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Cap4App is a project that has received funding from the European Union’s Erasmus + programme, with the objective of strengthening the capacities of the chambers and partners to help SMEs to engage in apprenticeship.


Project title: Strengthening the Capacities of the Chambers and Partners to Help SMEs to Engage in Apprenticeship
Project acronym: Cap4App
Coordinator Organisation: Croatian Chamber of Economy (CCE) 
Total budget: 530.537,00 €
Sub-programme or KA: ERASMUS + KA3 – Support for Policy Reform
Planned duration: 1 October 2016 - 30 September
The Project aimed at strengthening the capacities of all project partners to provide support for SMEs already engaged or planning to engage in apprenticeship and establishing stronger ties among all project partners and VET stakeholders. Employers recognize the benefits of apprenticeship schemes but in the process of taking on apprentices, they face several obstacles such as complicated administrative tasks, lack of motivation and information, lack of organizational capacities (human resource management, time and financial resources) and no support system (financial and otherwise). In Croatia, there has been a downward trend in students enrolling in apprenticeship-based VET programmes, while schools complain there is not enough employers willing to take on students.

The Cap4App project was conceived with a view not only to overcome the existing lack of involvement of chambers as representatives of SMEs but also to provide resources for future use, having in mind the needs of the SMEs, members of the CCE.

The project brought together a consortium of six partners from Croatia and Austria who worked together to enhance the capacity of partner institutions in the field of VET so they can assist SMEs and involve a growing number of SMEs in apprenticeship. That was accomplished by training partners’ staff and developing tools and supporting measures for SMEs and in-company mentors to make apprenticeship more accessible to SMEs, and to promote apprenticeship among SMEs.
Within this project, participating partners worked to facilitate implementation of apprenticeships for the training companies, provide education for in-company mentors with content that is aligned with their needs and enables their professional and personal development, and to enhance the capacities of participating partners.

Project background

Currently in Croatia an insufficient amount of vocational learning is provided in real work environment in enterprises. According to a 2014 survey of employers (Zaposlimo Hrvatsku), one of the main problems they face is a skills gap, i.e. the skilled labour shortage, especially among young people. Employers indicate that the competencies acquired in the traditional education system are not adequate to the competencies required for successful performance of activities in the workplace. This may be partly the reason of low levels of youth employment in Croatia. This is especially prominent in vocational occupations.

This situation calls for measures to enhance the attractiveness and quality of VET in Croatia. Currently students gain limited practical experience during schooling, mainly through traineeship in schools where the real working conditions are simulated, and only in a small part through traineeship in companies or through apprenticeships in bound crafts. WBL in companies increases employers’ access to workers with relevant skills and knowledge and helps students transition to the world of work. Countries with strong dual vocational education and training systems where learning and practice occur in the company have the lowest youth unemployment rates (OECD 2010). VET programmes must respond to society’s structural changes especially high unemployment rates among young people. It is necessary to adapt the education system, so that students can gain quality work experience during education, and not to be additionally trained through expensive measures, which only keep them from the negative statistics.

For work-based learning (WBL) to become a common practice in Croatia the effort has to be twofold. On the one hand it is crucial to engage companies, through familiarizing them with benefits such as avoiding skills mismatch when recruiting new talent, possibility to choose the best talents for future employment and benefits from their productive capacity. On the other, it is necessary to attract young people to vocational training. Unfortunately, the students and parents perception of VET is mostly negative. Vocational occupations are not considered prospective and are usually students’ last choice or are more likely option for students of lower academic achievement. For students, work-based learning experiences provides exposure to professional and organisation setting, helps them to focus their interests and choose suitable career path.

We need a core and tailored approach in designing national policies that strengthen the links between education and training and practices in the workplace, and that are tailored to local needs. Employers demand for talent is an important context for curriculum development and educational reform. EU strategies have recognized the importance of learning in the workplace and lifelong learning in all levels of education, as acquiring, maintaining, and upgrading skills is an essential characteristic for all employees.

A way to establish system of quality is through partnership of all stakeholders that have a role development of VET policy including the ministries, agencies, chambers, schools, enterprises, local communities, parents and employment service. In Croatia there is no thorough statistics/register of apprenticeship as it is divided between ministry and Chamber of Trades and Crafts, counties, etc. Clearer regulations and guidelines have to be created in the implementation of WBL as well as strategy to encourage enterprises to get involved in VET through ensuring incentives for enterprises, establishing better programs for training of in-company mentors that are suitable to their capacities, licensing of mentors, accreditation of companies involved in WBL and creating the register of companies and mentors. In addition, it is important to ensure quality standards in companies involved in WBL and to make sure that apprentices do not compete with employed workers and are not exploited as a cheap labour supply.

Employers are looking for qualified workers, but at the same time they face multiple challenges in an increasingly competitive and unstable economy. A lot of companies have downsized over the past two decades and it is costly and risky to train new employees who have no previous work experience.

Croatian VET programs have not had significant changes over the past two decades, they do not reflect the development of technologies and trends in the profession and are not compatible with the labour market needs. Companies, mostly SMEs, are not actively engaged in providing work-based learning due to the lack of human and financial resources, low appreciation or other reasons. While ongoing educational reform is emphasizing wider implementation of work-based and entrepreneurial learning, there is no unique institution in Croatia which could act as a one-stop point for SMEs interested in apprenticeship. SME’s need assistance in legal, administrative and logistical issues regarding WBL.

We need employers to have more opportunities to collaborate with other VET institutions and participate in shaping vocational programmes that reflect the up-to-date needs of occupations and workplaces as a way to enhance conditions and quality of work-based learning. It is necessary to establish platform for the selection of apprentices among training companies and for the applicants to find apprenticeship posts in SME's, which calls for deeper involvement of chambers in planning and implementation of VET and also making legal and regulatory changes to enable them to enhance their capacities.

This project contributes to raising VET mentors capacities as well as ensuring support for their work and professional development, ultimately enhancing VET attractiveness and relevance. CCE, following the example of  Austrian and German chambers, should have greater role in securing the conditions of implementation of WBL in companies and in identification of the labor market needs.


Coordinator Organisation:
Croatian Chamber of Economy (CCE)  
Rooseveltov trg 2, 10000 Zagreb

Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKÖ)
South East European Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (SEECEL)
Croatian Employment Service (CES)
University of Zadar (UNIZD)
Chamber of Trades and Crafts Zagreb (CTCZG)

Project results

The overall aim of this project was to strengthen the capacities of project partners to provide support for SMEs already engaged or planning to engage in apprenticeships.

The project enabled improving of competences of partners’ institutions employees, developing new resources and operational capabilities of CCE to help SMEs get involved in work-based learning in the companies at the level of secondary vocational education.

The project partners created administrative requirements, procedures and education program for the acquisition of the necessary qualifications and certificates for mentors. Through promotional activities the project raised awareness on the benefits and importance of such a model of learning among SMEs, but also among the general public. The project activities had impact on the SMEs, public authorities, vocational schools, students and their parents.

  1. Research of the status of different types of work-based learning in companies, and published analysis on state-of-play of different types of WBL in enterprises: available here
  2. The Conference Forms of work-based learning for vocational education and training of students in Republic of Croatia – state of play, challenges and perspectives
  3. Development of cooperation and exchange of information among partners and study visit to Austria - part I and part II
  4. Translation of relevant legal documents and manuals in the area of vocational education and training
  5. Implementation of the "training of trainers": education and training of Advisors to work with enterprises and schools
  6. Trained Apprenticeship Advisors
  7. Toolbox for Apprenticeship Advisors
  8. Developed set of criteria for the selection of companies interested in implementation of WBL
  9. Programme for SME Mentors
  10. Guidebook for in-company mentors
  11. Implementation of training for mentors (implementation of pilot project) - announcement
  12. Conference for SME Mentors
  13. Database of licensed SMEs and mentors
  14. Conducted promotional activities on project activities and results to target groups; improved visibility of VET
  15. Cap4App Final Conference

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The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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