Employers are central to the apprenticeship system in all countries in Europe. This is where most training occurs as part of an apprenticeship. Employers involved in delivering apprenticeships will need to meet the specific requirements of the country concerned with respect to standards relating to learning and also re-numeration of apprentices.
However, a key aspect of apprenticeship systems is also that they tend to be characterised by a high degree of involvement of social partners at different levels. Most commonly this includes employer representative bodies, trade unions and associated bodies, training providers and associated representative bodies. Careers advice providers and relevant employment and labour related government departments are also generally involved .
The involvement of these stakeholders includes activities such as the definition of standards, curriculum development, quality assurance and funding. Their role is identified as central to ensuring that the training content and learning outcomes correspond to the requirements of the labour market and supporting transition into the labour market .
Although the involvement of these stakeholders is critical to ensuring the achievement of the above competing aims of apprenticeships the need for different stakeholders to agree to changes/developments can also create a certain amount of inertia .
The arrangements in place for involving stakeholders, together with the specific roles of each stakeholder in different countries varies. For example:
In Austria the social partners (employers´ and employees´ representatives) are the main party responsible for apprenticeship development and are involved throughout the apprenticeship development process from needs analysis through to the review of the training programme .
In Germany the Vocational Training Act regulates that the social partners are involved in decision-making processes at all levels, with business and trade organisations, social partners and the State in Germany cooperating through consensus .
In England new apprenticeship standards are developed by employer groups known as ‘trailblazers’. These are employer led but supported by a range of training providers together with professional institutes and bodies. The employers who form the ‘Automotive Trailblazer Group, include Toyota, JLR, Ford, BMW, JCB, Nissan, Honda and Bentley .
Apprenticeships need to balance the need for equipping apprentices with the skills required for successful careers in the automotive industry with the need to meet employers’ specific changing skill requirements.
As changing skill requirements within the automotive industry become more complex and the rate at which these skill changes take place increases, the role played by different social partners in ensuring the appropriate balance between these two aims will also become more challenging.
In practice this means that the consultative mechanisms established to ensure involvement of different stakeholder groups in the design and updating of apprenticeships will need to be flexible enough respond quickly to the changing skill requirements of employers, at the same time as ensuring they continue to provide a basis for successful entry into the sector and long term career progression possibilities for apprentices.