In the mature apprenticeship systems there is a wide offer of programmes at different qualification levels. The obtained qualifications which are included in the national qualifications frameworks target both the private and the public sector. Due to the involvement of the social partners the programmes mirror the characteristics and requirements of the economy . Social partners play a key role in the monitoring and identification of emerging trends, which have implications on the future demand for skilled workers. Key success factor of apprenticeship is that it leads to a nationally recognized qualification, which eases the transition to labour markets and provides access to further and continuing educuation.
Access to apprenticeship is based upon completion of compulsory schooling, but there may be additional requirements in practice which apply to particular occupational profiles or countries such as requests for particular school leaving certificates, a minimum grade point average or that students have found an apprenticeship company prior to start. Guidance of students already takes place in compulsory education to inform them about the range of opportunities and career pathways offered through the VET system and it continues throughout the VET programme to ensure a good match between students and apprenticeship companies.
VET programmes provide learners with solid professional competences and pave the way for lifelong learning. Programmes vary in duration from two years up to five years for specific high tech programmes. Apprenticeship programmes are characterised by horizontal and vertical permeability to ensure that there are no dead ends in the systems, that graduates are employable and that gifted VET graduates have rich opportunities to continue in education.
In order to deal with the diversity of students and meet the demands of the labour market the VET offer is highly diverse. For challenged students there is typically a pre-apprenticeship training offer. Programmes may also be offered at different qualification levels in areas where the labour market may demand a diverse profile of the skilled worker. The apprenticeship systems also have embedded features to meet the demands of gifted students. This may take many forms such as opportunities to take a dual qualification providing direct access to the labour market as well as to general higher education, some subjects may be offered at higher levels, there may be enriched opportunities to undertake company training abroad. In some systems there are also accelerated pathways for more mature students.