Apprenticeship is a social institution with a long history, having ensured over centuries the transmission of work skills from one generation to the next. Around the world apprenticeship continues to exist, often in a modernized form. In the face of global youth employment crises, large cohorts of unemployed youth and skills mismatches, many countries wish to explore the option of introducing or improving apprenticeship schemes as a way to better address these problems.
Apprenticeship systems in the informal Kenyan “Jua Kali” economy are widespread and hold the potential to grow and account for a large percentage of the national skills provision.
Informal apprenticeship refers to the system by which a young apprentice acquires the skills for a trade or craft in a micro or small enterprise learning and working side by side with an experienced practitioner. Apprentice and master craftsperson conclude a training agreement that is embedded in local norms and traditions of a society. Apprentices learn technical skills and are inducted into a business culture and network which makes it easier for them to find jobs or start businesses when finishing their apprenticeship. An example of this is in Nairobi is with the metal fabricators along Jogoo Road, or even better, the local tailor at the village shopping centre that normally has one or two people working while learning until they grow to start their own tailoring business.
Quality apprenticeships based on robust social dialogue and public-private partnerships can improve employment prospects for young people while developing high level skills identified by employers as necessary for growth and increased productivity. Both informal and regulated apprenticeship systems are important learning resources enabling young people to overcome the work-inexperience trap, gain new and enhanced skills and recognized qualifications.
“Traditional” or “informal” apprenticeships can be found in the informal economy and rural settings. In traditional apprenticeship, skills are transmitted from a father or a mother to their children, close family or clan members. Traditional apprenticeship systems have in many regions evolved into informal apprenticeship systems which are open to apprentices from outside the family or kin group. Informal apprenticeship is based on an informal work and training agreement in a practitioner’s business. While formal apprenticeship is founded on policies and legislation, informal apprenticeship is embedded and regulated by local culture and traditions.
For many youth in developing countries, informal apprenticeship is the only way of acquiring professional skills. Informal apprenticeship can involve a number of issues: long working hours, unsafe working conditions, low or no allowances or wages, little or no social protection and strong gender imbalances are among the most important decent work deficits. Upgrading and formalizing informal apprenticeships can address these issues and have positive effects on boosting local economies and investing in a country’s skills base.
Upgrading informal apprenticeships and expanding regulated ones is a cost-effective way to invest in a country’s skills base, promote economic growth and enhance the employability of youth.
Well-designed apprenticeships can play a vital role in:
• smoothing school-to-work transitions by providing relevant work experience in a real labourmarket environment while learning a trade;
• equipping youth with the skills needed by companies;
• being an effective training methodology for transferring complex skillsets, including for hightechnology occupations;
• combining work and training opportunities, linked with a salary or allowance; • enabling companies to better cater for immediate and future staff needs; and
• making TVET systems more responsive to skills shortages and skills mismatch.