget. It is divided between communes, districts and provinces on the basis of an algorithm, which is modified each year, applying different weights for particular groups of pupils and schools (including vocational school pupils/students).
Employers who organise apprenticeships in the form of on the job training receive a financial contribution from the school where the apprentice is learning.
The Polish legal framework guarantees the financing of employers who enter into an employment contract with a minor for the purpose of vocational training or job skills training. Training subsidies may be granted to enterprises which take in minors for vocational training or job skills training. The amount of the training subsidy per minor depends on the length of the training. It is reimbursed to employers from the Labour Fund.
Work placements for students can be subsidised by higher education institutions through grants from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and from European funds.
Internships for the unemployed and internship vouchers for unemployed people under 30 years of age are financed from the Labour Fund.
The State Fund for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons (Państwowy Fundusz Rehabilitacji Osób Niepełnosprawnych - PFRON) subsidises various forms of support for vocational activation of people with disabilities, such as internships organised by Employment Offices or other organisations implementing such schemes.
The principles and course of traineeships and apprenticeships, as well as various types of internships are subject of discussion and changes are planned to further improve their quality.
There is particularly strong criticism of the system of vocational education and training (basic vocational, secondary and post-secondary). Its ineffectiveness is exposed by the high unemployment rates among vocational school graduates (about 40% in the years 2012-2014), as well as the negative assessment of their skills reported by employers. According to the Supreme Audit Office (Najwyższa Izba Kontroli - NIK), the main reason for this situation is the mismatch between what the vocational schools offer compared to the needs of the labour market, which results from incomplete recognition of those needs and unsatisfactory conditions for vocational education and training. Another contributing factor has been the way in which vocational education has been financed from the state budget; without taking into account the actual costs of education for particular occupations. As a result, local governments have been abandoning costly education programmes. This has been reinforcing a vocational education model, in which the local infrastructural and personnel resources, rather than the needs of students and the labour market, were the decisive factors when launching a new programme.
The implemented education system reform (entered into force in 2017/2018 school year) aims to strengthen employers’ participation in planning and organising traineeships and apprenticeships in trade (previously vocational) schools (see previous section on education).
Higher education institutions develop their own Education Quality Assurance Systems, which take work placements for students into account in the assessment of their learning outcomes. Higher education institutions monitor the quality of education, including work placements, and run surveys to evaluate the quality of placements, as well as organise conferences/seminars to promote good practice standards. The Polish Accreditation Committee (Polska Komisja Akredytacyjna) plays an important role in assessing the quality of education, including student placements. It is an independent institution working to ensure and improve the quality of education.
The implemented education system reform (entered into force in 2017/2018 school year) envisages strengthening the importance of work placements in the process of educating students and tightening the link between education and business.
Since 2015, data has been collected through the national system of monitoring the Economic Fate of Graduates (Ekonomiczne Losy Absolwentów - ELA) of higher education institutions. The monitoring system implemented by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education is an innovative solution on a European scale. The main source of information is the administrative data from reliable sources – the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) system and the POL-on system, i.e. the information system on higher education supporting the work of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education.