Why quality apprenticeships?

Quality apprenticeships offer a variety of benefits to different stakeholders, particularly to apprentices, enterprises and government. These include:
  • facilitating transitions to employment
  • matching skills supply with fast-changing labour market needs
  • increasing productivity and promoting sustainable enterprises
  • offering a cost-effective form of VET delivery.
These benefits are discussed in greater detail under the page “Benefits”.

Apprenticeships can provide a strong foundation for a rewarding career. There are examples of apprentices who go on to become the chief executives and chairpersons of some of the best companies in the world (see box 1.2).

Box 1.2 From apprentice to chief executive
  • Mr Peter Voser, Chairman of ABB, started his career as a commercial apprentice in a bank in Switzerland.
  • Mr Sergio P. Ermotti, Group Chief Executive Officer at UBS, started his career as a commercial apprentice in a bank in Switzerland. He stated:
It's no secret that apprenticeships are close to my heart − I know first-hand how effective this kind of education can be and how far it can take someone. After all, I started my career as an apprentice at a local bank in Lugano, Switzerland. And I dedicate time every year to advocate for apprenticeship programs, especially in countries where the apprenticeship system is not yet as well established as in my home country … Young people learn in the real business world, develop critical communication and teamwork skills, and bring their own perspectives to bear. On top of this, work-based learning adapts in real-time based on what’s happening in the industry and environment.


Governments, enterprises and the apprentices can all benefit from positive returns on their investment in apprenticeships (see box 1.3).

Box 1.3 Did you know?
  • In the United Kingdom, the economic return on public investment in apprenticeships is considerable. The present net value of each £1 of government investment in apprenticeships is estimated to be between £16 and £21 (National Audit Office, 2012).
  • A study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) in the United Kingdom estimated that workers who have completed apprenticeships increase productivity by £214 per week on average (Cebr, 2013).
  • A study of Indian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) revealed that the benefits of offering apprenticeship training surpass the costs if apprentices are retained (ILO, 2014).
  • In the United States, the return on investment for apprenticeships is $27.7 for every dollar invested by government (Reed et al., 2012).
  • In the Netherlands, wages for entry-level jobs for apprentice graduates are 30 per cent higher than those for graduates from school-based TVET (Government of the Netherlands, 2014).
  • In Canada, the average benefit of apprenticeships to employers was shown to be 1.38 times the average cost (Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, 2006).

Historically, apprenticeships have been considered primarily as a means of facilitating the school-to-work transition for young people. However, rapid transformations in the world of work are placing new demands on older workers to acquire new and update existing skills throughout their working lives. In this context, the apprenticeship model is empowering youth with broad-based skills to acquire new skills throughout their career, as well as reskilling older persons to adapt to new demands in the workplace (see box 1.4 and the link to the Lifelong learning video).

Box 1.4 How can apprenticeships empower youth to keep pace with a fast-changing world of work?
There is a growing recognition that occupation-specific technical skills alone are insufficient to ensure lifelong employability. Apprenticeships should, therefore, also help develop broad-based soft skills, or transferable skills, such as learning to learn, communication, teamwork and digital skills, so as to build a strong foundation that enables workers to keep pace with the fast changes in the world of work. For example, in Germany, apprenticeship programmes aim to provide apprentices with full vocational capacity, also known as comprehensive action competence, in a wide range of activities so that they cope with the constantly changing requirements of working life (BIBB, 2014).