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Sweden has historically chosen to organize apprenticeship training within the framework of secondary schools, unlike many other European countries, such as Germany and Austria, where apprenticeship has been a main track. This means that most apprenticeships take place within the Swedish education system.
According to the upper secondary school ordinance (Gymnasieförordningen), all pupils in Sweden in upper secondary schools vocational programmes and within special needs upper secondary schools national programmes shall accomplish part of their training at a workplace. This is called workplace-based learning (arbetsplatsförlagt lärande, APL) and can also occur within adult education and in college preparatory programmes.
Education providers are responsible for obtaining APL-places, and ensuring that the requirements stated in the curriculum are met. In apprenticeship education, the principal decides over the APL, and if students shall accomplish all or part of their course as workplace-based learning.
Before a student begins an APL placement, an education contract must be drawn up between the student and the workplace. This must be signed by the student, the school principal and the legal or actual person providing the APL-place. The education provider is responsible for establishing the training contract.
Guaranteed workplace-based learning, APL
Upper secondary school
At all upper secondary school national vocational programmes, APL shall occupy at least 15 weeks. In upper secondary apprenticeship education, at least half of the training shall be at a workplace. Each week with APL is equivalent to 23 hours of guaranteed teaching in a secondary school.
Special needs upper secondary school
Pupils at secondary special school national programmes are entitled to at least 22 weeks workplace-based learning. Each APL week is equivalent to 25 hours of guaranteed teaching in upper secondary school.
APL can occur within adult education, but the time of APL is not regulated. Courses or parts of courses may be attributed to one or more workstations.
In vocational programmes such as nursing, medicine and teaching, APL is an integrated and mandatory part of the education. The structure of the APL and the regulated time at a workplace may however differ between universities and colleges.
In more general programmes, such as social sciences, humanities and science, internships often happen as optional courses.
Traineeship within Public Employment programmes
Young people aged between 16 and 24 years of age, who are participating in the job guarantee for youth, can be offered a traineeship for up to three months. There are no obligations to have a formal agreement between Public Employment and the traineeship provider. Neither is there an obligation to have a job description before an individual enters a workplace, but it is encouraged from the agency. However, the provider always engages in some form of planning, although the participants do not always get a job description. In general, it is up to the provider and the participant to jointly agree on appropriate tasks.
Social security coverage applying to participants to traineeships and apprenticeships
Sweden has a universal welfare and health provision system. Participants in labour market programmes, traineeship included, count as workers and are therefore covered by the same social security arrangements as regular workers.
Apprentices during APL-periods are defined as workers, and as pupils when in training at school. This means social security coverage is equally applicable as to students and regular workers.
The link with the Youth Guarantee scheme
Sweden has, in line with the European employment strategy Youth Guarantee, worked on facilitating the transition from school to work. This includes widening the use of apprenticeships and work-based learning. Since 2014, the government has, for example:
- allocated extra funds to strengthen cooperation between authorities and industry associations in order to develop the quality of work-based learning
- made it possible for apprentices to seek apprenticeship allowance for meals and traveling costs in order to ensure that no student has to opt out apprenticeship education for economic reasons.
Furthermore, an apprenticeship reformhas being implemented since 2015. The reform means that pupils within upper secondary vocational programmes can now be employed in a new form of employment called secondary apprenticeship employment (Gymnasial lärlingsanställning).
The secondary apprenticeship employment is temporary and means, in brief:
- the employment may relate to all or part of the workplace practice
- the employment ceases as a rule when the work-based learning under the education-contract terminates
- the Employment Protection Act does not apply to this form of employment.
The Government internship programme
The Government has a special traineeship programme aimed at newly arrived job seekers and people with disabilities that impair their capacity to work. The aim is to give those people experience in a government agency and thereby improve their job prospects. It is however unclear to what degree newly arrived young people and young people with disabilities that impair their capacity to work are participating in the internship programme.
European Alliance of apprenticeship
Sweden is a member of the European Alliance of Apprenticeship and has taken a number of measures and initiatives to increase quality, supply and attractiveness of apprenticeship education. For example:
- financial support to municipalities to further engage in apprenticeship training
- National information campaigns on VET
- Incentive scheme with financial support to providers of apprenticeship training (school and workplace).
Since 2012, the internship programme Tekniksprånget is run by the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) at the request of the Swedish Government. Through Tekniksprånget, Swedish employers and the Government are together investing in preserving Sweden’s engineering tradition. Tekniksprånget allows upper secondary school graduates to get practical experience. The goal is to demonstrate the possibilities of an engineering degree for a young target group.
Today, more than 200 employers offer internship positions through Tekniksprånget.
Representatives from the Government offices continuously participate in different career days, fairs and other occasions in order to meet students and inform them about traineeship possibilities within government offices. In addition, the government also provides information on its website about traineeships possibilities in different offices.
Information about Vocational Education and Training (VET)
The last decade or so, it has generally been difficult to attract young people into vocational education and training in Sweden. The Government therefore declared 2016 to be a VET year. Extra resources were allocated in order to lift attractiveness and to meet the labour demand. The Swedish Education Agency has among other things:
- directed information campaigns towards students in upper secondary education and their parents
- on the occasion of the VET year, organized a number of conferences on VET
- in addition, the event 'Swedish occupational skills' (yrkesutbildningsmässa) is held every two years. It is the largest effort in Sweden aimed at increasing interest in recruitment into VET in several areas such as construction, design, industry, IT, health care and technology. Schools and general public are invited to visit the event.
Support of learning outcomes in upper secondary education
The Swedish National Agency for Education has developed different forms of valuation support in order to recognize learning outcomes for the national vocational programmes. For instance, they have made an introductory film, a brochure about the valuation of learning outcomes and a film with valuation examples and discussion questions.
The subject syllabus forms the basis for the evaluation of the learning outcomes. Its starting point is the knowledge requirement stated in the syllabus. From the subject syllabus it is shown, for example:
- which objectives the pupil shall achieve
- what should be assessed
- how the quality of the performed work should be valued.
After the completion of an apprenticeship or a traineeship period, the student receives a grade or a certificate, which is based on an overall assessment from both the school-based and workplace parts.
Every university that offers internship courses and/or vocational programmes has its own way of validating the knowledge, skills and competences acquired. It is commonly stated in the curriculum what kind of skills and competences a student shall receive after completion of an internship course. It is also common for the internship provider to write a certificate which states the completed work tasks and gives a general description of how the student has been perceived.
All internship courses offered at Swedish universities give ECTS credits (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System), that in most of cases can be included as part of progress towards a bachelor's or a master's degree.
The same rules apply to students who have undergone a traineeship within a higher vocational education programme. The difference is that they gain ECVET credits (European Accumulation and Transfer Credit System for Vocational Education and Training) instead of ECTS.
The Public Employment Service
In general, there is a lack of formal valuation mechanisms to recognise the skills and competences achieved by participants who have undergone a traineeship within a labour market programme.
It is only when a professional assessment (yrkeskompetensbedömning) is made that there is a formal valuation of the participant's skills and competences. A professional assessment is a form of traineeship which gives an employer the possibility to try a new worker while assessing whether the job applicant's education and skills are usable in the labour market. A professional work assessment usually takes between one and three weeks. After the assessment is done, the employer writes a certificate, and will hopefully also act as reference person when the participant continues to look for a job.
Internships and apprenticeships outside formal education and labour market programmes
It is harder to validate the knowledge, skills and competences acquired for those who have participated in traineeships or in apprenticeships outside the Swedish labour market or outside of formal education programmes. This means that it is harder for these young people to obtain a partial or full qualification within the system of formal education.
A government report has shown that Sweden in general has lacked a clear structure at national level to effectively validate different skills and competences regardless of whether or not it has applied internships/apprenticeships, or foreign education.
In order to make the validation system more effective, long-term and transparent, the government appointed in 2015 a National Validation Delegation (Valideringsdelegationen). The Delegation is tasked with accompanying, supporting and driving the coordinated development within the validation area at the national and regional level.
Each apprenticeship position is funded by a government grant from the state budget. Government subsidies can be given for apprenticeship education at upper secondary school, municipal adult education and special education for adults. The grant is divided into three parts:
- implementation of apprenticeship
- compensation to the workplace
- training of supervisors at the workplace.
The maximum amount of support is 50 000 Swedish kronor (4 800 euro) per apprentice per year. The grant is distributed by the Swedish National Agency for Education.
Information on the general amount of funding as a percentage of the overall budget is not available.
School providers have the main responsibility in monitoring and ensuring the quality of traineeships and apprenticeships. It is also a school’s responsibility to make sure the workplace is a good working environment and fulfils the current working requirements. The same working requirements also apply to students on APL. Before an APL starts, the school providers and the employer shall, according to the regulations from the Swedish Work Environment Authority (Arbetsmiljöverket), make a risk assessment of the workplace.
The National Agency for Education has also developed general guidelines, as support for schools when ensuring if an APL-place is of good quality.
Important factors for an APL-place of good quality are that the:
- activities at the workplace have sufficient width and depth within the current education area
- workplace appoints a supervisor who is prepared and suitable for the task
- workplace is a good working environment.
According to the Education Act, systematic quality work is aimed at attaining the national goals for education. This requirement means that principals for pre-school units and school units systematically are to continually monitor their activities and analyse results in relation to the national goals. Based on this analysis, education is to be planned, developed and adjusted.
The Public Employment Service
Extensive inspection of an employer has to take place before an individual is sent to a traineeship. At first, there is a consultation with the local union division. After the first contact, the union has five days for leaving recommendations as to whether the workplace is suitable or not. Thereafter, it is up to the Public Employment Service to decide if the recommendations should be followed or not. In addition to the consultation, the agency must also ensure that the employer does not have:
- a trading prohibition
- tax debt passed to the Swedish Enforcement Authority (Kronofogden) or significant payment notes.