3.5 Traineeships and apprenticeships
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Apprenticeship Training - The Dual Training System
In Austria, apprenticeship training has a long tradition and a broad acceptance not least due to the remarkable dual training system. A short clip (in English) by IFA briefly introduces the Austrian dual system.
Apprenticeships are determined by the Vocational Training Act (Berufsausbildungsgesetz). Apprentices within the meaning of this Federal Act are persons who, on the basis of an apprenticeship contract (§ 12) are trained by an authorised apprenticeship trainer (§ 2) to learn an apprenticeship occupation specified in the list of apprenticeship occupations (§ 7, Lehrberufsliste) and who work within the framework of this training (§ 9). The apprenticeship period may last for two to four years, generally it shall be three years (§ 6).
This regulatory framework establishes clear and enforceable responsibilities of both parties, including rules on working conditions, an obligation to have a written apprenticeship contract, an entitlement to proper training, a regular wage (apprenticeship income / Lehrlingseinkommen, determined by collective agreements of the social partners), holidays and time off to attend vocational school, and full social security coverage (sickness, accidents, pension, unemployment, insolvency, occupational pension scheme). The governmental website österreich.gv.at provides an overview on rules regarding working conditions of apprentices (Arbeitsbedingungen von Lehrlingen). Further information on official guidelines for apprenticeship training is provided by the Federal Ministry of Digital and Economic Affairs (Lehre und Berufsausbildung) and the Chamber of Labour (Lehre).
In Austria, apprenticeship training takes places at two different sites: company-based training of apprentices is complemented by a compulsory attendance of a part-time vocational school for apprentices (Berufsschule). Thus, the Austrian system of apprenticeship training is referred to as 'dual vocational training system' or as the 'dual system'.
Currently, about 40% of all Austrian teenagers enter apprenticeship training upon completion of compulsory education. The overall number of apprentices as well as the number of those entering apprenticeship training has been going back already from 1981 until 1997, when the number of new apprentices increased again. The percentage of female apprentices increased slightly between 1975 and 1989, but has been decreasing ever since 1990 falling to a mere 31% in 1996. The most popular apprenticeship trades among girls is the retail-trade merchant, followed by hairdresser and office clerk. Among male apprentices, the most popular occupations are the motor-vehicle mechanic, followed by the electrician. More than 50% of all apprentices are trained for the craftsmen's trades, other important sectors are commerce (16%), the industry (11%) and tourism and the leisure industry (10%). All in all, about 40 000 companies train approximately 108,000 apprentices, which corresponds to an average of 2,7 apprentices per company. Upon completion of apprenticeship training, about 40% to 44% of all apprentices continue to work for the company where they were trained. In 2021, 107,593 apprentices were trained. The Austrian Economic Chambers provide further statistics on apprenticeships (Lehrlingsstatistik).
Apprenticeship trades list and flexible duration
Apprentices may only be trained in the legally recognized apprenticeship trades. These skilled trades (presently approximately 240) are included in the list of apprenticeship trades (Lehrberufsliste) published by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs. Moreover, there are 14 legally recognized apprenticeship trades in the agriculture and forestry sector which are not included in the list. The list contains the various occupations and informs about the duration of apprenticeship training as well as related apprenticeship trades including training time credits for already acquired vocational training.
Apprenticeship training lasts two to four years, in most cases, however, three years. In case of accreditation of other educational pathways (e.g. vocational schools, vocational training abroad) the period of apprenticeship may be reduced. Moreover, the period of apprenticeship training may also be reduced for students holding certain qualifications. This especially benefits holders of the school leaving examination (Reifeprüfung) for it increases their choice and makes it easier for them to find employment. Training for several occupations at the same time is possible provided certain requirements are met.
Companies which train apprentices are obliged to provide apprentices with the skills and know-how stipulated in the occupational profile. This ensures a uniform minimum standard of training. Companies which are not able to provide training which covers the whole occupational profile may avail of the possibility of complementary training within a training network. Thus, even small companies may contribute their share to apprenticeship training.
Company-based training constitutes the major part of apprenticeship training. Apprenticeship training agreements stating the conditions of training within the framework of a contract of employment are signed between the company and the apprentice. Thus, an apprentice has got full social insurance including health, accident, retirement and unemployment insurance. The duties of a company which is entitled to train apprentices do go beyond the usual duties of an employer to quite some extent. Apprenticeship training agreements are subject to the regulations of the industrial and social law and to protective labour legislation for teenage employees. Furthermore, the apprentice is entitled to a remuneration, which is fixed in collective labour agreements and varies according to the different apprenticeship trades.
Apprentices spend most of the time of their apprenticeship training in the real environment of a manufacturing plant or a services enterprise. This does not only mean that they are fully integrated into the world of work but may also have a positive effect on their social skills, on their skills to cope with problems and on their ego. One of the major advantages of this system, both for the apprentice as well as the company, is that apprentices may be employed as fully qualified skilled workers right upon completion of apprenticeship training.
Part-time Vocational Schools for Apprentices
Attendance of a part-time vocational school for apprentices (Berufsschule) is compulsory for apprentices who have signed an apprenticeship training agreement with a company. It starts with the beginning of the apprenticeship training agreement or another training agreement in compliance with § 30 of the Vocational Training Act and lasts until its end or the successful completion of the relevant part-time vocational school for apprentices.
The aim of part-time vocational schools for apprentices is to provide apprentices with the theoretical basics of the respective occupation, to promote and complement company-based training and to deepen their general knowledge. Moreover, it has to provide interested apprentices with adequate preparation for the TVE-Examination by means of differentiated measures and voluntary subjects.
Thus, regulations for practical training, which are stipulated in the vocational profiles, are complemented by a special curriculum defining both the key issues of the technical theory and practical training for the respective apprenticeship trade, the latter taking place in workshops and laboratories. Education in part-time vocational schools for apprentices may take on the following organizational forms:
- a day-release system with courses running for a complete academic year, apprentices attend school for a minimum of one full or two half days a week.
- a block-release system with courses lasting for a minimum of eight or four weeks per year
- a seasonal-release system, depending on the occupational sector classes may be held during a certain season only
Apprenticeship Leave Certificate and further education/training
An Apprenticeship Leave Certificate is of legal importance. The Apprenticeship Leave Certificate provides the apprentice with access to two different vocational careers. On the one hand it is a prerequisite for the admission to the Master Craftsman Exam and for qualification tests, and on the other hand it gives access to higher education via the TVE-Examor the Higher Education Entrance Exam which are prerequisites for taking up studies at colleges, universities, "Fachhochschulen", post-secondary courses and post-secondary colleges.
Outlook and reform potential
The Austrian apprenticeship training system is highly practice-oriented and esteemed all over the country. In recent years, however, a loss in attractiveness has been observed by some. Counteraction may be found in increasing the permeability of educational pathways, counteracting the concentration of apprentices on a few occupations and, from enterprise's perspectiveness, in increasing their willingness to provide (attractive) training facilities. There is a demand for a reformation of the apprenticeship system carried out in cooperation with all parties involved in order to make apprenticeship trades more attractive. Reform concepts include:
- the creation of new apprenticeship trades in future-oriented fields,
- broadly defined training objectives – more comprehensive basic training and later specialization make it easier to find out about individual skills and interests and to act accordingly (reduction of drop-outs and the rate of those who change for another occupation),
- easier access to further education and facilitating transfer from the dual system to the full-time technical and vocational education system. The introduction of the TVE-Examination in 1997 has contributed enormously to the permeability of education systems,
- more flexible training schemes for practical training in companies just as for education in part-time vocational schools,
- permanent adaptation of the curricula to the ever-changing requirements of the labour market and development of appropriate means to guarantee high quality of training,
- financial support for companies which train apprentices,
- simplification of bureaucratic structures,
- more information on less popular occupations.
The concept of internship includes different forms, such as compulsory traineeship (e.g. in the course of university) and voluntary traineeship which is neither required by a curriculum nor serves primarily the aim of earning money. Both serve primarily the aim of getting an insight into a professional field. The Chamber of Labour advises young people to be careful whenever aranging internships, because there are no as clear rules as for apprenticeships. Different legal acts regarding labour legislation and social security right apply to internships, depending on the form of the work and the contract. Basically, traineeships can be an employer-employee relationship, free employment or take the form of a practical training. Which of the contractual relationships is given has to be determined depending on the actual arangement of training in each particular case. As there are no legally binding restrictions specifically for internships, the Federal Chancellery provides information on internships including a checklists (Checklisten Praktikum). The trade union GPA (Gewerkschaft GPA) operates the platform aufdeinerseite.at to ease tyoung people's entry to professional life and to prevent cases of abuse of internships. The Social Ministry Service (Sozialministeriumsservice) has published a brochure on the legal situation of interns in Austria (Rechtliche Situation von PraktikantInnen in Österreich).
An essential characteristic of an employer-employee relationship is the performance in personal dependence of the employee. Compulsory internships within the framework of school education or studies as well as in the tourism industry usually form an employment relationship, for which they need to predominantly exhibit the characteristics of such an relationship. An employment relationship guarantees more rights, such as remuneration and continued payment of wages in case of illness. Criteria are in particular the classification in the operational organisation, the given working hours, assignment of a place of work, an agreed working sequence, being subject to directives as well as to continuous control by the employer. To such an employer-employee relationship, all regulations pertaining to labour law apply, including the respective collective agreement as well as applicable company arrangements. In particular, a remuneration claim pertaining to labour law exists towards the employer. The social security protection of the intern according to the general social security law (Allgemeinen Sozialversicherungsgesetz, ASVG) depends on the height of the remuneration. With a salary below the marginal wage threshold (Geringfügigkeitsgrenze, in 2022: 485,85 €) only the accident insurance is covered. Above the marginal employment threshold, a full insurance package (health insurance, accident insurance and pension insurance) is covered.
Internships provide a valuable opportunity of entrance into the job market, however, for interns they may pose challenges regarding social security and fair working contracts. On this issue, Plattform Generation Praktikum (Platform Generation Internship), founded in 2006 as a registered voluntary association, participates in research, projects, discussions and networking events. In order to provide the public debate with tangible numbers and facts, in 2007 it published a study entitled 'Worthless Work? Structural characteristics of internship employment in the academic context in Austria”'(Arbeit ohne Wert? Strukturmerkmale der PraktikantInnen-Beschäftigung im Hochschulkontext in Österreich). This was the first Austrian survey on internships.
Numerous offers promote apprenticeships and help apprentices, e.g.:
- The 'apprenticeship exchange' (Lehrstellenbörse) is a platform with information on apprenticeship training and training positions.
- Apprenticeship promotion (Lehrstellenförderung) enables providers of apprenticeship training to apply for financial support.
- Supra-company apprenticeship training (Überbetriebliche Lehrausbildung) allows young people who were not able to find an apprenticeship training at a company to start a similar apprenticeship training. They receive their practical training either at the educational facility or cooperating companies.
- Education and Training until the age of 18 (AusBildung bis 18) keeps young people under the age of 18 years in further education or training by means of an obligation.
Training Guarantee (Ausbildungsgarantie bis 25)
This guaranteeoriginally ensured everyone up to 18 years and socially disadvantaged youth, slow learners and education dropouts up to 24 years an apprenticeship position. Since 2017, the training guarantee has been established up to the age of 25. The Public Employment Service (Arbeitsmarktservice, AMS) has also been focusing more on education and training as the key to sustainable labour market integration. The target group is young jobseekers who are between 19 and 24 years old and have only completed compulsory schooling (approx. 43 percent of all unemployed in this age group). If someone is not able to find an apprenticeship position in a company, he or she can enter into an apprenticeship programme in a supra-company apprenticeship training entity. This form of apprenticeship, including its final exam, corresponds completely to that of a company-based apprenticeship. The 'Training Guarantee until 25' is a package of successfully implemented qualification measures such as intensive training for skilled workers, supra-company apprenticeship training, work foundations or qualification close to the workplace. These measures give young adults in Austria the opportunity to obtain a subsequent vocational qualification in order to gain a sustainable foothold in the labour market.
As of 2020, there were approximately 10,000 students enrolled in the supra-company apprenticeship training, which corresponds to more around 10% of all apprentices. 90% of all apprentices complete their apprenticeship training in a company.
Apprenticeships, alongside other career pathways, are promoted in career guidance and counselling (see Chapter 3.4). Specific Youth Coaching (Coaching für Lehrlinge und Lehrbetriebe) measures target apprentices: they, as well as their employers, may request supportive coaching, which provides assistance and advice during on-the-job training. The aim of this support program is to avoid apprentices dropping out of their formation and to ensure a successful completion of the apprenticeship. Qualified coaches will have initial talks with apprentices in question, identify perspectives and conduct mediation where required. Moreover, they assist with choosing refresher, (up-)skilling or advance training programmes and support apprentices in their preparation for the final apprenticeship examination. In addition to the apprenticeship coaching, there is a broad offer of subsidies for preparatory courses for apprentices and quality-oriented measures within the training companies.
'Fit for Training' (AusbildungsFit)
Some young people lack the basic qualifications and social skills needed to change over from school to training or work. AusbildungsFit, which was called production schools until 2020, offers an opportunity to acquire them and to get to know a range of different types of training. Across Austria, there are over 60 AusbildungsFit providers with around 3000 places for approx. 4 000 young people annually. The range of offers is being gradually extended. AusbildungsFit is an offer supplementary to youth coaching that is offered throughout Austria. The aim of AusbildungsFit is to enable young people to gain higher qualifications by (re-)entering the training sector and thus to participate in the Austrian labour market in the medium term. Targeted are young people up to the age of 21 or 24, with disabilities or special educational needs, learning disabilities, social or emotional impairments, who want to do vocational training, and whose career aspirations seem clear and feasible.
Supporting providers of trainee- and apprenticeships
Enterprises and education facilities which are entitled to train apprentices, according to the professional training law (Berufsausbildungsgesetz, BAG) or the regional and forest professional training law (Land- und forstwirtschaftlichen Berufsausbildungsgesetz, LFBAG) respectively, can apply for financial support.
The support is paid out as a monthly subsidy towards the costs of the apprenticeship education across the board. The aid is granted in each case for one practical training year. It can be granted for a maximum of 3 years. For participants in an apprenticeship education with an extended apprenticeship or part qualification, the aid can be granted for the whole apprenticeship. The support is bound to a consultation between Public Employment Service (Arbeitsmarktservice, AMS) and the enterprise or education facility with regard to the supporting person. On regional level, different support conditions may be in place.
Promoted is the apprenticeship education of
- girls/women in occupations with a low share of women
- apprenticeship seekers who are disadvantaged in the job market
- participants in a teaching education with an extended apprenticeship or part qualification
- adults (over 18-year-olds) or early school leavers whose occupation problems can be solved by an apprenticeship education
Interministerial COVID-19 taskforce on apprenticeship training
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a joint taskforce on youth employment entitled 'Ensuring apprenticeship training for all young people' ("Lehrausbildung für alle Jugendlichen sichern" ) was set up by the Federal Ministries of Labour (in German), Digital and Economic Affairs (in German), Education, Science and Research and Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection. The collaboration aims to provide young people who have completed compulsory schooling with an in-company, inter-company or school-based training place in order to close the gap of open places (in June 2020: a demand of 7.673 apprenticeship positions, with vacancies of only 4.962 ammounts to a lack of around 2.700 positions for young people) that the pandemic has created. In a first step, 1.000 additional training positions were created.
The Apprenticeship Leave Exam
The contract between the employer and the apprentice ends automatically after the stipulated period of time. At the end of apprenticeship training, each apprentice may decide whether or not to take the Apprenticeship Leave Exam (Lehrabschlußprüfung). This exam tests whether the apprentice has acquired the practical skills and qualifications relevant to his occupation and whether he is able to properly perform the tasks characteristic to the apprenticeship trade. The Apprenticeship Leave Exam is divided into a practical and a theoretical part and consists of a written and an oral exam. Provided that the apprentice has met the educational objectives of the last year of the respective part-time vocational school he is only required to do the practical part of the exam. An Apprenticeship Leave Certificate often is of legal importance as well. For compulsory training periods, the employer must issue a confirmation for the school.
In 2020, the Federal Government used a budget of 831 million euros (921 million in 2018) for labour market policy for young people (Arbeitsmarktförderung: Jugendliche und Junge Erwachsene). Of this
- 560 million euros (620 million in 2018) were implemented through subsidies and grants from the Public Employment Service
- more than 230 million euros (more than 200 million in 2018) went to the promotion of apprenticeship places in companies
- 37,2 million euros (100 million in 2018) were available for the various offers of the Social Ministry Service
- In addition, around 523 million euros were used for apprentices and young workers on short-time work (Kurzarbeit).
An additional 57 million euros have been earmarked for the 'Training until 18' programme in its full expansion from 2020. In 2019, an additional 53 million euros was made available to support young people in obtaining a secondary qualification.
In the 2018/2019 training year, around 11,700 young people were trained in courses of supra-company apprenticeship training within the framework of an originally planned total budget of around 191 millioneuros (Public Employment Service and financing contributions of the Länder). In 2018, a total of around 11,400 people received additional support through the programme 'Training guarantee until 25', the payments in this regard amounted to around 73 million euros.
Looking at previous years, Ausbildungsfit was funded by National Funds, including co-funding with a total amount of € 12 000 000 in 2014. In 2013, the Training Guarantee was funded by national funds, including co-funding with € 175 000 000 in total (of which € 150 000 000 AMS, € 25 000 000 provinces, € 25 000 000 regional/local funds).
To implement and monitor the measure 'Youth Coaching', an inter-ministerial steering group was set up. The steering group consists of members of the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection, the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research as well as the Federal Social Office. There are steering committees for Youth Coaching and AusbildungsFit in each province of Austria. Participants are stakeholders of the educational system and labour market. A nation-wide office of assistance for interface between school and work coordinates the interface between school and work for young people.
Any company or organisation applying for financial support by the government for apprenticeship training has to have a quality management concept.