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EACEA National Policies Platform


3. Employment & Entrepreneurship

3.5 Traineeships and apprenticeships

Last update: 19 March 2024

Official guidelines on internships and apprenticeships

Italian legislation distinguishes two types of internship: extracurricular internships and curricular internships.

Extracurricular internships

The recent evolution of the regulatory framework provides that the competence to regulate extra-curricular internships lies exclusively with the Regions and Autonomous Provinces, while taking into account the relevant European provisions.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies has published, in collaboration with INAPP, the “Trainee's Manual” as a practical guide to the extracurricular internship.

The central elements of the new “Guidelines on training and orientation internships” (State-Regions Agreement of 25 May 2017) regard:

  • the definition of the extracurricular internship as an active policy aimed at creating a direct contact between a host and the trainee, in order to favour the enrichment of his/her wealth of knowledge, the acquisition of professional skills and work insertion or reintegration. The internship consists of a period of job orientation and on-the-job training that does not take the form of employment;
  • the activation of extracurricular internships through the stipulation of a “contract” (the training project) that must be signed not only by the young worker and the host, but also by the promoter, or a third party that has the task of guaranteeing the quality and success of the internship, monitoring the training path and contributing to the evaluation of the learning outcomes. The entities that can promote internships are public employment services, schools, universities and other accredited entities. The activation of the internship also provides for the preparation of an agreement between the host and the promoter;
  • the training contents of the internship in terms of training objectives and activities to be entrusted to the trainee; the latter must be identified with reference to the “Business Areas” defined in the context of the classification of professional economic sectors;
  • the tutorship to support the trainee, who must be followed, assisted and supported during his/her training path by a tutor from the host organisation responsible for achieving the training objectives. The trainee is also followed by a tutor from the promoter, who has the task of monitoring the progress of the internship, ensuring an adequate quality standard of the experience and intervening in case of any problems or criticalities;
  • the working conditions that the host organisation is required to guarantee, providing the trainee with the tools and equipment necessary for carrying out the activities included by the training project, in compliance with the legislation on health and safety in the workplace. Furthermore, the Guidelines establish the maximum daily and weekly duration limits, with reference to the provisions of the collective agreement applied by the host organisation for the activities covered by the internship;
  • insurance coverage against accidents at work and for civil liability towards third parties. On the other hand, sick leave, the accrual of holidays or the payment of social security contributions are not included, since these are prerogatives connected exclusively to employment;
  • the participation allowance, a minimum monthly amount which cannot be less than €300. The contribution is higher if the internship is carried out outside the territory of residence, thanks to a voucher parameterized on the basis of the current EC tables of the mobility programs. Failure to pay leads to an administrative sanction whose amount is proportionate to the gravity of the offence committed.

The extracurricular internship is a widely disseminated and applied active policy training measure.

It should also be noted that the 2022 Budget Law introduced measures to combat abuses in extra-curricular internships. In fact, the adoption by the Government, the Regions and the Autonomous Provinces of Trento and Bolzano, at the Permanent Conference, of an agreement for the definition of Guidelines is envisaged, within 6 months from the date of entry into force of the Law itself, based on the following criteria:

  1. revision of the discipline, according to criteria that limit its application in favour of subjects with social inclusion difficulties;
  2. identification of the qualifying elements, such as the recognition of an appropriate participation allowance, the setting of a maximum duration including any renewals and numerical limits of internships that can be activated in relation to the size of the company;
  3. definition of essential levels of training which provide for a balance of skills at the beginning of the traineeship and a certification of skills at its conclusion;
  4. definition of forms and methods of quota, to link the activation of new traineeships to the recruitment of a minimum quota of trainees at the end of the traineeship period;
  5. provision of actions and interventions aimed at preventing and countering the distorted use of the institute, also through the precise identification of the methods with which the trainee carries out his activity.

Finally, sanctions are envisaged in the event of violation of the new provisions. In particular, in the event of non-payment of the indemnity, an administrative fine is foreseen for the offender, ranging from 1,000 to 6,000 euros. Furthermore, if the internship is carried out fraudulently, the host entity is punished with a fine of 50 euros for each intern involved, for each internship day, without prejudice to the possibility for the intern to request recognition of a subordinated employment relationship starting after the time of the judicial decision.

Curricular internships

Curricular internships are governed by the regulations of schools or universities, which define all the aspects relating to internship agreements with companies, the promotion of internships and their formative recognition. The general reference legislation that schools and universities must comply with is art. 18 of Law 196/97 and its implementation regulation (Interministerial Decree 142/98).

Curricular internships are experiences provided within a formal education or training course, the purpose of which is not directly to promote job placement, but to refine the learning and training process. This type of path is therefore promoted by subjects and training institutions in favour of their students or schools, universities, vocational training centres affiliated with the Region or the Province, etc.

The educational content of curricular internships must be consistent with the student’s academic, educational or university path. The curricular internship, unlike its extracurricular counterpart, does not provide for the obligation of an allowance, although the company can, at its discretion, reimburse any expenses. To start a curricular internship, as for the extracurricular internship, an agreement between the promoter and the host structure is necessary, along with a training project being agreed upon and signed by the three actors: promoter, company and student.

Furthermore, as in the case of curricular internships, the trainee must be followed, assisted and supported by a tutor of the host organisation - who is responsible for ensuring the achievement of the training objectives - and by a tutor of the promoter, who has the task of monitoring the progress of the internship, ensuring an adequate quality standard of the experience and intervening in case of any problems.

Dual system

The already mentioned dual system (implemented in Italy through Law 107/2015 and Legislative Decree 81/2015 - implementing decree of the Delegated Law 183/2014) is an integrated training model between school and work which, by creating an ongoing and coherent relationship between the education, professional training and work systems, aims to reduce the skills gap between educational institutions and the company with the ultimate goal of reducing early school leaving and youth unemployment and facilitating the entry of young people into work.

To support the integration of the dual system model, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, together with the Regions and Autonomous Provinces, launched the first experimentation of this model within Education and Social Professional Training (IeFP) in September 2015. Starting from the 2015/16 training year, the experiment managed by the professional training centres accredited by the Regions represented an opportunity to implement an integrated training model between the educational system and work. On the one hand, the model favoured the creation of a continuous and consistent relationship between the world of training and work and, on the other hand, as supported the school-work transition, reducing the gap between skills acquired in training contexts and skills required through the productive fabric.

The project lasted two years (formative years 2015/2017) and was carried out along two lines of intervention:

  • Line 1 - Development and strengthening of the system of Vocational Training Centres provided for the involvement of ANPAL Servizi, which provided support or services for the establishment of guidance and offices at the 300 training institutions. The selected centres received a grant of up to €35,000 with the aim of guaranteeing the direct provision of first-level guidance services, specialist guidance and job accompaniment aimed at activating apprenticeship contracts for a professional qualification and diploma;
  • Line 2 provided for the activation of leFP courses in dual mode. In order to be considered dual, these courses had to include more hours dedicated to work practice than regular leFP and IFTS courses. For this purpose, the use of work experience (school – work) and simulated training with practical application periods of not less than 400 hours per year is envisaged. Alongside these two training methods, the experimental project included the use of apprenticeships for professional qualifications and diplomas, the secondary education diploma and the higher technical specialisation certificate (so-called first level), with contents of practical application not less than 40% of the ordinary time for the second year and 50% for the third and fourth years.

To carry out the experimental project, the Ministry of Labour signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the individual Regions in January 2016, which established the types of intervention and the methods of implementation for each path within their exclusive legislative power on the matter.

The school-work experience, recently renamed “Paths for Transversal Competences and Orientation” (PCTO) as a result of Law 145/2018, art. 1, paragraph 784 is a teaching methodology that has been integrated into the education system with the aim of enriching higher secondary school curricula with skills that can be used in the labour market. The recent reform has redefined the hourly contingent of PCTOs by providing for 90 hours in high schools, 150 hours for technical institutes and 210 for professional institutes over the three-year period. PCTOs can be carried out entirely or only partially abroad.


The apprenticeship is a permanent employment contract aimed at the training and employment of young people. It is one of the key tools of the Italian dual system as well as one of the measures included in the Youth Guarantee program. By virtue of its nature, partly work and partly training, it is considered the most suitable contract for facilitating the labour integration of young people between 15 and 29 years of age.

The apprenticeship is divided into three levels:

  1. first level – apprenticeship for a professional qualification and diploma, upper secondary education diploma and higher technical specialisation certificate for young people aged 15 to 25 aimed at obtaining one of the aforementioned qualifications in the workplace;
  2. second level – vocational apprenticeship for young people aged 18 to 29 aimed at learning a trade or attaining a professional qualification;
  3. third level – advanced training and research apprenticeship for young people aged 18 to 29, aimed at obtaining university and advanced training qualifications, including research doctorates, diplomas from higher technical institutes, research activities and the apprenticeship for access to professions with professional orders.

The minimum duration of the apprenticeship contract is 6 months. The contractual level of the young person cannot be lower than two levels compared to that of the worker who carries out the same job. At the end of the training period, the company decides whether to continue the ordinary subordinate employment relationship with “increasing protections” or to terminate it, providing notice according to the terms established by the collective agreement.

The apprenticeship contract, regardless of different typology, must always be accompanied by an individual training plan (PFI), or by a document in which the training path must be outlined, in addition to the methods through which it will be implemented during the employment relationship. In levels I and III, the PFI must provide for the stipulation of a Protocol between the training institution and the company (which establishes the procedures for identifying students and their mutual responsibilities), accompanied by an individual apprentice dossier certifying the learning acquired during the training course, facilitating its subsequent readability and usability.

The PFI is part of the contract and is drawn up jointly by the training institution and the employer in compliance with the legislation and training standards in force at national and regional levels. The PFI establishes the content, duration and learning outcomes of the training courses. For vocational apprenticeships, the PFI can be processed in a concise form, by also making use of forms prepared by collective bargaining or bilateral bodies. As part of the apprenticeship, the employer is required to provide not only the salary, but also the necessary training for the acquisition of professional skills or the requalification of a professional.

Companies hiring with an apprenticeship contract can benefit from numerous concessions. To avoid abuses in the use of this type of contract and to be able to hire new apprentices, companies with more than 50 employees must hire at least 20% of the apprentices at the end of the training in the last three years.

Promotion of traineeships and apprenticeships

It is possible to activate internships in national and transnational geographical mobility with the aim of promoting training and professional experience outside the region or abroad. The aim is to enrich curriculums and come in direct contact with more dynamic territories and labour markets that may be able to offer greater employment opportunities.

Training, guidance and job placement/reintegration internships are also aimed at people with disabilities and protected categories as per law 12 March 1999, n.68 “Rules for the right to work of the people with disability”.

Recognition of learning outcomes

At the end of the traineeship based on the Training Plan (PFI) and the individual Dossier, a final certificate is issued to the trainee, signed by the promoter and the host. This certification indicates and documents the activities actually carried out with reference to the areas of activity contained in the classification of the professional Sectors, Interministerial Decree 30/6/2015, and therefore facilitates the subsequent readability and usability of the learning gained.

In order to issue the final Certificate, the trainee must have participated in at least 70% of the duration foreseen in the training plan.

Both the dossier and the final certificate constitute useful documentation in the context of the services for identifying, validating and certifying the skills acquired, with specific respect for the competences included in the national directory of education and training titles and professional qualifications [see 3.3].


Pursuant to Article 68 of Law 114/1999, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies annually allocates €279,109,570.46, distributed between the Regions and Autonomous Provinces, to the Social Fund to support employment and training as well as promote the cultural growth and professional activities of young people through the obligation to attend training activities up to the age of eighteen. This obligation can also be fulfilled in integrated education and training courses: a) in the school education system; b) in the professional training system of regional competence c) in the carrying out of an apprenticeship. The aforementioned amount was further integrated with €50 million with the 2018 and 2019 budget laws, while for the year 2020, the integration amounted to €46.7 million.

The Social Fund for employment and training was established by art. 18, paragraph 1, letter a) of Decree Law 29 November 2008, n.185, converted, with amendments, into the Law n.2, 28 January 2009. The Employment Fund, established in 1993, was merged into the Fund with the aim of financing extraordinary measures of active employment policy and to support employment levels.

With the 2022 Budget Law (Law no. 234 of 30 December 2021, art. 1, paragraphs 122 and following), the Fund was increased by 321.4 million euros for the year 2022 and by 300 million euros per year starting from the year 2023.

The Regions establish the resources destined to the activation of the internships and the modalities of disbursement of the participation allowance.

The training activities of the apprenticeships are financed through the allocation of funds by the Ministry of Labour (Social Fund for Employment and Training) along with a share of co-financing paid by the Regions and Autonomous Provinces (Regional Operational Plans and other funds).

To this must be added the PNRR funds for GOL, which includes the additional funding of the New National Competence Plan and of the Dual system.

Dedicated incentives

The Growth Decree (Legislative Decree April 30, 2019, No. 34 converted into law with the amendments of Law June 28, 2019, No. 58), provided for an incentive with a dual purpose: to enhance the learning of the professional skills required by the labour market and to favour the integration of young people into the world of work.

In detail, the incentive concerns those who have donations of at least € 10,000 over a year for the creation, requalification and modernization of professional laboratories in favour of secondary schools of second grade with technical educational paths or vocational education (also with an agricultural orientation) and who, at the end of their school cycle, take young graduates from the same educational institutions with permanent contracts.

The recognized benefit takes the form of a partial contribution exemption (with the exclusion of the premiums and contributions due to INAIL) for a maximum period of twelve months. It is effective from the financial year 2021; in particular, €3 million have been allocated for the year 2021 and €6 million per year starting from the year 2022.

Furthermore, the 2019 incentive reserved for the recruitment of members of the Youth Guarantee Program is also confirmed. This is an exemption from the payment of social security contributions, with the exception of the INAIL premiums and contributions, paid by the employer, for a period of 12 months, for a maximum of € 8,060 per year. The incentive relates to hiring with a permanent contract (also for the purpose of administration) and with a vocational apprenticeship.

The massive measures introduced by the PNRR takes often the form of incentives, like that dedicated to the Transition 4.0 plan, for companies in the South, those dedicated to Space Economy and to the touristic industry, considered as the evolution of the old Industry Plan 4.0, pushing for digital transformation through tax credit for companies for paying research and developments, auxiliary goods and trainings.

In a similar manner the 2022 Budget Law (Law No. 234 of 30 December 2021) did not introduce generalized employment incentives, like in previous years; otherwise, for this year the legislator has limited itself to allocating resources for some types of employment incentives already in force.

In particular:

  • The youth employment incentive was extended to private employers who hire permanent employees (of any age) from companies in crisis. On the other hand, private employers who hire a CIGS worker included in the new employment transition agreement on a permanent contract are entitled to a monthly contribution for a maximum of 12 months, equal to 50% of the amount of the extraordinary wage integration treatment which would have been paid to the worker (art. 1 paragraph 243 et seq.).
  • The social security contributions payable by female workers returning to work after taking compulsory maternity leave will be reduced by 50% (Article 1, paragraph 137).
  • A 100% exemption of the total social security contributions payable by cooperatives established after 1 January 2022 (art. 1 paragraphs 253-254).
  •  The 100% contribution relief was confirmed for first-level apprenticeship contracts for companies employing up to 9 employees (art. 1 paragraph 645).

Also, until 31 December 2022 it was possible to take advantage of the incentive for the hiring of women (referred to in paragraphs 16-19 of article 1 of law no. 178/2020).

Finally, the tax exemption for employment in disadvantaged areas, the so-called Southern tax relief (referred to in paragraphs 161-168 of Law No. 178/2020) is also confirmed. This does not have the nature of an incentive for hiring though. The exemption in question, which is gradual over time,amounts to: 30% of the total social security contributions until 31 December 2025; 20% of the total social security contributions for the years 2026 and 2027; 10% of the total social security contributions for the years 2028 and 2029.

Quality assurance

The 2017 Guidelines provide that the implementation of internships is monitored both by the regional administrations – with reference to internships carried out in the respective territories – and by the state administration, which prepares an annual report on the analysis, monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of internships on a national scale.

With the implementation of the provisions of the Guidelines, in December 2019, ANPAL published in collaboration with INAPP the second national monitoring report on extracurricular internships, in which the trends, characteristics and employment outcomes of the extracurricular internships activated between 2014 and 2019 were analysed.

Through the Guidelines, the supervisory activity carried out by the Regions is supported, through the protocols signed together with the territorial offices of the National Labour Inspectorate. With Circular no. 8 of 18 April 2018, the Labour Inspectorate has provided the inspection team with precise operational indications for the verification and assessment of any violations in the use of the institution. Furthermore, the Regions have undertaken to adopt a specific sanctioning system which acts as a deterrent to a distorted use of this training tool.

In addition to the penalties already provided for in the 2013 Guidelines for failure to send mandatory communications or for failure to pay compensation, the 2017 Guidelines introduced differentiated penalties for:

  • non-remediable violations punished with the notice of the termination of the internship and the interdiction for twelve months against the promoter and the host from the activation of new internships;
  • curable violations for which the aforementioned sanctions are imposed only in the event of failure to accept the invitation to regularisation.

Finally, it should be remembered that the verification of the quality of curricular and extracurricular internships in relation to the provisions of the training projects is the responsibility of the promoter.

For apprenticeship contracts, in addition to the protection of the salary guarantee (the prohibition of piecework remuneration and the introduction of limits to the possibility of classification), and always with a view to protecting the worker, there are social security protections concerning accidents at work and occupational diseases, sickness, disability and old age, maternity and family allowance. The apprentice also falls within the scope of the New Social Insurance for Employment.

If the training obligations are not respected, an economic sanction is imposed on the employer, who will have to pay the difference between the contribution paid and the amount due, with reference to the level of the upper contractual framework that would have been reached by the worker at the end of the apprenticeship period, increased by 100 percent.

With the implementation of the provisions of the Guidelines ANPAL publishes in collaboration with INAPP the national monitoring report on extracurricular internships, in which the trends, characteristics and employment outcomes of the extracurricular internships are analysed. In November 2022 the third report was published. According to it, the total volume of internships activated from 2019 to 2021 is just over 910 thousand units. In the same period, almost 782,000 individuals were involved in an extra-curricular internship and just over 297,000 companies hosted at least one intern.

In 2021, a total of almost 329 thousand internships were activated, a value that brings the number of activations back to pre-pandemic levels, after the significant drop recorded in 2020.

Moreover INAPP publishes its general report every year, researching, monitoring and analysing employment policies and services, education and training policies, social policies and all those public policies that have effects on the labour market.