ILO definition of quality apprenticeships

The ILO first defined apprenticeship in the Apprenticeship Recommendation, 1939 (No. 60), which was then superseded in 1962 by the detailed and wide-ranging Vocational Training Recommendation (No. 117). The 1962 Recommendation emphasizes the importance of the link to the labour market and stresses that apprenticeships should be systematic and long-term, correspond to a specific occupation and to established standards, have a substantial work-based component, and be based on a written contract (box 1).

Box 1 Definition of apprenticeship - Vocational Training Recommendation, 1962 (No. 117).

‘Systematic long-term training for a recognised occupation taking place substantially within an undertaking or under an independent craftsman should be governed by a written contract of apprenticeship and be subject to established standards’.1

Within the 1962 Vocational Training Recommendation, there is a specific set of Paragraphs on apprenticeship training (Paragraphs 47-54) that spell out a series of requirements for apprenticeship training. It lists the conditions necessary for occupations to be recognized as ‘apprenticeable,’ and for the establishment of an appropriate regulatory framework for apprenticeships. It makes detailed proposals as to the content of apprentices’ contracts and the accreditation and supervision of enterprises wanting to take on apprentices. It notes the need to take particular account of entry requirements; duration; the relationship between on–the-job and off-the-job training; assessment; qualifications; remuneration; accident insurance; and paid holidays.

All in all, Recommendation No. 1172 provides a valuable and precise starting point for defining apprenticeships.  Over the years, since its adoption, the ILO has been involved in numerous initiatives to support apprenticeship training, and it has promoted the concept of a Quality Apprenticeship system to emphasize the quality and relevance of training to the labour market. Such a system has the following key features:

Quality Apprenticeships are a unique form of technical vocational education and training, combining on-the-job training and off-the-job learning, which enable learners from all walks of life to acquire the knowledge, skills and competencies required to carry out a specific occupation. They are regulated and financed by laws and collective agreements and policy decisions arising from social dialogue, and require a written contract that details the respective roles and responsibilities of the apprentice and the employer; they also provide the apprentice with remuneration and standard social protection coverage. Following a clearly defined and structured period of training and the successful completion of a formal assessment, apprentices obtain a recognized qualification.

While there are many different ways in which young men and women may be offered a combination of on-the-job and off-the-job training, the ILO approach to successful Quality Apprenticeship systems is based on six key building blocks:

  • meaningful social dialogue
  • a robust regulatory framework
  • clear roles and responsibilities
  • equitable funding arrangements
  • strong labour market relevance
  • inclusiveness

These six building blocks will be further developed in Chapters 4-10. 

1 Paragraph 46 of the Vocational Training Recommendation, 1962 (No.162), available at:  /dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:R117
[28 February 2017].

2 Recommendation No. 117 was, however, replaced by the Human Resources Development Recommendation, 1975 (No. 150), which, in turn, was replaced by the Human Resources Development Recommendation, 2004 (No. 195). Neither of these two Recommendations (Nos. 150 and 195) makes any specific reference to apprenticeships as such.