Last month I had the honour of representing Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim Education and Training Board (MSLETB) at ‘The voice of apprentices in the European Year of Youth 2022’ event organised by the European Commission and the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfa) in Barcelona. I was joined by Roisin Stafford from CalX, one of our sales apprentices from the National Sales Apprenticeship programme.
EAfa was launched in 2013 and currently boasts more than 350 members across 36 countries. Since then almost 1 million training and job opportunities for young people have been mobilised. Its members are committed to taking action to strengthen the supply, quality and image of apprenticeships, and the mobility of apprentices. Companies, social partners, and education and training providers are the largest stakeholders in the alliance.
MSLETB is the co-ordinating provider of the National Sales Apprenticeship programme. This is a 2-year earn & learn programme which launched in September 2020 and recently welcomed its fifth intake of apprentices in Feb 2022.
This hybrid event was organised together with the Directorate General for Vocational Education of the Regional Government of Catalonia, Fundación Bertelsmann, and the European Apprentices Network (EAN). The action-packed two-day event was held in the Sant Pau Recinto Modernista Barcelona, a UNESCO world heritage site.
The European Commission declared 2022 the European Year of Youth and the aim of this high-level event was to put the spotlight on apprentices and call for apprentices to be represented in national and regional structures, as well as for apprentices to have a stronger voice in policy discussions. The event was attended by over 150 participants on-site and online and we heard from experts and guest speakers from across Europe.
One of the main themes included the fact that opportunities for apprentices to be represented in national structures such as trade unions or youth organisations, or to contribute to policy discussions at European level are limited.
According to the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfa), a study on the representation of apprentices in Vocational Education and Training (VET), published by the European Commission in 2019, identified only 13 structures in EU Member States directly representing VET students, and only 6 representing apprentices. Most commonly, representation of apprentices is only indirect, passing through structures representing students or youth and therefore resulting in an imbalance in the participation of apprentices compared to other students.
The event was opened by Nicholas Schmit, European commissioner for Job and Social Rights, and it was followed by a really impressive panel of young speakers from various organisations across Europe, including:
Markus Wright , ETUC Youth, highlighted the importance of apprenticeships in helping young people to find their way in society and the need for quality apprenticeships.
That afternoon we broke into groups and brainstormed ideas for embedding the voice of apprentices in decision-making. We heard from many speakers about existing good practices across Europe involving apprentices including:
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On day two we had the opportunity to visit the fabulous Escola Del Treball Institute which welcomes students of different levels of education, from Compulsory Secondary Education to the Baccalaureate and Vocational Training. Albert Peiró Mateu and Albert Pérez Núñez provided a wonderful tour of their institute and the various programmes they have on offer. It was particularly interesting to hear the apprentices’ positive feedback about the DUAL Internship programmes and how they incorporate a balance of work-based learning with classroom learning.
Roisin Stafford, from CalX, is currently in her second year of the programme. She kindly shared her experience of the event:
I was delighted to be asked to attend “The voice of apprentices in the European Year of Youth 2022”, representing MSLETB along with Jessica. It was brilliant to network and hear about the positive experiences of work-based learning from others, as I am experiencing the same advantage in my own apprenticeship.
I am a strong advocate for apprenticeships and this event has strengthened my commitment to help promote and strengthen the apprenticeship programme in Ireland.
One of the highlights of my trip was to learn and understand how education takes place in other countries.
The entire event was well organised and beneficial, and I am very grateful to have experienced it.
One of the many highlights of the event was when Norbert Schöbel from the European Commission welcomed 14 newly appointed members of EAfA. I was thrilled to accept the pledge on behalf of MSLETB to increase the supply of apprenticeships, to improve the quality of apprenticeships and to include international mobility as a component of our apprenticeship programmes.
I look forward to finding further opportunities for collaboration and for idea sharing with our fellow EAfA members!
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