Skills beyond school

The costs and benefits of apprenticeships


 Read the OECD report: Striking the right balance: Costs and benefits of apprenticeship

The issue and scope

Apprenticeship, a blend of on and off-the-job learning, is an attractive way of learning as it simultaneously enhances development of skills and prepares for jobs and careers. Typically the state contributes to off-the-job education and training while companies look after apprentices during their work placements. Involvement of public authorities and companies in the design and provision of apprenticeship is its strength. At the same time it makes apprenticeship more difficult to establish as successful involvement of various stakeholders in apprenticeship requires reconciling different perspectives and backgrounds and careful distribution of costs and benefits from apprenticeship.

Country experience shows that building an effective and successful apprenticeship is often a challenging task. While in some countries apprenticeship is a well-established route to skilled employment, elsewhere apprenticeship is uncommon with employers favouring other means of labour training and upskilling. These large differences in apprenticeship provision across countries reflect difference in policy choices, and differences in costs and benefits from apprenticeship training accruing both to companies and individuals.

This module will discuss different components of apprenticeship schemes such as apprentices’ wages, hours of instruction, contribution of apprentices to productive work in the company, and the context in which apprenticeship is provided including labour market institutions, industrial structure and principal economic sectors, and their impact on the distribution of costs and benefits from apprenticeship across various actors. This work will provide a conceptual framework for the analysis of firm and individual behaviour supported with country examples and will allow careful thinking about policy options.

Key steps

A one-day workshop took place on 27 April 2016 in Bern, Switzerland and a discussion paper was shared with participants. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss differences in organisation and structure of apprenticeships across countries and how these differences affect the distribution of costs and benefits across companies, individuals and the state. The workshop provided countries with an opportunity to discuss the initial analytical work and share their experience. A policy report drawing on the discussion paper and conclusions from the workshop was subsequently published in February 2017.

Examples of policy questions explored

  • Why do companies offer apprenticeships?
  • How does the structure and organisation of apprenticeships vary across countries?
  • What is the link between apprenticeship regulations and the costs and benefits from apprenticeships to different actors?
  • How can companies make the on-the-job component less expensive from their point of view, without compromising the attractiveness of apprenticeships to individuals? 

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How the work is being conducted

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