Apprenticeship for young people in BENELUX: a brief case study
The two work-based learning systems in Belgium are directed to young people.
They are open to who is over the age of 15 as part of their compulsory education, young people over 18, self-employed workers and jobseekers with no age limitations.
In general, the apprentice takes part in courses in regional training centre one or two days a week and receives practical training in an enterprise the other three days, under the supervision of the employer – trainer.
The 80% of trainings take place within companies as part of an apprentice-employer agreement: the apprenticeship contract. The contract provides an elaborate protection through the labour law (working hours, security,etc) and it has a minimum duration of 1 year and a maximum of 3 years.
In the Belgian Flemish apprenticeship training system, the “leertijd” model is based on the idea of alternating training; theoretical and practical training are separated and take place at different locations with different teachers and it is oriented towards life-long learning.
In the Belgian French model, the apprenticeship system is based on two places for training: the training centre and the enterprise, with a link between them.
The strengths of the work-based learning system are: it allows for an easier transition into employment and it has attractive and motivational characteristics (young people discover a new link between theory and practice).
The Belgian Government is currently working on the development of courses of Higher Vocational Education, where workplace learning plays a key role, in close co-operation with professional sectors.
Most Belgian young people attend technical and vocational streams in Secondary Education. In 2006, the rate of attendance in the Flemish-speaking community (75%) and the 62% in the French-speaking community were higher than the European average (46%), Eurostat data.
In Luxembourg, the apprenticeship (“apprentissage”) includes practical training in a company under an apprenticeship contract and the attendance of vocational courses in a technical secondary school (comparable to the German Dual System). The “concomitant regime” combines on-the-job training with external-school activities.
In Netherlands, the apprenticeship is part of an elaborated system of vocational education, combining school and workplace learning.
Governments, schools and companies are attempting to uphold the quality of learning in apprenticeships; more intensive interaction between workplaces and vocational schools are developed.
Workplace learning in Dutch VET is an important factor in the development of broad occupational competency (Onstenk, 2001, 2004). Working together to apply and develop knowledge and skills contributes to the capacity to adapt what has been learned to different situations, which is a key benchmark of rich learning in vocational education (Billett, 2003).
The proportion of young people (aged 15-29) who undertake apprenticeship varies significantly across the EU27 (the EU27 average is 3.7%); Netherlands (such as Germany) has a high apprenticeship coverage rate (>5%), while Luxembourg has a low coverage rate (<1.5%).