Apprenticeships around the world

Apprenticeships in England are in the spotlight this month with National Apprenticeship Week, but how do other countries manage their apprenticeship programmes?


We’ve taken a look at apprenticeships around the world…



The first laws concerning apprentices were introduced in France in 1851.  In 1919 rules were implemented which stated that young people had to undertake 150 hours of theory and general lessons in a chosen subject each year.  This was increased in 1961 to 360 hours a year which was also when the first training centre was introduced.  In 1986 the age limit for starting an apprenticeship rose from 20 to 25 years old, with the minimum hours also increasing to 400.

The apprenticeship regime changed dramatically in 2005 when President Jacques Chirac announced a law detailing a new programme which would tackle three areas; employment, equal opportunities and housing.  In line with this law the government went on to commit to developing apprenticeships so that young people would have a successful path into employment and raise the number of apprentices from 365,000 in 2005 to 500,000 in 2009.  Their plans on how to achieve this included a tax relief for companies hiring apprentices and improving the image of apprentices with an information campaign.



Germany operate a dual education system, where the young person goes through training based in a business, spending approximately 50-70% of their time here with the rest in compulsory attendance at a vocational school, taking 2 ½ to 3 ½ years to complete.  There are currently 342 recognised trades for apprentices and for certain trades, finding work without an apprenticeship can be difficult.

In 2001, two thirds of young people in Germany under 22 years old began an apprentice with 78% of them going on to complete it.  This means that 51% of all young people in the country under 22 years completed an apprenticeship.

Employers in Germany are also supportive of the apprenticeship programme; in 2003, one in three businesses offered apprenticeships and it is the employer who is responsible for the education programme of the apprentice, working with the chamber of commerce.

In 2004 the government worked with industrial unions to commit that all businesses except very small ones must take on apprentices.



Switzerland also operates a dual education system with mandatory practical courses which are either 2, 3 or 4 years.  The 2 year courses tend to be for people who have weaker school results, so the 3 or 4 year courses are the most common ones.  15 or 18 year olds tend to enter apprenticeships as this is the time they finish their education, even though some courses require the person to be the minimum age of 18 years old.  There is no maximum age, however businesses do tend to favour younger apprentices due to the low employment cost.

There are 300 vocational courses nationwide, each with different lengths of time in education, setting different goals for theory and practical learning as well as differing certification conditions.



Apprenticeships in Turkey are in three levels, similar to the regime in England, and have also been part of the small business culture for many centuries:

  • The first level is the apprentice level – this usually starts when a boy is aged 10-11 and spends many years of hard work learning the trade, becoming a master at the age of 20-25.
  • The second level is the pre-master
  • The third and final level is the master, which is the highest level of achievement. At this stage the master can bring in new apprentices and train them.



Traditionally apprentices in the US offered their work for free, however this has largely been replaced in recent years with a combination of on-the-job training and vocational or college classes which requires the student or organisation to pay for tuition fees.

School to work programmes have also increased in popularity, which involves shadowing another member of the team in the workplace.  This would normally be with little or no pay but would be spent during the time they would normally be in high school.

The construction industry has the highest proportion of apprentices, which are mainly joint apprentices with the training and cost implications shared between employers and labour unions.



As of 31st March 2012, there were 470,000 apprentices in Australia.  Apprentices combine their time at work with additional full-time, part-time or school-based training.

There are over 60 industries where apprenticeships are on offer and aptitude tests are regularly conducted to ensure the apprentice is matched with the correct placement, as the focus for employers is on retention and training the employees to stay with them.

An industry consultant would act as an assessor would in England; making sure the apprentices are fulfilling their work and training obligations.



Austria also operates the dual education system with apprenticeships lasting between two and four years depending on which of the 250 recognised apprenticeship trades the person chooses.

40% of Austrian teenagers enter into apprenticeship at the age of 15 once their compulsory education is completed.  The five most popular trades are retail salesperson, clerk, car mechanic, hairdresser and cook.

The employer is responsible for managing the training part of the apprenticeship, with an appointed person, officially named the “Ausbilder”.  This person must prove that they have the professional qualifications needed to educate another person and that they do not have a criminal record.



1961 saw the launch of Apprentices Act in India, and was designed to train trade apprentices and ensure the following:

  • Regulation of the apprenticeship programme
  • Apprentices adhere to the syllabi and period of training as laid down by the Central Apprenticeship Council
  • Apprentices utilise fully the facilities available in the industry for practical training.

In 1973 the Act was amended to also include training of graduate and diploma engineers as well as trade apprentices.


We’ve only just touched the surface of apprentices around the world and their history, so for more details you can find this on Wikipedia.  For more information about apprentices in the UK and how you can start your career in childcare, business administration or health and social care, you can contact the team on 01202 551553 or email




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