Austria still has a low youth unemployment rate. One of the reasons is the high quality vocational education and training system. But it faces new challenges as demographic change and a decreasing number of companies are training apprentices; a looming shortage of skilled workers and integration problems of young people with migrant background; and an increasing number of dropouts from apprenticeship training. Initiatives to counteract these challenges are obligatory training until the age of 18, the inclusion of quality management in the Vocational Training Act, and coaching and counselling for apprentices and training companies.
There are a couple of challenges the Austrian VET system faces right now:
Austria still has the second lowest youth unemployment rate in the EU-28 countries. But the numbers are slightly increasing (from 9.7% in 2013 to 10.6% in 2015) while the EU-28 average decreased (from 23.7% to 20.3%) during the same period.
The total number of apprentices has been decreasing rather dramatically (as did the number of companies offering apprenticeships places) within the last 5 years. The main reason is the demographic change, but it is not the only one. At the same time the looming shortage of skilled workers becomes more and more apparent.
Two groups of young people deserve specific attention: those with migrant background as they have to be better integrated especially in the apprenticeship system. And those with difficulties to stay in the education and training system – the potential or real dropouts.
To deal with these challenges and to keep and increase the quality of the vocational education and training system a couple of initiatives and statutory regulations have been developed. Three of them are mentioned here as follows:
Obligatory training until the age of 18
In 2013 the Austrian government introduced an “education and training guarantee” (Ausbildungsgarantie) till the age of 18. To make this guarantee possible more than 11,000 supra-company training places have been created. Financing comes from the Labour Market Service.
In June 2016 a law on obligatory training or education till this age passed the parliament. From 2018 on there will be the obligation for all young persons under 18 to either stay in school (usually: upper secondary level) or to take part in apprenticeship training (Ausbildungspflicht). Only in extreme situations there will be a punishment. The main idea is to keep the young people as long in the education and training system as they need to obtain a qualification higher than in compulsory schooling.
Quality management in the Vocational Training Act
In 2015 the Vocational Training Act (Berufsausbildungsgesetz, BAG) received an amendment which deals for the first time explicitly with quality assurance and quality management in vocational training. There are a couple of new goals like orientation on competences, keeping occupation profiles up-to-date, permeability between training and education pathways and the international dimension of apprenticeship training. And there are new responsibilities for the development of quality assurance measures and instruments.
Coaching and counselling for apprentices and training companies
In 2012 the Ministry of Economy in tandem with the Ministry of Labour initiated a coaching scheme for apprentices and training companies, which was piloted in 2012 and 2013. Based on the results of an accompanying evaluation, in 2014 the decision was taken to continue with this measure and extend it to the whole of Austria. Since October 2015 this measure is offered nationwide. The coaching programme aims to support apprentices and training companies during training. The goal is to facilitate positive completion of the apprenticeship-leave exam and enhance the quality of apprenticeship training, thus counteracting training dropouts in particular.
For more information:
- Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Wirtschaft (BMWFW) (2016): Bericht zur Situation der Jugendbeschäftigung und Lehrlingsausbildung in Österreich 2014 – 2015. Available at: http://www.bmwfw.gv.at/Berufsausbildung/Ingenieurwesen/Documents/Jugendbesch%C3%A4ftigungsbericht_barrierefrei.pdf
- Löffler, R./ Tritscher-Archan, S. (2014): Coaching and counselling for apprentices and training companies. Available at: http://refernet.at/images/News_04_coaching_12.2015_EN.pdf