This is the second of a five-part article series by Dr David Smawfield, an international expert on technical and vocational education and training, exploring different dimensions of youth skills development for jobs and employability. This series leads to a discourse at the ADB International Skills Development Forum in Manila from 10-12 December 2013. Edited, Shanti Jagannathan, ADB.
The main strengths of apprenticeships in skills development are that they reinforce the demand side in skills utilization by employers on the one hand and enable apprentices to apply skills learned in the workplace immediately without much time and transmission loss. However, in developing economies formal apprenticeships through formal technical and vocational education and training (TVET) are available only for a small minority of young people.
The majority of youth in developing countries work in the informal economy and it is thus informal apprenticeships that provide the largest and in some cases only advancement opportunity for young people. The informal apprenticeship system is inherently weaker in terms of quality and consistency of approach and does not provide much scope for monitoring and regulation compared to its formal counterpart. Therefore, there is much to be done to strengthen the apprenticeships regime for informal sector occupations. An ILO Report on The Youth Unemployment Crisis has prioritised the following for system improvement:
- complement learning at the workplace with more structured institutional learning;
- upgrade the skills of master crafts persons, e.g. by introducing modern technology and upgrading pedagogical skills;
- involve business associations and labour organizations, especially those representing the informal economy;
- introduce standardized contracts and certification;
- include literacy/numeracy training and livelihoods skills; and
- strengthen community involvement to open more occupations for young women.
The ILO publication Upgrading Informal Apprenticeship: A Resource Guide for Africa advocates efforts to build bridges between informal and formal apprenticeship modalities. Examples of strategies identified for consideration (referenced to Africa, but arguably with wider relevance) include: promoting inclusion of informal apprenticeship in national training systems; devising skills development strategies inclusive of informal apprenticeship; improving recognition by involving other reliable institutions; by providing finance; and through introducing skills assessment of apprentices. The last mentioned has particular potential, particularly where competency based approaches are used. Apprentices can submit themselves for testing at formal testing centres. Provided competences can be demonstrated, it should not matter where or how these were attained: formally or informally. This is an approach adopted on a pilot basis by the EC funded ‘Labour Market Information Project’ in Vietnam. Pilot centres have been set up in formal training institutions where anyone can go for testing of their competences in welding.
In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, developed economies found that apprenticeships can be a powerful way to tackle youth unemployment and such programs have been given new impetus and emphasis. A 2013 international study on good practice principles in apprenticeship systems compared and contrasted apprenticeship systems in 11 countries and has suggested that governments may consider the promotion of the ‘brand’ of apprenticeship, particularly in countries where the status of apprenticeships is low. Measures such as promotion of apprenticeships as a valued school-leaving pathway, awareness building of secondary school and careers staff about apprenticeships, making apprenticeships more attractive through providing pathways to higher level qualifications, and encouragement to recognize apprentice qualifications for recruitment to jobs and/or reward with higher pay can contribute positively.
- Change One Thing: Apprenticeships need to be in the education mix (irishtimes.com)
- Apprenticeships and Gender (itfinspiringwomen.wordpress.com)
- Apprenticeships – a boost into your successful career (qaapprenticeships.wordpress.com)
- University backed to lead major construction sector apprenticeships project (mdx.ac.uk)