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  • Writer's pictureSusanne Klimmer, IFA

AUSTRIA: Skilled workers for the future - Attractive apprenticeship training at SPAR

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

With around 45,000 employees, SPAR is not only the largest private Austrian employer, but also Austria's largest private apprenticeship company. To enhance the quality of apprenticeship training and attract future apprentices, SPAR ÖSTERREICH runs its own academy for apprentices and employees in a modern learning environment and offers international exchange and placements abroad for apprentices and skilled workers with Erasmus+, national and company support.

For their activities in transnational apprenticeship mobility, SPAR was awarded with the EQAMOB label by the Austrian Federal Minister of Economy.

Responsible organisation:

IFA - Internationaler Fachkräfteaustausch

(International Young Workers Exchange)

What problem or issue has the innovative practice aimed to tackle?

Company targets defined by the SPAR are

· sustainability,

· social responsibility towards the environment,

· healthy and high-quality conscious nutrition and convenience food,

· to include regional products and products from start-ups in the product range and

· to be a modern and attractive employer.

As in many countries and many professions, a big challenge nowadays is a lack of skilled workers in combination with a lack of young people willing to start their professional life with an apprenticeship training. General education seems to be more appealing to young people and their parents, although Austria's education and training system is especially famous for its VET sector with the Dual System (apprenticeship training) and full-time VET schools. Both ways can lead to the A-levels and to both working life and university. Due to its VET system and an apprenticeship system with a long tradition, the share of youth unemployment is comparatively low in Austria. It is therefore important to make and keep apprenticeship training attractive, offer training options that lead to further training as well as to leadership, offer international activities and exchange as well as for full-time and university students.

To overcome the lack of skilled workers, SPAR strives to be a good employer, offers career options, in-company training for all employees and apprenticeship training in 21 professions.

Apprenticeship training has a long tradition in the company. As in all apprenticeship professions in Austria, around 80% of the training takes place in the company and 20% in vocational schools. SPAR runs its own training academy for apprentices and skilled workers, which is located in Vienna and offers a variety of special and additional courses in a very modern and inspiring atmosphere.

To overcome the lack of skilled workers, SPAR invests in their employees and especially in apprenticeship training. As an attractive employer, SPAR

  • offers the possibility to do some "tasting days" (to try out working in the company before starting an apprenticeship at the company) ,

  • brings future apprentices, their future colleagues in their markets, their heads of departments and their parents together even before their training starts in a welcoming day with a kind of party after a playful getting to know each other and the company,

  • is in close co-operation with the vocational schools in the regions and runs its own academy in one region for apprentices as well as for skilled workers at SPAR,

  • attaches importance to intercultural awareness and inclusion, especially to young people with migrant background and refugees,

  • supports additional and further training very actively with in-house as well as combining apprenticeship training with completing the A-levels in parallel,

  • offers lots of incentives for achievements in the company as well as in school (e.g. paying for the driving licence, etc.) and

  • supports apprentices when they have difficulties of any kind during their training with mentors, peers, etc.

  • SPAR offers transnational mobility activities for apprentices and staff to gain international experience and improve the quality of apprenticeship training in the company as well as in general.

The possibility to go for a placement abroad is seen as a very important incentive to attract future apprentices.

The placements abroad are fully organised by IFA and fully financed by Erasmus+, national funds and company support. During their 4 weeks of training abroad, the apprentices work in a large food trade company and go through different departments. In addition, they attend language classes and enjoy some cultural activities.

Key points of the mobility activity:

  • Co-operation with a food retail chain in UK / IE

  • 4 weeks training, language classes, cultural programme

  • Accommodation in guest families, accompanying persons, mentors, supervisors

  • No own funds of apprentices / parents

  • Intensive organisational, linguistic and cultural preparation for the stay abroad

  • Peer activities – exchange with older apprentices who have already made the experience

  • Presentations, feedback and follow-up activities after the return

What have been the achievements?

Each year, around 900 young people (and the number is still increasing) start their careers at SPAR with an apprenticeship training in one of the 21 professions:

  • retail trade services in various areas as well as wholesale trade,

  • office, financial and accounting services,

  • training for bakers, cake and pastry bakers, cooks, chain restaurant experts, meat processing experts to

  • real estate assistants and insurance (they run their own buildings), in-house logistics,

  • professions in IT, media and eCommerce

SPAR is a very attractive employer in the food retail sector in Austria, is still expanding, also in other countries and has less difficulties finding future apprentices and employees than lots of other companies. A high number of former apprentices stays within the company as the careers in the company are stable.

For their activities in the internationalisation of apprenticeship training and transnational apprenticeship mobility, SPAR was awarded with the EQAMOB label by the Austrian Federal Minister of Economy in recognition of the company's

  • Clear selection strategies

  • Intensive preparation of participants

  • Full financial support

  • Placements abroad as an integrated part of apprenticeship training

  • Mentoring during the whole process

  • A successful and close co-operation with all partners, also between the intermediary organisation IFA and the company

  • Presentations, reflections, peer-learning activities after the return of the apprentices

As a recipient of the award, SPAR uses the label, the logo, the certificate to advertise for their company and for apprenticeship training in their company. There are regional as well as nation-wide media reports.

Making excellence in international activities and transnational mobility visible to the public and to future apprentices (e.g. through awards like the EQAMOB label) helps companies such as SPAR to show their attractiveness as an employer and as a training company to the public as well as to future apprentices, their parents and skilled workers. This helps a company to find future apprentices and future skilled workers, leads to international exchange and increases the quality of apprenticeship training. Companies, apprentices and the apprenticeship system as a whole can benefit.

Who was involved and how?

All initiatives at SPAR are initiated and / or supported by the family, who are still the owners of the company. All individual markets and departments and their leaders are involved, initiatives that come from employees and / or apprentices are taken into account for realisation, employees are involved in decision processes.

SPAR offers possibilities for developments within the companies, and employees value their chances to bring in their ideas.

Download the fact sheet with contact information here (pdf):

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