Benefits of Quality Apprenticeships

International organizations, governments, trade unions and employers’ associations at the global, regional and national levels have increased their calls for the development and/or improvement of Quality Apprenticeship systems and programmes. This chapter sets out to explain why these bodies and institutions are taking a keen interest in these systems. The first part of the chapter lists a series of examples of commitments that have been taken internationally and nationally to support the promotion of Quality Apprenticeships. The second part makes a case for Quality Apprenticeships, and puts forward a rationale for the benefits that they bring.

The benefits of Quality Apprenticeships are many and varied and accrue to all stakeholders, in a variety of ways. The following sections will illustrate this.

Facilitating the school-to-work transition

The 97th Session of the International Labour Conference, 2008, acknowledged the importance of apprenticeships as an ‘effective means of bridging school and the world of work for young people by making it possible for them to acquire work experience along with technical and professional training. This helps overcome their lack of work experience when trying to get a first job’ (ILO, 2008).

Research undertaken for the European Commission has shown that apprenticeships consistently lead to positive employment outcomes. On average 60-70 per cent (and up to 90 per cent in some cases) of apprentices secure employment immediately upon completion of their apprenticeship – for example in Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland and the United Kingdom. “Indeed, the high effectiveness in relation to employment outcomes of apprenticeship programmes, especially those associated with the dual training system, has led a number of Member States to introduce similar schemes akin to this system or to embark upon major reforms of their apprenticeship system” – for example in Belgium, Cyprus, Italy, Romania and Spain (European Commission, 2013b, pp. 9-10).

In Brazil, an impact assessment of the Apprentice Act shows that apprentices, after graduating, have a greater chance of finding a non‑temporary formal job and earning higher wages in the short- and medium-term relative to comparable people who did not benefit from such a programme (Corseuil et al., 2014).

Moreover, apprentices are more likely to find employment than the wider cohort of TVET students, as may be seen from the striking example provided by the Netherlands (box 6).

Box 4: Relative success in finding work after a TVET pathway – the Netherlands

In the Netherlands ‘there are two pathways for gaining a TVET qualification: the work-based apprenticeship pathway, (beroepsbegeleidende leerweg – BBL) and the school-based pathway (beroepsopleidende leerweg – BOL). The originality of the Dutch system lies in the fact that the qualifications are the same and of equal value (ETUC/Unionlearn, 2016, p. 48). Figures show that ‘with respect to job opportunities, there is a clear difference between BBL and BOL’. In 2012, among those successfully completing the BBL route, the unemployment rate was low (3 per cent), but for those successfully completing the BOL route it was between 11 and 30 per cent, depending upon the level of the qualification. Moreover, the average time needed to find a first job was one month for BOL students but only some two weeks for BBL apprentices (Government of the Netherlands, 2014, p. 76).

Securing a first job can present real challenges for young people. Employers are reluctant to hire young people who have no work experience and whose ‘work-readiness’ is unknown. Employers ask whether these young people will fit into the work culture of the enterprise, whether they are mature enough to take the job seriously, and whether they have the right technical and soft skills to do the job properly. It is difficult for employers to make these judgments in a short interview. Quality Apprenticeship programmes enable employers to run an extended recruitment process, whilst training young people to carry out the specific activities that the enterprise needs. At the same time, apprentices have an opportunity to make well-informed choices about their training and career options - and to show what they can do and what productivity potential they can offer.

Promoting coordination between the world of education and the world of work

Quality Apprenticeship programmes provide a systematic means of forging collaboration between TVET institutions and the labour market. This allows enterprises to influence the design and delivery of the curriculum and training modules prepared by TVET institutions, and at the same time it enables trainers from TVET institutions to understand better what knowledge, skills and competence are required in the workplace. This mutually reinforcing collaboration helps to improve the quality and the effectiveness of the overall training experience and to reduce the potential for skills mismatches.

In Australia, for example, coordination between employers providing on-the-job training and the TVET institute offering off-the-job training is a core characteristic of the apprenticeship system, and a benefit for apprentices (or trainees), employers and the economy (box 7).

Box 5: Promoting coordination between the world of education and the world of work - Australia

Toyota Australia has formed a partnership with the Kangan Technical and Further Education Institute (TAFE) in Victoria to take shared responsibility in supporting their Australian Apprentices. Toyota and the Kangan Institute meet on a monthly basis to discuss the progress of the Australian apprentices, issues that may be arising, and possible improvements to the training programme. They have found, for example, that a mandatory mentoring programme for Australian Apprentices in the workplace has directly contributed to successful Australian Apprentice outcomes. The partnership has enabled the development of an industry and enterprise tailored Certificate in Training and Assessment to support the mentoring programme, and Toyota has many workplace mentors who hold this qualification (Commonwealth of Australia, 2011a, p. 50).

Making good business sense

Enterprises invest in Quality Apprenticeships because it makes sound business sense. Quality Apprenticeship programmes provide a stable and reliable pipeline of qualified workers, increase productivity, lower the cost of recruitment and also enhance employee retention - according to the American Department of Labor (box 8).

Box 6: Advantages for employers – United States

First and foremost, Quality Apprenticeship helps businesses develop highly-skilled employees. Quality Apprenticeship programs also reduce turnover rates, increase productivity and lower the cost of recruitment. 

Additional benefits include:

  • Customized training that meets industry standards, tailored to the specific needs of businesses, resulting in highly-skilled employees.
  • Increased knowledge transfer through on-the-job learning from an experienced mentor, combined with education courses to support work-based learning.
  • Enhanced employee retention: 91% of apprentices that complete an apprenticeship are still employed nine months later.
  • A safer workplace that may reduce worker compensation costs, due to the program’s emphasis on safety training.
  • A stable and reliable pipeline of qualified workers.
  • A systematic approach to training that ensures employees are trained and certified to produce at the highest skill levels required for the occupation (United States Department of Labor, 2017b).

Worldwide, the opinion of employers about apprenticeships is usually positive (figure 1). According to an Inter-American Development Bank report, a large majority of employers are satisfied with apprenticeships - and a majority of them reported improvement in productivity (Fazio et al., 2016).

Figure 1: Employers’ opinion about apprenticeships

Source: Fazio et al., 2016

Another benefit is the positive impact of apprenticeships on an enterprise’s ability to innovate. Well-trained workers are more likely to understand the complexities of an enterprise’s production processes, and are therefore more likely to identify and implement ways in which technological improvements can be made (Lerman, 2014a, p.14).

Over time the benefits that accrue to businesses on the basis of a skilled workforce far outweigh the initial investment in new apprentices. As will be seen in greater detail in Chapter 8, enterprises recover the training costs and reap net benefits as apprentices learn what is needed to do the job and become more productive.

Providing cost-effective TVET delivery

The advent of new technologies and other factors are causing continuous changes in skill demands in the labour market. It is particularly cost-intensive to anticipate future skill needs, equip TVET institutions with the latest facilities and tools, update curricula and training modules and, in addition, to upskill teachers and trainers. This does not constitute a one-off investment.
If the public authorities - and any other funding providers – are able to broker a partnership between the world of education and the world of work, TVET institutions and enterprises can tap into each other’s resources (e.g. equipment and facilities, accumulated know-how and experience). By sharing the costs of training, enterprises and government agencies responsible for TVET are likely to share the benefits of training.

Figure 3:  Economic returns to public investment – United Kingdom

Source: National Audit Office, 2012

As has been reported by the United Kingdom National Audit Office (figure 2), the economic returns to public investment may be considerable. The net present value to the economy of £1 of government investment in apprenticeship training is estimated to be between £16 and £21.
This issue will be developed further in Chapter 7.

Quality Apprenticeships are good for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

SMEs are particularly significant in the context of local labour markets and often play a significant role in supporting local employment and driving forward the local economy. They often make use of Quality Apprenticeships to deal with skills shortages and the future development of the enterprise, and to enable young people to acquire specialized skills required to produce high-quality goods and provide high-quality services. SMEs have also been found to benefit in terms of improved access to the latest technological innovation gained through apprentices in their off-the-job training in TVET institutions (Fazio et al., 2016).
The Inter-American Development Bank report, Apprenticeships for the XXI Century: A model for Latin American and the Caribbean,  states that Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries are interested in apprenticeships for a variety of reasons, including productivity, innovation, mismatch between skills demand and supply, and the career ladder (Fazio et al., 2016). The main impacts of apprenticeships, as per the report, are summarized in figure 3.

Figure 4: Summary of the main impacts of apprenticeships in LAC countries

Source: Fazio et al., 2016.

The rationale for promoting Quality Apprentices is compelling. There is an overwhelming consensus, emanating from international organizations, as well as from social partners at the international level, that they offer a variety of benefits - and that certain steps should be taken and certain principles respected , with a view to supporting their design and implementation.


You may use the following checklist to evaluate if there is evidence for - and an awareness of - the benefits of apprenticeships among the government, employers and young people.

Rationale for promoting Quality Apprenticeships Yes No
In your country, is there evidence to show that:    
  • Apprenticeships facilitate the school-to-work transition?
  • Apprenticeships promote coordination between the world of education and the world of work?
  • Apprenticeships make good business sense?
  • Apprenticeships provide a cost-effective way of delivering TVET?
  • Apprenticeships are good for the development of small- and medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)?

Are the government, employers, trade unions and young people aware of the benefits of apprenticeships?

Are you aware of the international and regional initiatives to strengthen apprenticeships?    

If you have answered “no” to any of these questions, it might be worth examining ways in which evidence could be collected to inform the development of a Quality Apprenticeship system in your country. The evidence on the benefits of apprenticeships is a key factor in building awareness for various stakeholders, which may act as a catalyst for the establishment of a clear framework for a successful and sustainable Quality Apprenticeship system.