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Traineeships are organised for both upper secondary school and higher education students, but each are governed by different regulations.
On the job training (praktyczna nauka zawodu) taking the form of practical classes or traineeships for upper secondary vocational school students is regulated under the regulation of the Minister of National Education. Its time, place and possible salary depend on the type of school and class. The training takes place on the basis of an agreement between the school and the workplace, which takes in the student. Training can take place at school workshops, practical training centres, and with employers.
Another form of gaining vocational qualifications are apprenticeships for vocational school students, which involve on-the-job training. These are governed by separate regulations. The employer enters into an employment contract with the minor to provide them with vocational training in the form of on-the-job training. Theoretical instruction takes place at a vocational school or in a course. The apprentice iscovered by compulsory social insurance and receives a salary. Hiring a minor as an apprentice is reimbursed to employers from public funds.
At present changes are being introduced with relation to classification of professions, financing of vocational education and training, cooperation between schools and employers and professional certification. The main aim of these changes is to improve the quality of practical education, better adjustment of graduates to the needs of the labour market and active involvement of employers in the process of education and training.
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.
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.
In 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.
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.
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.
In Poland, the Polish Qualifications Framework (Polska Rama Kwalifikacji) has been developed. It is consistent with the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). It is used to identify, organise and describe qualifications, including:
- learning outcomes obtained through formal education (schools, higher education institutions) and non-formal education received outside the general, vocational or higher education system (e.g. qualification, linguistic or specialist courses – all certified); and
- learning outcomes of informal education (e.g. professional experience and practice, traineeships, internships, work placements and self-learning).
From October 1st 2016 the Minister of National Education acts as the Coorrdination Point for Polish Qualifications Framework. Works are ongoing to implement the Polish Qualifications Framework into specific areas of education, particularly in vocational and higher education, as well as the labour market.
The National Qualifications Framework for Higher Education consistent with the European education system was introduced in Poland in 2011 as a result of the Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 2 November 2011 on the National Qualifications Framework for Higher Education (Journal of Laws (Dz.U.) 2011.2553.1520). All higher education institutions are required to describe their study programmes through learning outcomes in three categories: knowledge, skills and social competences.
Work placements for students are covered by the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) and included in the study programmes.
Work is ongoing on the implementation of the European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET). In order to support the national authorities, a National Team of ECVET Experts was established, which is functioning at the Foundation for the Development of the Education System. The Team’s work also involves promoting the ECVET idea by publishing information materials and organising workshops and seminars for different audiences.
Vocational 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).
In the years 2011-2013, local governments spent an average of PLN 60 billion annually on the financing of educational tasks. Nearly PLN 40 billion came from the education subsidy. The remaining funds are grants from the state budget, including funds from the European Union budget and local government funds. The scale and scope of educational tasks performed by local governments has been very diverse and depended on the wealth (budget) of the particular local government (NIK 2014).
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.
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.
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 (Ekonomiczny Los 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.