Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

The proportion of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is significantly less in Quality Apprenticeships. This may be attributed to a lack of comprehensive facilities to meet the standards and of trained instructors, as well as to administrative and procedural requirements that may be too taxing for them. Clearly, SMEs require some form of support to take on apprentices. This could come from intermediary bodies that would manage the recruitment process, produce education and training plans, set clear roles and responsibilities for the on-the-job training and organize the assessment activities, as well as deal with the administrative procedures.

In the German-speaking countries, this support is often provided, for example, by the Economic Chambers of the different provinces in Austria, or the Public Employment Services or Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Germany, or the Cantonal Offices for Vocational Training and Career Guidance in Switzerland (Bliem et al., 2017, pp. 14-16).

Moreover, as SMEs, and particularly micro enterprises, are often unable to provide all the different aspects of training required by the training regulations, these intermediary bodies manage the process and distribute the on-the-job training to a variety of micro-enterprises. In Australia, these intermediary bodies, known as group training organisations, carry out these tasks and others, as can be seen in box 41 (OECD/ILO, 2017, p.25).

Box 6: Group training organisations and SMEs

In Australia, group training organisations are not-for-profit organisations that receive government funding to directly employ apprentices, manage their training and support needs and hire them out to employers. The advantage of this model is that training offices boast institutional knowledge about navigating the apprenticeship system and supporting apprentices. In the Australian case study, the group training organisation ABN Training featured a dedicated training manager who was able to support apprentices through the programme by providing pastoral care and practical assistance with off-the-job training and theory requirements. This organisation has been successful in improving apprenticeship completion rates in the ABN Group above the state and national average.

In addition, as an OECD study has indicated, ‘specialised incentive mechanisms, including tax exemptions, subsidies, the provision of networks or custom placement assistance, can help to improve SME participation in apprenticeship programmes’ (OECD/ILO,  2017).