Apprenticeship training takes place in a company and vocational school, although part of the training might also be dispensed in another location. Typically, a majority of time is spend on-the-job training in a workplace, which makes it much more challenging to ensure quality of training compared to a school-based TVET programme.
Quality assurance for apprenticeships occurs at all levels: at the system level, at all training places and processes (training providers) and at the assessment and certification level. It takes the form of standard setting, monitoring the implementation of apprenticeships, assessing and certifying competences acquired by apprentices and evaluating the labour market relevance of training. These issues are elaborated throughout this Guide; this section provides an overview of the quality assurance system. Examples of quality assurance of apprenticeships in Germany and Mexico are given in box 18.
Quality assurance at the system level is carried out by enacting law, policy and regulations that set the standards and norms for apprenticeships, and by establishing a national tripartite institution. The equal participation of the social partners in such institutions, accountability and transparency in operations, and the participation of knowledgeable stakeholders - are all essential elements to ensure quality in the processes of such institutions.
A quality apprenticeship system recommends standards and norms for training by all training providers, as well as working conditions during on-the-job training at a workplace. Standards are typically prescribed for the:
- Qualification and experience of trainers at the workplace and teachers at the school
- Ratio of trainers and teachers to apprentices
- Duration of the apprenticeship
- Ratio of theory and practical work
- Ratio of on-the-job and off-the-job training
- Training facilities in a company and school
- Accreditation/ registration of companies
- Accreditation/ registration of TVET institutes
- Accreditation of trainers, teachers and assessors
- Pedagogy and training delivery
- Log books for apprentices
- Inspections and monitoring
- Learning outcomes of a qualification
- Assessment and certification
Norms for working conditions may include working hours, holidays and standard social security provisions.
Quality assurance for apprenticeships is generally part of the TVET system in a country, which assigns quality assurance functions to specific institutions. Accordingly, these responsible institutions ensure that all companies, training providers and other institutions adhere by these standards and norms.
Monitoring the implementation of apprenticeships
Quality in apprenticeships is also assured through monitoring the process of training both at a school and the workplace. Competent institutions as per the regulatory framework (for example, chambers in Germany for in-company training, and State government for the training component in school; Central and State Government Directorate of Apprenticeships in India) carry out inspections to observe and check compliance with the standards in each school and company. Labour inspectors also check compliance with labour laws. The use of logbooks or work diaries is also an important instrument in this process.
Assessment and certification
Countries use a variety of assessment methods, including formative and summative methods to check the learning progress and attainments against the learning outcome of qualifications. A nationally recognized qualification is issued to successful apprentices. Additional information on this matter is contained in Chapter 9.
Tracer studies and feedback from employers and apprentices provide information about the quality and relevance of training. In Australia, a biannual survey of employers is carried out to ascertain whether they use and are satisfied with nationally accredited training, including apprenticeships (Fazio et al. 2016). In the United Kingdom, studies to compare the wage and employment returns of individuals who acquired qualifications from apprenticeships vs. other learning routes or leaving education are conducted throughout their lives (Ibid.). Additional information is given in Chapter 9.
Quality apprenticeship systems have support services to develop the capacity of institutions and persons providing apprentices. These include guidelines/manuals and training programmes for various stakeholders, including: company trainers, mentors and TVET schoolteachers; learning materials for apprentices; assessment tools for assessors; and good practices case studies.
Box 9: Quality assurance of apprenticeships in Germany and Mexico
The Vocational Training Act and training regulations set the legal frame for quality assurance of the in-company part of the training. An essential component is the institutionalized involvement of the social partners. The quality assurance of the school part is the task of the federal states.
Quality assurance at system level
The Vocational Training Act defines the overall objectives of the apprenticeship, sets the frame for the in-company training and regulates the involvement of the social partners. Training regulations establish nationwide minimum standards for each occupation that have to be met by all training companies. They are elaborated together with professional experts nominated by the social partners and have the force of law. The social partners are involved in the governance of the system on all levels following the principle of equal participation.
The amended Vocational Training Act from 2005 explicitly assigns the task to work towards a continuous development of quality in vocational education and training to the Vocational Education and Training Committees of the chambers.
Quality assurance for the in-company training
Quality assurance of the in-company training is set along the legal requirements. Accordingly a training company has:
Those requirements are controlled by the chamber in charge, which also advises the companies on all training issues. The final examination is taken by an independent committee of the chamber involving employer, employee and vocational school representatives.
Quality assurance at the vocational schools
The quality assurance of the school part is the task of the federal states. The framework curriculum is usually either directly adopted by the individual federal states or adapted into state-specific curricula for the vocational schools.
Source: Apprenticeship Toolbox, 2017a.
Quality assurance for apprenticeships has been facilitated by its adoption within the formal technical education system and use of competency based training - it is to some extent easier to determine which competencies they can learn at school and which ones they can develop on the job.
Programme delivery: Each apprentice has an individually designed training plan that establishes all of the learning activities that he/she is expected to engage in, alternating between classroom instruction (20 per cent of their time during the apprenticeship period) and work-based learning (80 per cent). Each activity responds to a workplace-specific context and details the academic requirements, job skills, expected learning results, learning settings, and timing in which each of these will be developed. The learning plan involves a rotation to various workstations in different units of the firm, all of which are related to the required curriculum content for the selected area of study or career track followed by the student. In-plant learning is articulated at all times, with the required learning plan established by the educational institution. In some cases, apprentices might need to attend school more regularly for a period of two to three weeks to receive intensive academic training in areas that they might not have the chance to develop while in the firm or to strengthen certain skills that employers might report are still weak.
Assessment: The evaluation process is ongoing. It occurs during classroom and work-based learning. Work-based learning is monitored through the continuous measurement of the attainment of learning objectives and established results identified in the rotation plan. For this purpose, there are weekly reports that detail the apprentice’s individual in-firm progress on the basis of the rotation plan. The apprentice is required to submit a weekly report describing all of the activities performed and the learning he/ she has acquired in the process. These reports are validated by the company-assigned trainer and reviewed by the tutor assigned by the school. Once the apprentice has met all of the requirements of his/her learning plan (including school credits) and based on all of the evaluations and reports submitted, the corresponding academic credential is granted (upper secondary technical degree).
Quality assurance: The programme is executed by a technical-pedagogical team that operates in every participating school. The team is led by a manager of outreach relations who is responsible for interacting with participating enterprises and liaising with both school tutors (in charge of supervising student progress on an ongoing basis) and the enterprise trainer (trained to supervise the apprentices’ learning in the workplace). Each firm agrees to implement a quality-assurance process, which aims to track the quality of the student's in-firm learning process. This process allows one to follow student performance and progress through each workstation or learning activity. The weekly progress reports record and grade student learning and provide the necessary information to document student progress. The key aspect of quality assurance mainly relies on public educational institutions, particularly school tutors. It is their responsibility to ensure that learning plans comply with the requirements of the competency-based curriculum framework; negotiate with firms the exact sequence of rotation plans and verify that the latter provide a developmental path to apprentices; monitor student and firm compliance with the learning and rotation plans; and collect, in collaboration with the firm trainer, weekly reports on the apprentice’s performance.
Source: Fazio et al., 2016.
At the EU level, the network on European Quality Assurance in Vocational Education and Training (EQAVET) has developed web-based guidance on quality assurance in work-based learning. This builds on six key steps: Design, Improve, Respond, Communicate, Train, Assess.1
Quality Apprenticeships systems require a regulatory framework that sets out basic legal and contractual conditions for designing and implementing Quality Apprenticeship programmes - but to be successful, they are contingent upon the support and contribution of numerous stakeholders with a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities, and this will be examined in Chapter 7.