A major advantage of dual VET systems over other models is the direct involvement of the business sector. However, this is also associated with the risk that companies may react in crises by offering fewer apprenticeship positions. Particularly in partner countries of development cooperation, where the involvement of companies is often new and still being established, the question arises of how their willingness to provide training can be ensured despite the current crisis. Even if the situation in the DC dVET member countries differs in many respects from that in the partner countries, these countries can still serve as an inspiration – even in the current crisis.
The following is an overview of the measures in the DC dVET member countries to mitigate the consequences of the crisis on VET:
In Germany, the social partners agree that companies can only overcome the crisis with a sufficient number of skilled workers. For this reason, the Alliance for Initial and Further Training agreed on a major package of measures at the end of May to stabilise the training market. An important short-term element is the introduction of a premium for companies that take on apprentices who have been made redundant in other companies due to the Corona crisis, e.g. because of bankruptcy. This is intended to ensure that young people can complete their training. In addition to investments by the Federal Government in the digital infrastructure in the education system, which also benefits vocational schools, the Federal Employment Agency, but also the chambers and associations are expanding their (digital) counselling services (e.g. virtual speed dating, apprenticeship exchanges). In addition, the opportunities for collaborative training (two or three companies share an apprentice) and contract-based training (other training companies or training providers implement part of the training) are to be made more attractive for companies and used to a greater extent. You can find further information here (in German only). At the beginning of August, the Alliance’s package of measures for initial and continuing training was expanded. This now focuses in particular on small and medium-sized enterprises (up to 249 employees). Among other things, these companies will now receive a bonus for each new training contract signed and for continuing complete training for apprentices despite short-time work (When companies lose a significant part of their order/business due to a crisis, they can apply for short-term work where employees work at a reduced workload and the loss of earnings is partly compensated by the state. This measure is to avoid layoffs in times of crisis and can also be applied to apprentices). Further information can be found here.
Various measures were already introduced in Liechtenstein before the Corona crisis, and these are now proving their worth. These include training company networks, coaching of training companies and extensive support for young people in the preparation of their occupational choice. Responsible is the 100pro! VET Liechtenstein Initiative, a project of the Liechtenstein Chamber of Commerce. Last December, the Office VET in Liechtenstein also launched an online portal for training companies in order to relieve the burden on companies in processes related to training. Liechtenstein has also been able to benefit from existing experiences in the changeover to distance learning, as pilot classes have been running for five years now in which digital teaching is used. Despite other fears at the beginning of the crisis, no strong effects on the apprenticeship market are being expected. In addition to the measures taken, this is probably also due to the size of the country (30,000 inhabitants), the correspondingly low total number of trainees (approximately 150 per year), and the good networking between the actors, often with individual support. Further information and current developments can be found here (in German only).
Austria has also introduced measures to support its dual VET system during the pandemic. At the beginning of June, the federal government set up an apprenticeship bonus (in German only) which helps companies that take on new apprentices during the crisis (currently until October 2020). As in Germany, the measures have now been extended once again; the apprentice bonus has been increased and small and micro companies are receiving particularly strong support. Training companies also receive support from the Austrian Economic Chambers (WKÖ). More detailed information on the measures in Austria can be found here (in German only).
In Switzerland, a task force “Perspective VET 2020” was set up and a funding priority “Apprenticeships COVID-19” (both in German, French, Italian only) was established. This allows support measures to be approved without bureaucracy – with the aim of ensuring that as many young people as possible find an apprenticeship position despite the corona crisis. Concrete measures include, among others, the strengthening of counselling services for young people, last-minute apprenticeship matching exchanges, more flexible handling of the start of training (usually in August), the promotion of joint solutions between training companies or financial support to avoid the dissolution of existing apprenticeship contracts (short-time work). In addition, it is being examined whether a change in the organisation of training (shift of school-based part at the beginning of apprenticeship and thus a later transfer to the training company) could reduce training costs for companies and thus ease the burden on them in the short term. In addition to the measures mentioned above, the development of the apprenticeship market is being systematically monitored and analysed to be able to make an informed choice about potential additional measures.