These kids are 15, 16, and 17 years old. They work and study at the same time. They start out with a salary of 500 euro a month, but soon they are making more, when the company learns to know and appreciate them. On the other hand, these employees cost companies less than an intern, because there is a contribution of 3,000 euro for the expenses of the corporate tutor plus a de-contribution that can be as high as 40% for companies who hire apprentices.
In April 2017, there were 10,612 kids in Italy with first level apprenticeship contracts. They are enrolled in professional training courses (at training centres), and they will become hair stylists, beauty operators, woodworkers, electricians, etc. They will spend over have of their training hours directly in the company, paid for the hours that they work. Ten thousand kids are not very many compared to the 2.4 million NEETs in Italy, but they are pioneers in a new model of professional training that strengthens the connections between the world of education and the world of work. Connecting these worlds, which have not interacted much up to now, means aiming simultaneously at two targets: contrasting scholastic dispersion, thus bringing more young people to earn a diploma: and favouring employment for the category, promoting the interaction of supply and demand.
Bringing the scholastic world closer to the world of work means aiming at two targets: contrasting scholastic dispersion and favouring employment for young people.
The idea is to experiment with the dual system in Italy, which is why they chose the slogan “Imparare lavorando? In Italia si può” when the program launched a year ago. They had the resources: 87 million euro for 2015 and 27 million for 2016 (the latter must still be split between the Regions) but the outcome of the experiment was not taken for granted: in Germany, the dual system has been operating for some time, but our model has always been to ensure that practical experience accompanied theory and training, not to integrate them. Experimentation, which started in September 2016, was going to involve 300 Permanent Training Centres in Italy and 60 thousand students in two years. In the first year, they prepared 2,655 training programs for 21 thousand students, who all had experiences in companies or simulated business experiences, for at least 400 hours per year. Half of them – 10,612 kids – signed a first level apprenticeship contract with a company and another 1,120 signed a third level apprenticeship contract. “The growth trends are all positive. The numbers are still small, of course, but this is why we say we are moderately satisfied,” explained the under-secretary Luigi Bobba, who worked hard to set up the dual system in Italy. The political aim now is to “stabilise” the experimentation program “with a significant increase in resources”, said under-secretary Bobba. How much? We still do not know. “We will do it with the next Budget Law, but there is a significant push to do it, and the support it enjoys was not foreseen a year ago, even amongst smaller companies, as has been demonstrated at a recent meeting with Confartigianato.” It is an important piece of the puzzle because – though important companies like Eni, Enel, and Allianz Farmindustria have already stipulated agreements or are closing deals now with the Ministry of Labour to accommodate young people in dual training programs – Italy is not only made up of large companies.
Inside the experience
What is necessary – besides resources and political commitment – to truly transform this experiment into a structural reality for the job market? Concrete experience can tell us. Father Sante Pessot is the director of the Centro di Formazione Artigianelli in Fermo, in the Marche.In September 2016, the three-year course for footwear operators started in a “dual version”, in collaboration with Nero Giardini: the company gave the first year students orders for a reinforced experience of business training. Six youths in their 4th year of the technical course on thermo-hydraulic systems became apprentices. “Companies in dual programs become training sources, and this is important: a small company, like most Italian companies, does not have time to train new employees, but in this case, it is possible,” said Father Pessot. “For small companies, the dual system is an excellent tool to plan generational turnover, and for students, it is turning out to be a strong lesson in motivation.” Criticism? “With labour consultants, who initially did not understand the tool fully.” Another with this opinion is Ilaria Poggio, director of the Turin offices of Piazza dei Mestieri, which had dual programs active for the bartenders and hair stylists courses: “Often, we have acted as labour consultants and we can’t say that all companies are able to get a prepared tutor. Training, as in education, is very different from the on-the-job training of an employee. However, this is an extraordinary occasion, which can finally allow the innovative potential of the education and professional training system to emerge, where it had become a bit too scholastic.” Furthermore, all of the kids who got their diplomas and also had an apprenticeship contract “had received very high marks”.
For small companies, the dual system is an excellent tool to plan generational turnover, and for students, it is turning out to be a strong lesson in motivation. Criticism? With labour consultants, who initially did not understand the tool fully.
From Bolzano to Molise, a map with chiaroscuro shading
Lombardia is the pivot region of the new apprenticeships, with 2,469 contracts activated between January 2016 and April 2017: 23% of all young apprentices in Italy live here. Regions like Piedmont and Veneto have respectively 253 and 632 apprenticeship contracts and the lowest ranking region is Molise with only 7 active contracts. The highest number of apprenticeships is registered in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, with 3,104 apprentices, but they follow the German system and so it is a normal way of doing things. “Territorial differences are the first issue to solve if we are going to go from experimentation to stabilisation,” said Sandra D’Agostino, researcher for Inapp-Istituto Nazionale per l'Analisi delle Politiche Pubbliche (ex Isfol) and part of the work group on the dual system. Differences in the social makeup also “follow the map of the regions that are historically slower in terms of professional training. We must also consider the slow speed at which innovations enter the system: with the next financial law, actions to support and stimulate the Regions must be found, and up to now they have not even started.” There are rumours of a 10 million euro fund dedicated to startups in the dual system in the more backward regions The other goal is being able to “strengthen the placement abilities of training centres to render them able to support micro-businesses,” said D’Agostino.
The Lombardia Model
The pre-existence of a strong Training Centre system has been a determining factor up to now. Regione Lombardia for example, explains the councillor for Education, Training and Labour, Valentina Aprea, “back in 2015 in Regional Law n. 30 we put in a constraint for which 5% of students enrolled in the third year must be in an apprenticeship contract, with an economic penalty for organisations that do not comply.” Therefore, when the nationwide experiment began, Lombardy put in additional resources, involving all 84 Professional Training Centres in the region and working hard on operation: “this is a success for the system,” said the councillor, who aims to triple the numbers of apprentices for the school year 2017/18.
Among the many businesses in Lombardy that have seen the success of the dual system, there is Galdus, which now has 132 apprentices: “there will be 200 by the end of the year,” explained Diego Montrone, the president. Galdus is part of a network that unites 44 professional training organisations in Lombardy, for 40 thousand students: here, over 95% of the kids who have attained the professional qualification with the new form of apprenticeship are employed. First level apprenticeship is, according to Montrone, “the hinge that joins issues of training, young people and work, and this functions where the training organisations are accredited to manage labour policies. Just to think that there are still training centres that do not get their hands dirty with work seems unreal at this time.”
The bureaucratic weight was lighter on companies, but small and medium-sized businesses still have a lot of trouble, because company tutors must provide training and not just help a person enter the workforce. Perhaps we could imagine a figure trained by Anpal and shared by several companies.
Five ideas for growing the system
Here are suggestions for stabilising the dual system and its growth. “In some regions, the law excludes training centres from the search and recruitment personal, but it is necessary that training organisations be able to manage labour policies, except for temporary work contracts, at least with regard to young people.” Then, there is a problem with under-aged workers and night shifts. “It’s a law from the 1950s, that must be updated: the classic example is a restaurant, where kids in an internship can legally work in the evenings but kids under an apprenticeship contract cannot.” Third point, the revision of professional profiles. People who make ice cream for a living will never use an oven. Does it still make sense that they learn to be pastry chefs and know everything about baking in order to get a professional qualification? How about a tire specialist, who must be an expert in auto bodywork to get a qualification? “Updating professional profiles is urgent, and we could issue more apprenticeships in specific segments, in areas where there are no specific diplomas or certificates of study.” Lastly apprenticeship in a temporary contract: “The law allows it already, but up to now, nobody has done it. It might be interesting."
A shared tutor
Some of these ideas are also shared by Father Enrico Peretti, director of Cnos-Fap (the Salesian federation that coordinates professional training in Italy, with around 20,500 students throughout the nation), to start from the need that the organisations have to open the vertical and horizontal channels of professional training, from the three-year course at the ITS to continuous training and course catalogues. Peretti suggests having a shared company tutor: “The bureaucratic weight was lighter on companies, but small and medium-sized businesses have a lot of trouble, because company tutors must provide training and not just help a person enter the workforce. Perhaps we could imagine a figure trained by Anpal and shared by several companies.” It would be good to try this, because the dual system, as we have seen, offers more chances to young people for their future: “we started with a nice framework, but it was as if there was no painting to show. Now, we have realised that this resource is more valuable than we had expected.”