Published on Jobs and Development

3 ways to build lasting apprenticeship programs

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A student does arc welding. Afghanistan
A student does arc welding. Afghanistan. Photo: © Sofie Tesson / TAIMANI FILMS / WORLD BANK

The lack of a sufficiently skilled workforce remains a significant challenge in the labor market. Around the world, employers say that schools and universities aren’t preparing students well enough for the workforce. How can employers work with schooling and post-schooling systems to design curricula that align with labor market needs? 

Employers could benefit from Work-Based Learning (WBL) programs, which bridge the gap between education and employment by offering youth and recent graduates real-world experience through apprenticeships. Apprenticeships, which can be formal or informal, often combine classroom training with on-the-job training and can be targeted to anyone from secondary school students to current employees. They can increase employability, lower recruitment and training costs, and help increase employee retention. It’s a win-win for both job seekers and employers.

While countries like Switzerland, Germany, and Denmark have a well-developed Work-Based Learning system, other countries face significant barriers in designing effective programs. In a recent session of  of Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE)’ s “Insights from the Private Sector” webinar series, the Global Apprenticeship Network and their partners discussed how to tackle these barriers to create better WBL programs.

Here are three takeaways from that discussion:

1. A Consortium Approach:  Many small and medium-size companies hesitate to implement Work-Based Learning programs because they don’t have experience with such programs and aren’t sure how effective they will be.  

One way to spur business participation and confidence is a consortium approach that allows businesses to work together to share resources and expertise to jointly develop apprenticeship programs.  For example, in France, the Adecco Group, a staffing firm; Sodexo, a food service company; Accor, a hospitality company; and the Korian Group, a nursing facilities company, came together to set up a joint Apprenticeship Training Center for the culinary and catering industry. The companies collectively recruited and trained 11,000 apprentices to work for them in 2018.

A consortium approach helps to build industry alliances and brings together smaller companies that would not ordinarily design such apprenticeship initiatives on their own.

2. Partnerships with local universities or colleges: Another reason that businesses often shy away from offering apprenticeships is that they may not have the capacity to provide in-house training to apprentices. Conversely, colleges may be unwilling to include apprenticeships in their curricula until there is clear demand and commitment from companies to hire apprentices. Partnerships between companies and local colleges can address these concerns while adding value to both the company and the college curriculum.

In Costa Rica, for example, the tech company Intel is deploying a student-worker model where Intel partners with a local university to hire students part-time and help them gain work experience. To ensure that students are not tempted to drop out of college, Intel works with the university to create an attendance and grade-based eligibility criteria. 

Similarly, in the insurance sector, Zurich Insurance has partnered with Harper College in Illinois, USA to design a two-year General Insurance Apprenticeship. Apprentices are trained in high-demand skills such as general insurance and cybersecurity and receive three days a week of on-the-job training and two days a week of classroom training. At the end of the program, apprentices receive an associate degree from the college, in addition to salary and benefits from Zurich Insurance. 

3. Certification and work contracts: In developing economies, apprenticeships are driven by small- and medium-sized businesses — however, they are mostly informal. Introducing work contracts and certifications can incrementally add elements of formality to the Work-Based Learning program that can benefit both the company and the apprentice.  

A work contract ensures that apprentices get fair wages, promotes a certain skill standard, and increases the company’s accountability. Industry or government-recognized certification at the end of an apprenticeship is particularly effective as it not only allows for portability of skills and enhanced employability for the apprentice but also adds credibility to the company and strengthens its workforce pipeline. For example, in Benin, local federations of craftspeople have partnered with the local government to introduce government certification for apprentices. Apprentices go through an end-of-apprenticeship practical exam that is supervised by the trade association. These exams are nationally recognized and provide apprentices with a government certified qualification. 


This blog is part of the ‘S4YE – Insights from the Private Sector’ webinar series -  an ongoing web series that facilitates dialogue between youth employment practitioners and private sector companies around the world. The webinar series especially highlights lessons from youth-focused initiatives that are being led by the private sector.  This is an opportunity for the community to connect, learn from each other, and share experiences.

The next blog in the series will explore ‘How Innovative Ways To Expand Broadband Connectivity Can Create Youth Employment Opportunities’.  Follow the World Bank Jobs Group on Twitter @wbg_jobs and Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) @S4YE_coalition with the hashtag #S4YE and #YouthEmployment


Namita Datta

Program Manager, Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE)

Aparna Krishnamurthy

Private Sector and Foundations Specialist, Global Partnership for Education (GPE)

Nazrene Mannie

Executive director of GAN Global is a specialist in the field of social policy focusing on youth employment and skills development

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