AUSTRIA: Apprentice Mobility - How to support companies and apprentices
Updated: Jun 22, 2022
Companies in several branches are facing a lack of skilled workers with international competencies. Therefore, gaining experience abroad is becoming increasingly important: A work placement abroad is a very good opportunity for apprentices and their companies to gain those necessary competencies, but it is difficult to organise for a company in a dual training system such as the Austrian apprenticeship training. Support structures that include institutions with experience in funding and organisation as well as knowledge in VET and international network contacts are needed.
IFA - Internationaler Fachkräfteaustausch
(International Young Workers Exchange)
What problem or issue has the innovative practice aimed to tackle?
Apprenticeship training is a traditional and at the same time very modern way of vocational training in Austria. It is a combination of training in companies and in vocational schools. Around 80% of the training takes place in the training company, where the apprentices acquire professional skills directly in the economic and entrepreneurial reality. Theoretical and general education is taught in a part-time vocational school (around 20% of the training).
A lack of skilled workers is a huge challenge almost everywhere in Europe. Many Austrian companies are seeking skilled workers with international experience who are mobile and flexible. Therefore, gaining experience abroad is becoming increasingly important: A work placement abroad is a very good opportunity for apprentices and their companies to gain those necessary competences.
For many companies, especially for SMEs, it is quite a big challenge to organise those learning periods abroad for their apprentices: They neither have contacts to hosting companies nor have experience with European funding schemes. Moreover, apprentices are an important part of the daily work in every training company. Furthermore, there are two places of learning (the training company and the part-time vocational school), lots of exams and additional courses. All these circumstances that make the organisation of training periods abroad even more complicated. Because of that, it is quite difficult for training companies to organise mobility stays abroad for their apprentices.
What have been the achievements?
Although the very first steps already took place in 1995, apprenticeship mobility and the support structure in Austria still can be seen as an innovative practice, especially because new actions are taken all the time as an ongoing expansion of the support structure:
IFA – Internationaler Fachkräfteaustausch (International Young Workers Exchange) was founded in 1995 by all the Economic Chambers and the Federation of the Austrian Industry with the support of the Federal Ministry for Economy as a non-profit service organization whose services are free of charge and open to all apprenticeship companies from all branches and sizes all over Austria. IFA applies for European and national funds, passes them to the companies, organises mobility stays abroad in small groups of apprentices, takes care of finances, planning, monitoring and evaluation.
According to the Austrian Vocational Training Act (BAG), all placements abroad, provided they are relevant for the profession, are recognised as part of the Austrian apprenticeship training for up to 6 months each year of apprenticeship training. There is no extension of the training period for the time working and learning abroad. Apprentices receive their apprenticeship remuneration during the period abroad and keep their Austrian social security status.
In order to help companies and motivate them to send apprentices for a placement abroad, all companies that give their apprentices the full time off for the period abroad, can receive 100% funding of the apprenticeship remuneration.
Together with the Economic Chambers and the Federal Ministry of Economy, IFA produces lots of information and supporting material such as videos, FAQs, podcasts, stories about testimonials for both companies and apprentices and presents the possibilities at several events during the entire year. All services offered by IFA are free of charge for the Austrian companies and apprentices.
THE MAIN ACHIEVEMENTS:
Since the beginning of the activities, more than 10.000 Austrian apprentices have finished their placements abroad in countries all over Europe. Around 2% of the Austrian apprentices go for a placement abroad each year. The aim for the future is to send 5% or maybe even 10% for some weeks to work and learn in another European country.
IFA works with reliable partner organisations all over Europe. Placements are possible in almost every European country and almost every profession is covered.
The language skills (especially English) of the Austrian apprentices have significantly increased in recent years, not only, but also because of mobility stays abroad.
Austrian companies that participated in apprenticeship mobility see huge benefits for the apprentices and for the companies: new language, personal and professional skills and competencies, international contacts, flexibility, open mindedness, advantages in recruiting of future apprentices, an internationalisation of training, learning from others, etc. A research study that points out the benefits was published by IBW, the Austrian research and development institute for vocational education and training.
In addition, VET experts, teachers and trainers can take part in European mobility via IFA to exchange ideas and experiences with partners and colleagues all over Europe and enrich their international competencies.
To learn more about the experiences of Austrian companies and apprentices, visit the Website of IFA – Internationaler Fachkräfteaustausch: www.ifa.or.at
Who was involved and how?
IFA – Internationaler Fachkräfteaustausch
Austrian Economic Chambers
Austrian Federal Ministry of Economy
Federation of the Austrian Industry
All companies and their apprentices
Download the fact sheet with contact information here (pdf):
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