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Apprenticeship is one of the priorities of the national strategy on education 2013-2022, one of the measures of the national programme for increasing employment 2014-2020 (Government of the republic of Lithuania, 2013), and the national reform programme 2014 (Government of the republic of Lithuania, 2014). It has an important place in the memorandum of cooperation for implementation of youth guarantee initiative. An interministerial group initiated by the Prime minister of Lithuania worked in 2014 to develop amendments to legal acts necessary to encourage implementation of apprenticeship in the country, however, apprenticeship has not yet gained its position as a clear pathway in Lithuanian VET.
Three ministries – Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Social Security and Labour and Ministry of Economy – are responsible for VET-related issues. With the Ministry of Education and Science having overall responsibility for developing VET policies in the country, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour takes the lead in implementing active labour market policy measures for the unemployed, including the youth guarantee scheme, and the Ministry of Economy takes charge of human resource development and support to enterprises. Within their mandates, the three ministries implement apprenticeship (and apprenticeship-type) schemes to three distinct target groups. The three systems are different in terms of procedures and requirements.
According to the Law on VET adopted in 1997, apprenticeship in Lithuania is one of the forms of organising VET: ‘vocational education shall be organised in school and apprenticeship forms’. An apprentice is contractually linked to the employer and receives remuneration (wage or allowance). According to the Order Regarding VET Contracts and their Registration Procedure adopted in 2010 by the Ministry of Education and Science and Ministry of Social Security and Labour, two types of contracts are to be concluded before the start of the apprenticeship: 1) an employment contract between a company and an apprentice that regulates training at the workplace; 2) a trilateral contract between the training company, a VET institution and the apprentice that defines the school-based part of the training programme. An employer assumes responsibility for the company-based part of the programme leading to a qualification. According to the existing regulations, a company needs to ensure that the workplace has adequate equipment, tools and other technology for learning and that safety measures are observed. Companies also are responsible for nominating a competent person to supervise students.
In July 2014, the amendments for changes to the laws regarding employment support, social and health insurance premiums, aimed at encouraging young people between the age of 16 and 29 to find jobs in their home country, were signed. Following these changes, every young person who finds a traineeship offer has the cost of insurance against accidents in the workplace as well as social and health insurance premiums covered from the national budget. The main aim of these changes is to provide help to find a traineeship offer, since until these amendments only the students of universities with which various enterprises and organizations signed a three-party agreement have been able to participate in traineeships, gain professional experience and sometimes – find a job.
Traineeships and apprenticeships are a requirement in higher education programmes. The students of vocational schools, colleges and universities have to participate in traineeships in order to gain professional experience and sometimes – find a job within various enterprises and organizations that have three-party agreements with these vocational schools, colleges and universities. The length of the compulsory traineeship depends on the study program and varies from 2 weeks to 12 months. These traineeships are aimed to develop professional skills and do not focus directly on entrepreneurship skills.
Other apprenticeship-type training in Lithuania is mainly implemented in projects and schemes supported by the European Social Fund and the Youth Guarantee funds. Apart from motivational activities, young people are supported directly to obtain missing skills at the workplace or anchor in the labour market, including through subsidised employment where the state pays their salary.
Other projects help the young unemployed take part in vocational training. These projects are implemented through the labour market training centres rather than VET centres and schools. Some of these measures are actually apprenticeships based on working and training contracts. They are usually short-term, up to six months (linked to funding provisions, learners get a grant) but they take place in the Ministry of Education and Science accredited VET providers and can lead to formal or non-formal qualifications. Within the active labour market policy measures, young and adult unemployed participate in vocational training leading to formal qualifications through bipartite agreements with territorial public employment services, and tripartite agreements with territorial public employment services and companies.
The Ministry of Economy has its own projects and schemes that include apprenticeship-type models. It has published a detailed proposal for development of apprenticeships and sectoral competences (Pameistrystės ir sektorinių kompetencijų ugdymas, Ministry of economy, 2014) with the aim to promote non-formal apprenticeships to develop sectoral competences in regions. Support is provided to SMES (to compensate training costs on fixed lump sum or cost per working hour basis) and trade/branch organisations. In the latter, training should be provided for young specialists or those on a first employment contract; wages for employees of trade/branch organisations and training procurement as well as training tools costs for member companies are supported.
Some individual companies implement their own apprenticeships: most of them have cooperation with, or are branches of international companies from countries with established apprenticeship systems, such as Denmark and Germany.
Article 36 of the Order of the Ministry of Education and Science on Procedure for Formal VET adopted in 2012 outlines how apprenticeship training should be organised: (a) the institution or the person providing apprenticeships should have a licence. This implies: institution providing practical training has to be authorised to carry out training activity (training has to be mentioned in its statute) and registered in the database of formal training providers administered by the Ministry of Education and Science; and relevant persons who will be training apprentice(s) should have competed a course for pedagogical-psychological competences with a duration of 120 hours. This requirement can be waived if a company cooperates with a VET provider; (b) theoretical training of an apprentice can be carried out in the VET school based on trilateral agreement between apprenticeship provider, apprentice and VET school; (c) apprenticeship is organised at the workplace with adequate equipment, tools and other technological as well as safety measures. Article 4 of the Order Regarding VET Contracts and their Registration Procedures adopted by the Ministry of Education and Science and Ministry of Social Security and Labour in 2010) details the content of the apprenticeship contract and obligations of students, VET provider and company.
According to the Law on VET adopted in 1997 social partners participate in: (a) the vocational education and VET Council of Lithuania that advises national education authorities on strategic issues of VET; (b) the central professional committee coordinates strategic issues regarding qualifications system development (including the forthcoming sectoral qualifications standards); (c) sectoral professional committees that work at branch/sector level. Youth organisations are involved in consultations and discussions with policy-makers on issues related to youth and implementation of education reform (such as discussions with the national examination centre on how to improve the examination process), ensuring involvement of young people in the decision-making. Some youth organisations participate in the Ministry of Education and Science working groups; some contribute to implementing the youth guarantee initiative in Lithuania. Parents’ organisations involvement in VET is limited.
Provisions in the new Labour Code 2017
In the new Labour Code which came into force on 1 July 2017 apprenticeship labour contract is a new type of employment contracts which should encourage employers to provide employees with work, in case they are seeking an opportunity to acquire professional skills. According to the new Labour Code states that an apprenticeship employment contract may be: 1) an apprenticeship employment contract without concluding a training contract; 2) an apprenticeship employment contract concluded alongside with a training contract on formal or non-formal training governed by legislative acts. Apprenticeship contract must be concluded for a fixed term and the maximum term must not exceed six months, except for an apprenticeship employment contract concluded alongside with a training contract on formal or non-formal training governed by legislative acts, wherein a longer duration of training is defined. The employer must ensure the achievement of the outcomes provided for in the formal or non-formal training programme or provide all conditions to achieve the outcomes in case when the training is carried out in accordance with an apprenticeship employment contract concluded alongside with a training contract on formal or non-formal training governed by legislative acts, wherein a longer duration of training is defined. Upon concluding an apprenticeship employment contract without concluding a training contract, the employer must prepare a non-formal training programme for the whole period of validity of the apprenticeship employment contract. The competences acquired by the apprentice in the course of participation in the training programme, methods of acquiring them, course units, duration of learning, outcomes, and other essential provisions shall be included in the apprenticeship employment contract. The employer must appoint a competent employee of the employer as the training programme supervisor, who shall lead the training process, supervise the performance of the work function, and give guidance and advice to the apprentice. Parties to the apprenticeship contract without concluding a training contract may contractually agree on compensation of the employer’s expenses incurred in relation to training by an allocation of not more than 20 per cent of the employee's average wage for such compensation. The execution of an apprenticeship employment contract concluded alongside with a training contract on formal or non-formal training shall be organised by the employer so that to achieve the objectives specified in the training agreement as well as other conditions of the training agreement. The employer shall appoint an employee(s) to be in charge of the organisation of the working activities and practical training of the apprentice and an employee to be in charge of the coordination of the working activities and practical training (profession expert). The head of the professional training institution shall appoint a profession teacher to lead the workplace practical training of the apprentice. For the actual working time, an apprentice shall be paid the remuneration provided for in the apprenticeship employment contract, which may not be lower than the minimum monthly salary or minimum hourly pay approved by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania. The time spent at the place of employment for acquiring theoretical knowledge and allocated for workplace-based training shall be included in the actual duration of working time when it exceeds twenty percent of the actual working time. The time spent in a training institution shall not be included in the working time and the employer shall not be obliged to pay any remuneration for that time. That time shall not account for more than thirty percent of the duration of the validity of the apprenticeship employment contract.
Promoting traineeships and apprenticeships is widely discussed in Lithuania today. The interest in apprenticeship programmes has increased significantly in recent years. In Lithuania new apprenticeship programmes are planned. However, there are no clear messages and understanding among stakeholders how it differs from existing VET and why the government tries so hard to implement it. The signed memorandum of cooperation for the implementation of the youth guarantee foresees promoting apprenticeship by disseminating good practice and initiatives, providing financial support to companies training VET students, and providing recommendations on further development of apprenticeship in Lithuania.
The skills young people acquire through participating in traineeships and apprenticeships can be formally recognised if they are part of education institution study program. Another form how skills young people acquire through participating in traineeships and apprenticeships can be recognised as volunteering activity. The Law on Volunteering provides that, taking into consideration the aims and nature of the volunteering activity, it may be recognized as practical work and/or learning experience, or credited as social work under a programme of general education. There is a need expressed by the Department of Youth Affairs to include volunteer activities in the youth pass - a European recognition tool for non-formal and informal learning.
Currently there is no mechanism in place for financial support of companies taking up apprentices. This is one of the core pitfalls that prevent a wider spread of apprenticeship-type schemes in the VET system. On the one hand, there are considerable costs associated with having an apprentice in the company, especially if the company is small sized with a few workers. There do not exist any mechanisms that would at least partially compensate the costs associated with apprentice-training. This means that firms not only have to pay salary for the apprentice, but also take an experienced specialist away from his/her duty and cover training material costs.
Detailed requirements for quality assurance related to quality assurance applied to schemes of traineeships and apprenticeships in Lithuania have not been set yet. There are statements: (1) in the procedures for formal VET organisations it is required that apprentice’s workplace, technological equipment, etc. would be in line with the requirements of VET programme; (2) Law on Education defines that teachers implementing VET programme should have participated in a course on pedagogy and psychology. The current system of quality assurance of schemes of traineeships and apprenticeships in Lithuania covers school-based VET and is carried out by the Qualifications and Vocational Education and Training Development Centre (Kvalifikacijų ir profesinio mokymo plėtros centras). The Qualifications and Vocational Education and Training Development Centre implements VET quality assurance shemes with the support of a contracted and trained experts from various VET fields. However, the capacity of the Qualifications and Vocational Education and Training Development Centre is not sufficient to go beyond minimum requirements. In case of the active labour market policies territorial employment services can inspect VET providers to check compliance with legal requirements, but they have limited resources and capacity to perform such checks systematically and on a broader scale. Some private business organizations that run traineeships and apprenticeships have their own standards of quality regulations. There are also issues related to the competence of the employees dealing with trainees or aprentices. Organizations involved in traineeships and apprenticeships express the need to train competent coordinators/managers in order to solve problems related to the management of traineeships and apprenticeships.