So how does Britain’s traineeship plan compare with other schemes across Europe?

According to Kari Hadjivassiliou (pictured), a policy expert from the European Social Fund apprenticeship and traineeship helpdesk, comparison is difficult because there isn’t a single definition of traineeships.

However, there are similar programmes across Europe, she said, although they may be thought of as pre-vocational training programmes, rather than traineeships.

“Quite of lot of features that [UK traineeships] promote are currently promoted across Europe, particularly that traineeships should be part of an education and training programme and that’s important,” said Ms Hadjivassiliou.

“The other common feature is the specific and rather limited duration because the evidence shows that, say, three weeks are not enough… but then young people can get caught into successive internships which can go on for years — this is a problem in Italy, for example.”

The focus on quality is important, too.

The UK programme has some distinctive features, but the elements which are common compare well”

“This is a big thing in Europe at the moment, and this is why the commission is putting together a quality framework which will be published in late 2013,” she said.

“The UK programme seems to meet a lot of criteria which will be in the framework, such as the content — the fact that it has to be meaningful work experience, and the acquisition of functional skills, good literacy and numeracy.”

However, there is great variation across Europe over payment for trainees.

“In the current climate it’s very difficult to introduce official trainee compensation, although in some countries, like in France, any placement above two months has compensation attached to it, so trainees have to be paid,” said Ms Hadjivassiliou.

But she added that, even where employers are not obliged to pay compensation, governments, “should at least ensure there is some social welfare provision”.

In terms of incentives for employers, she continued, countries such as Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg offered a subsidy to employers and sometimes a year’s exemption from national insurance contributions if the trainee was kept on for six months after the end of the traineeship.

Overall she said, it seemed the UK programme had been designed with previous experience in the UK and Europe in mind, drawing on features which have “come up time and time again as crucial to the success of the scheme”.

“I wouldn’t like to offer a better or worse comparison because it’s a new programme and we haven’t seen how it’s going to be implemented or any results,” she said.

“The UK programme has some distinctive features, but the elements which are common compare well.”

Youth unemployment

Austria had the second lowest youth unemployment rate of the European Union in July 2011 with 7.8 per cent of young people aged 15 to 24 unemployed.

Similar types of traineeship offered? 

Work training funded by national employment centre (‘Arbeitstraining’) is aimed at providing participants with an opportunity to gain practical experience at an organisation, usually, but not always, during or after an educational programme. Lasts one to twelve weeks, and participants receive a daily allowance from the employment centre.

This is a way of funding traineeships rather than being about a particular type of school, study programme or educational stage.

Traineeships as mandatory part of VET schools and colleges

Traineeships are included in the curricula of VET schools and colleges for all fields except business. The length varies between fields but is usually several months distributed over the holidays between school years. Trainees from VET centres are not legally entitled to remuneration but some do receive a voluntary allowance.

How many trainees?

134,611 attended VET schools and colleges in 2009/10, so would have taken mandatory traineeships. No data is available for the national employment centre training.

Youth unemployment

22.4 per cent (higher than EU average)

Similar types of traineeship offered? 

There are work placements in enterprise as well as social support for registered unskilled job seekers. The scheme is unpaid, but trainees remain entitled to their unemployment allowances.

Similarly, “plan formation insertion” traineeships target young skilled job seekers. No remuneration is offered, but trainees are entitled to benefits during the four to 28-week traineeship and must be hired by the company at the end of the scheme for at least as long as the placement.

In the Flemish community there are also traineeships for over 18-year-olds enrolled at secondary VET centres. They receive €676 to €922.

There are also traineeships for registered job seekers of any age or part-time VET students which can last up to a year. They receive €9.60 daily, can keep their benefits and get hiring priority if the company they work for is recruiting.

For recent VET graduates there is also a scheme involving a compulsory traineeship agreement between the training provider, the enterprise and the trainee. The trainee is given a €500 lump sum which has to last between three months and a year.

How many trainees?

No data

Youth unemployment

Youth unemployment was at 23.2 per cent in 2010

Similar types of traineeship offered? 

A new apprenticeship programme where people with low levels of education and entry school leavers receive an allowance, as well as the companies who employ them, to cover their salaries and contributions for a maximum of 12 months.

Anti-crisis programme

Part of this programme included a component for six months employment provided by private employers for secondary education graduates.

Apprenticeships and traineeships for drop-outs

This programme provides six month subsidised apprenticeships or traineeships for young unemployed people.

The remuneration and costs of traineeship are regulated by the individual contracts between the company, educational institution and/or trainees. However, in recent years the Bulgarian government has given subsidies for employers taking on trainees (usually those with lower levels of education covering their salaries and contributions.

It also encourages the trainees themselves by giving them an allowance for a maximum of 12 months.

How many trainees?

No data

Youth unemployment

Unemployment was at 14.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2011 with young people hit hardest.

Similar types of traineeship offered?  

There are many traineeship-style programmes available.

Back to Education Initiative (BTEI)

Increases the participation of young people and adults with less than upper secondary education in flexible learning opportunities.

Many BTEI courses offer access to work experience. Students getting benefits before joining a course continue to receive payments.

FÁS Community Training and Community Employment Programme

These offer vocational skills training to school leavers or long-term unemployed and socially excluded people. The Community Employment Programme contains an element of basic training, while FÁS Traineeships combine formal training with workplace coaching with an employer. On successful completion of both on- and off-the-job training, learners receive a level five or six nationally recognised award. Course lengths vary but are generally between 20 and 43 weeks.

Local Training Initiative

The programme allows local communities to carry out valuable projects and train unemployed people aged 16 to25 in areas related to the project work so they can go on to gain employment or progress to further training.

National Internship Scheme – JobBridge

JobBridge provides up to 5,000 six or nine month work experience placements for people who have been on Jobseekers Allowance for at least 78 days. They continue to receive benefits, plus an extra €50.


State funded upskilling programmes across a range of sectors, but which must include at least 10 per cent of unemployed participants to train with those in employment.

Specific Skills Training 

Provides job seekers with employment-led training opportunities leading to specific job related skills and formal vocational qualifications.

Return to work training

Aimed at the long-term unemployed. The courses facilitate entry to employment or progression to higher level programmes  or traineeships.


Offers second chance education and training to 16 to 20 year olds. Targets early school leavers and designed to give young people opportunities to engage in the formal certification process in an ‘out-of-school’ setting. Learners receive a weekly training and travel allowance.

How many trainees?

Full-time training programmes for unemployed people and job seekers in Ireland were completed by 36,650 people in 2010.

Youth unemployment

At the end of the second quarter of 2011, the French unemployment rate for young people (15-24 years old) was 22.8 per cent, 2.3 percentage points higher than the EU average.

Similar types of traineeship offered? 

Second Chance School (E2C-Ecole de la Deuxième Chance)

The E2C provides vocational education and training to young people aged between 16 and 25 without professional qualifications or certified diplomas, with the aim of facilitating their access to employment.

How many trainees?

Between June 2009 and June 2010 about 403, 760 alternance-based traineeship placements were created, 82.4 per cent of the target of 490,000.

Youth unemployment

The youth unemployment rate in Sweden is among the highest in Europe. In the second quarter of 2010 the unemployment rate for individuals aged 15 to 24 rose up to 29.7 per cent from a 2008 unemployment rate of about 10 per cent.

Similar types of traineeship offered? 

‘Youth employment guarantee’ is for young people aged 16–25 years old who have been registered with the public employment service continuously for three months.

The scheme aims at helping young people find a job more quickly, or enter the regular education system.

The scheme focuses on jobsearch activities which can be combined with work experience placements and education. Participants in work experience schemes receive unemployment compensation.

How many trainees?

In Sweden 98 per cent of those leaving compulsory schooling enter immediately upper

secondary schools years, and around half of those, 192,856 people in 2010/11,  will take a vocational qualification which includes a traineeship.

There is no data for those on the Youth Employment guarantee scheme.

Get advice from the Traineeships helpdesk

With more than 5m people aged 15 to 24 in the 27 EU member states unable to find a job, traineeships and apprenticeships have become an important part of helping young people go from school to work.

A new Helpdesk service, offering advice on setting up, running and improving traineeships and apprenticeships has been set up by the European Social Fund (ESF).

The Helpdesk offers:

  • Enquiry service via a website form, email or phone
  • One-to-one advice and tailored consultancy from specialist policy experts
  • Regularly updated Frequently Asked Questions

Who is it for?

  • Policy makers at national, regional and local level in the areas of youth employment, education and training policies
  • ESF Managing Authorities
  • Relevant national and regional agencies
  • Social partners

The helpdesk will run until the end of next year and can be contacted by emailing or phoning 0121 212 8933 on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 2pm and 6pm Central European Time.