Upgrading apprenticeship systems in the informal economy

The ILO’s Skills and Employability Branch is working with constituents to upgrade existing informal apprenticeship systems. Apprenticeship systems in the informal economy are widespread and in some African countries account for 90 percent of the national skills provision.

Informal apprenticeship refers to the system by which a young apprentice acquires the skills for a trade or craft in a micro or small enterprise learning and working side by side with an experienced practitioner. Apprentice and master craftsperson conclude a training agreement that is embedded in local norms and traditions of a society. Apprentices learn technical skills and are inducted into a business culture and network which makes it easier for them to find jobs or start businesses when finishing their apprenticeship.

The ILO has conducted country level research to understand what motivates master craftspeople and apprentices to conclude apprenticeship agreements, and how to intervene to improve this training system in the informal economy. In order not to drive out existing good practices while addressing deficiencies, interventions need to build on current practices. A step-by-step approach combining different types of interventions may be required to improve the quality of training, working conditions, skills recognition beyond the local community, financial arrangements, and young women’s access to non-traditional occupations. This approach has been implemented with ILO support in Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Jordan, Niger, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.