Partner Organizer: The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKO)
Place: Vienna (May 29 - 31), Graz (June 1-2)
The purpose of the study trip was to get acquainted with the implementation and organization of vocational education and training in Austria, with special emphasis on the role of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber and the apprenticeship offices that are set up in chambers. The program included lectures, visits to training centers, companies, relevant institutions and stakeholders involved in the implementation of apprenticeship during initial vocational education, as well as lifelong, post - secondary and tertiary vocational education. We had a chance to talk to the employees of WKO in charge of apprenticeship, mentors and apprentices in companies, students, teachers and principals of the vocational schools. On the workshops we discussed in detail the pros and cons of the Austrian and Croatian systems, and developed ideas for the continuation of the project.
The first day we visited the premises of the Austrian Economic Chamber (WKO)
Mr. Kurt Schmid of the Institute "ibw Austria - Research and Development in VET", delivered a presentation on the topic of initial vocational education and training in Austria, with a special emphasis on the dual system, the structure of education system management and the role of chambers. Vocational education and training plays a significant role in the Austrian education system: some 80% of students after compulsory education attend one of the vocational education programs that are characterized by a high level of work-based learning. Programs of vocational education and training are carried out in the classical system in vocational schools or in the system of dual education, shaped in large part by the employers.
In so callled full-time schools, students acquire practical skills in simulated working environment (in workshops, laboratories, etc.) with voluntary or compulsory short-term practice in companies. In the dual system, students spend 20-30% of their time in part-time schools and 70-80% of their time in the company, where they learn in the real work environment and are involved in the manufacturing process under the guidance of certified mentors. The students themselves find an apprenticeship in the company, with the help of the school.
In Austria currently there are approximately 30 000 companies that employ apprentices, of which 97% are small and medium-sized enterprises. Each year about 33,000 students choose apprenticeships, and two thirds are trained in small and medium-sized enterprises. Initial vocational education programs reflect the economic structure and are constantly updated. Employers' representatives play a major role in managing the dual education system - most of them are represented in the Federal Advisory Board for Apprenticeships. The administration of apprenticeship is in the authority of the local offices of WKO (Lehrlingsstellen). The success of the Austrian VET system is reflected in the low youth unemployment rate.
In the Austrian system of vocational education and training there are different prediction methods that lead to curriculum adaptation. For each occupation, at the national level, an in-company training curriculum is defined, as well as the description of the activities (learning outcomes). In curriculum development committees, teachers and education experts work together with representatives from the economy to make the subject curricula. Social partners can support the process of coordination between educational services and qualification requirements and/or express the needs of the economy, taking into account (regional) economic requirements.
Students' apprenticeship in the company is mainly funded by the company itself in the form of a paycheck, that is regulated by a collective agreement (of the sector or the company). However, there is a range of public support available to support businesses: every company is entitled to the so-called basic support that can be requested at the end of the corresponding year of apprenticeship. It encompasses three gross tuition awards based on a collective contract in the first year of education, two in the second year, one in the third and fourth year. The excellent results of the apprentices in the final exam are also rewarded by the companies.
In the afternoon we visited the Tourism College MODUL .
The second day began with visit to the Vienna Economic Chamber (WKW).
Mr. Mario Grnja, Apprenticeship Advisor held the presentation. Currently, there are 199 apprenticeship programs in trade and industry that last for two to four years, and 15 programs for occupations in agriculture and forestry. Apprenticeship Offices work within the Chambers of Economy and are present in each province. The core activities of the offices are: counseling services for mentors, apprentices and other interested parties (regarding legal and financial issues, company accreditation process and professional orientation services for adolescents), company accreditation assessment, keeping the register of the apprenticeship contracts, management of final exams and administration of subsidies for the companies. In addition to providing information and consulting services to companies and apprentices, they organize exchange programs, online sign-ups, seminars, workshops, competitions, and collection of statistical indicators.
Opel Wien GmbH is part of the Opel Group and a subsidiary of General Motors, which organizes apprenticeship for electrical engineers for a period of four years. Apprentices go through the program in special workshops, in smaller groups, under the guidance of a mentor, an Opel employee who is in charge of monitoring their work. Apprentices are trained for maintenance and repair of the production facilities, machines, robots and production systems. In addition to the tasks prescribed by the curriculum, apprentices are learning other so-called hard and soft skills (attitude towards work, colleagues, work environment).
The Figlmüller Wollzeile restaurant is part of the Figlmüller group, a family business founded in 1905 in Vienna, and today it includes pubs, cafes, bars and restaurants with Viennese specialties. Apprentices are trained to work in the kitchen and serving, they learn about the specifics of Austrian cuisine, products, preparation and presentation of the finished dishes. The apprenticeship lasts for three years, and beside the compensation they get for their work, apprentices are further encouraged to participate in competitions and foreign exchange programs, they receive bonuses, vouchers for travel for excellent school performance and the like. Their work and satisfaction is continuously monitored through all years of apprenticeships.
On Wednesday, we had the opportunity to devote time to the discussion of previously seen in a workshop with representatives of the Institute ibw (Mr. Kurt Schmid, Mr. Markus Müllner).
In the first part of the workshop, representatives of the Croatian Chamber of Economy held a presentation on the topic of Croatian vocational education and training. Specifics of different forms of work-based learning, legal framework, management system, apprenticeship programs, and current vocational education reform were presented. Afterwards, there was a three-part workshop during which the participants made impressions on the previous presentations and visits, discussed the role of the apprenticeship advisor and defined examples of good practice relevant for further project activities.