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There are no terms 'apprentice' and 'apprenticeship' used in Slovak legislation; it only names 'a student involved in vocational education and training'.
Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Slovakia is a coherent part of the Slovak educational system supervised by the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic (MESRS).
The 'professional experience' and 'internships' have been defined by the Act 61/2015 on Vocational Education and Training /Zákon o odbornom vzdelávaní (hereafter “the Act on VET” only).
The aim of the Act on VET amendments as of 14/06/2018 is to make the access to VET system more efficient for employers (mostly for SMEs). Therefore:
- a new working post of the main instructor in practical instruction/traineeship has been introduced;
- the concept of an 'enterprise school' has been introduced, providing an employer with an opportunity to train workforce also for other employers;
- some powers of regional municipalities have been withdrawn, e.g. identification of number of school classes at secondary schools;
- the system of career guidance has been described;
- the deadline for signature of a traineeship contract has been prolonged;
- a workplace for practical instruction/traineeship may be established by several employers, mainly by small and medium enterprises;
- an upper limit for a pupil’s hourly remuneration for his/her productive work has been withdrawn;
- the rules applying to salaries reduction for secondary vocational schools have been amended;
- the administrative procedures applying to verification of distinctiveness of employers to provide practical instruction have been simplified;
- the share of practical instruction at the other employer or in a workshop, involved in the dual education system, has been increased.
The document National Programme of Education Development /Národný program rozvoja výchovy a vzdelávania 2018 – 2027 (June 2018) provides directions to the Slovak educational system for the following ten years. These are measures covering better linkage of education with the labour market:
- support of internal traineeships for teachers and trainers in the field of VET;:
- carrying out of a research aimed at tracking of university graduates, based on the CEDEFOP experience on skills management;
- development and implementation of professionally oriented bachelor studies;
- introduction of new legislation supporting the dual VET in the tertiary education, as well as introduction of financial incentives for employers.
There are three VET models in Slovakia:
- VET is held solely at school – both the theory and practice is delivered at school and at school workshops;
- Schools and employers share their responsibilities for VET – the theoretical part is held at school and practical training is held partly at school and partly at employers’ premises. The contract on practical training provision is signed between a school and an employer;
- Education and training is provided both at school and employers’ premises – an employer may sign traineeship contracts with students prior to start of their studies at secondary vocational schools (before the 1st September), while the employer and the respective school have also signed the contract on providing dual VET. Unlike in German speaking countries, learners are regular secondary school students, not employees of this employer. A student usually starts his/her VET at the age of 15.
According to State Institute for Vocational Education/Štátny inštitút odborného vzdelávania (SIOV), in 2019/20 there were 5 854 of pupils, 725 employers, 176 secondary VET schools involved in the dual education system in Slovakia, thus offering 82 field of studies and 5 055 learning posts.
In 2018/2019, more than 3 000 of local training places has been created. The total capacity of certified workplaces, standing ready for the system of further education in the future, is 12 000 and 1 450 employers. There is a challenge concerning small and medium enterprises, as their involvement in this field has still been very low. SIOV started to create collaboration with regional governments to enhance involvement of MSP.
The VET programmes requiring/offering traineeships in terms of dual system of VET:
- Study programmes (4 – 5 years) including practical training, which are completed by school-leaving (maturity) exam and by awarding a certificate of traineeship/apprenticeship (ISCED 354);
- Study programmes (3 – 4 years) completed by awarding a certificate of traineeship/ apprenticeship (ISCED 353).
Vocational education and training has been developed by the SIOV providing methodology and expertise to the secondary schools (including in the theme of vocational training). This organisation performs also the tasks of secretariat to the Governmental Council for VET/ Rada vlády pre OVP
In December 2017, the MESRS officially announced acceptance of the Slovak Qualifications Framework (SKQF), as well as of the National Qualifications System of the Slovak Republic. It also announced finalization of the implementation process of SKQF/EQF on documents proving education levels, in compliance with the Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2008 on establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning.
The National Qualifications Framework includes qualifications levels according to the criteria for acquired knowledge, skills and competencies, which are interconnected with qualifications levels according to the European Qualifications Framework.
The National Qualifications System /Národný kvalifikačný rámec represents a public register including partial and full description of qualifications accepted in the Slovak Republic and required for particular professional activities relevant for a particular profession in the form of qualifications standards and evaluation criteria.
Social security coverage
Traineeship contracts must be signed between employers and secondary schools pupils in order to provide financial remuneration to pupils for their work performed within a traineeship. There are no compulsory payments or other social insurance obligations either for employers or for pupils (secondary school) and students (university) resulting from traineeships, as pupils and students do not become employees on the basis of traineeship contracts.
The system of social security is included in the Act on VET, which includes provisions concerning two types of contracts:
- Traineeship contract - template (Učebná zmluva -VZOR) between an employer and a student elaborates on the rights and responsibilities of both contract parties during the process of the students’ preparation for the occupation, content of practical training and professional competencies acquired by the student, as well as on financial and material conditions provided to the student, etc.
- Contract on dual VET - template (Zmluva - VZOR) between an employer and a secondary vocational school specifies the numbers of students and professional employees involved in education and training processes by the both contract parties, etc.
The practical training as a whole is of the employers’ responsibility, which also covers all the related costs.
Guidelines on cooperation among social partners in the design
The fundamental framework of coordination and cooperation among the social partners in VET is defined by the Act on VET (§28), stating that 8 ministries (including the MESRS, MLSAF, the Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic, etc.) share this responsibility at the national level and the regional government offices are responsible at the regional level. Professional organisations and trade union associations are included in the coordination and cooperation framework. Inclusion of social partners in VET has been improved primarily at the planning stage, in curricula creation and in awarding of qualifications.
Participation of companies in VET is possible via the following structures:
- The Governmental Council for VET (Rada vlády pre odborné vzdelávanie a prípravu) – the supreme coordination body, delivering opinions on the Plan of labour market needs in the field of VET, elaborates the publicity plan and recommends new fields of studies to the MESRS;
- Regional Councils for VET (in all 8 regions of Slovakia), which are responsible for elaboration of regional development strategies;
- Sector Councils, which are responsible for setting of professional/occupational and qualification standards and for delivering expert opinions to the policymakers;
- Professional organisations, such as chambers and employers’ associations, which have been identified as partners of educational institutions in relevant fields of studies by legislation (so called 'organisation competent in the field of VET');
- The Employers’ Council for the Dual Education System/ Rada zamestnávateľov pre systém duálneho vzdelávania na koordináciu aktivít v „duálnom” vzdelávaní, which is responsible for coordinated approach in verifying employers’ competence to deliver practical training and in documenting of awarded certificates, as well as for participation in elaboration of master plans, etc.
The Act on VET Amendment strengthened involvement of social partners, mainly in planning, curriculum development and the award of qualifications.
In the framework of the National Programme of Education Development implementation plan, there is a priority to support exercise of professional organisations competence concerning secondary schools fields of studies.
The link with the National Youth Guarantee
The National Youth Guarantee became a significant support tool in VET development, as it not only supported measures in the field of employment, but also accumulated financial sources and made it available for accelerated solutions in the field of VET.
There were some national projects supported within the operational programme Human Resources of the European Social Fund, offering young people aged 29 and under a professional experience or a training period:
The national project 'Practice to Employment´ offers a young person an opportunity to acquire or deepen his/her professional skills, knowledge and practical experience by mentoring and practical training provided by an employer, which created a half-time working place for at least 9 months. An employer is entitled for a financial contribution if a working place/post has been created and a mentor provided, all with the aim to deepen skills, the knowledge and practical experience of a young person. One mentor may work maximum with 3 young people during a period from 3 to 6 months.
The national project 'Education of Young Job-seekers' (Vzdelávanie mladých uchádzačov o zamestnanie) strives to create opportunities for re-skilling (within the instrument REPAS+) and for the support of key competencies (within the instrument KOMPAS+). A job-seeker recording a problem in accessing labour market may choose type of training, as well as a training provider. The Labour Office shall pay the particular training fee and a financial contribution to travel and subsistence costs of a job-seeker. Implementation of the project started in July 2017 and was prologated until 2023.
The national project 'Graduate practice starts a career' (Absolventská prax štartuje zamestnanie) is aimed at creating opportunities for practical training and employment for unemployed young people younger than 29 (according to Art 51 of the Act on Employment Services) . The practice must last from 3 to 6 months and the working place/post must be kept for at least 9 months. 5 244 job-seekers joined and 5 543 project participants terminated their graduate practice in 2017.
The ESF national project 'Dual Education and Enhancement of Quality and Attractiveness of VET' (Duálne vzdelávanie a zvýšenie atraktivity a kvality OVP) is implemented by the State Institute for VET (ŠIOV).
The project promotion activities are aimed at the group of:
- students, with the aim to increase their interest in life-long learning (further LLL);
- employers (mainly SME), with the aim to enhance their participation in the dual education system (increased offer of traineeships).
For the target group of parents, 3 promotion films on 10 particular professions offered by employers within the LLL as traineeships have been produced within the project and broadcasted on TV.
The LLL benefits have been promoted through internet and social networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., too.
Other important aspects of promotion are various recruitment means of employers trying to gain the interest of students, such as the open door days, excursions for students, illustrations of practice of a profession, presentation of an employer at parents’ association meetings, etc.
The State Institute for VET developed the new portal 'mojdual.sk' devoted to pupils of 7th and 8th grades of primary schools in order to timely influence their choice of secondary studies.
The newsletters providing up-to-date information have been regularly produced within the national project implementation.
SIOV was represented at the European Vocational Skills Week which took place in Berlin, Germany from 9. to 13. november 2020, in compliance with the European Commission initiative of 2016. It includes events at local, regional, national and European level.
The same ministry performs duties of the National Authority for the EU Erasmus+ Programme, which represents another means of promotion of internships and apprenticeships.
A significant role in promoting VET and dual education system played the ESF national project 'Development of secondary vocational education' (2013 -2015 Rozvoj stredného odborného vzdelávania) which made it possible to establish 21 practical centres of VET with state-of-the-art equipment and to develop a portal monitoring the labour market needs in relation to VET.
The dual education system in formal education includes study programmes completed by awarding a
- Certificate of traineeship/apprenticeship and followed by a school-leaving (maturity) certificate – ISCED 354;
- Certificate of traineeship/apprenticeship – ISCED 353.
The European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) has not been systematically implemented in Slovakia yet; neither it has been included in the state policy. It has only been applied within mobility projects (apprenticeships, traineeships) of the Erasmus+ Programme. This helps organisations of VET to build-up strategic partnerships with other organisations and companies, in order to achieve close integration of VET and the labour market.
In 2020, according to National Reform Program the goal is to link education to labour market needs. A bill will be submitted for the legislative process to modify the existing system of proposing and approving of experimental testing of study programmes so that it reflects the needs of the labour market and the society.
The implementation of projects under the “Linking Secondary-level Education to Practice” call with the allocation of EUR 30 million targeting vocational training is continuing. As at January 2020, 58 schools’ applications for a non-repayable grant had been received, amounting in aggregate to more than EUR 11 million. By now, schools have filed 29 applications for a non-repayable grant in the total amount of EUR 7 million. One accredited vocational bachelor’s programme is now existing at the Slovak University of Technology.
The ESF Operational Programme Human Resources stands as the important source of financing and provides almost 34 million € in order to implement the national project 'Dual Education and Enhancement of Quality and Attractiveness of VET' (Duálne vzdelávanie a zvýšenie atraktivity a kvality OVP). The project is implemented from January 2016 till December 2020.
Financial incentives provided on the basis of the Act on VET:
- a financial contribution of 1000 € to guarantee traineeship/practical training is particularly appealing for smaller employers;
- flat-rate expenditures deductible from the tax base are 3 200 € or 6 400 € per pupil/student, according to the number of hours of practical training provided;
- tax expenditures are possible beyond financial norms for employers and enterprise schools providing practical training in the framework of VET;
- taxable income can be deducted by tax expenditures, except expenditures on long-term assets, of 75 % or 150 %, according to the number of hours of practical training provided.
The quality of traineeships is secured by the contracts, which include provisions on specific conditions to be fulfilled by employers.
The MESRS has elaborated the Report on Quality Implementation in VET, following the recommendation on the European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for VET (EQAVET)/Správa o zavádzaní kvality v odbornom vzdelávaní a príprave v nadväznosti na odporúčanie Európskeho referenčného rámca pre zabezpečovanie kvality v oblasti odborného vzdelávania a prípravy EQAVET 2015 . Indicators provided in this report do not assess the quality of traineeships.
The State Education Inspectorate elaborates the yearly Report on Education Status, which includes also audit findings concerning traineeships guaranteed by the contract partners of schools.