Overcoming Obstacles

Overcoming Obstacles to Mobility for Apprentices and Other Young People in Vocational Education and Training

April 2007

1) Method of Investigation

The methodology of the study was developed during the initial stage and further developed throughout the study, with guidance from the Steering Committee. Although the explorative nature of the study does not translate itself into ‘fixed’ stages, the general outline of the study can be described in seven stages with a number of activities in each stage:

Establishment of a conceptual model for the study;

  • Identification of obstacles (desk research, surveys, interviews);

  • Prioritization of obstacles (stakeholder interviews, desk research, expert panel);

  • Formulation of recommendations (expert panels, network consultations);

  • Identification of examples of best practice (desk research, surveys);

  • Development of solution models (expert team);

  • Dissemination.

In this study the quality of the results was enhanced  by applying the principle of triangulation. Multiple sources of evidence used during the study include the following:

  • Document analysis;

  • Expert consultations and stakeholder interviews;

  • ‘Refer-Net survey’ in 33 European countries (a survey among national IVET experts on present mobility policies and practices);

  • System descriptions of IVET in 33 European countries;

  • Four surveys among IVET participants (one on attitudes towards work/learning experiences abroad, one on experiences abroad, one among young people in the tourism sector and one among young people in IVET)Surveys (apprentices who went abroad as well as other young people in VET);

  • VET-providers’ survey;

  • Sectorial studies on Arts & Crafts, Tourism and Chemicals;

2) Objectives

The general objective of the study, as set out in the terms of reference, was as follows: “To foster the development of transnational mobility leading to qualifications as an integral element of vocational training pathways at European level, by identifying all the obstacles to such development and by implementing concrete solutions for overcoming them.”

The specific objective of the study was described as follows: “To analyze existing vocational training systems in Europe and existing mobility practices in order to identify clearly the obstacles to the more general uptake at European level of transnational mobility leading to qualifications as an integral element of vocational training pathways, culminating in concrete proposals for solutions to the obstacles identified.”

3) Findings

I. Benefits of mobility

a. Benefits of transnational IVET mobility from the perspective of employers

  • Competence development and internationalization (For employers, transnational placements in IVET can serve as a tool for developing skills and competences of future employees and as a tool for stimulating internationalisation.

  • Specific benefits for enterprises (valuable multi-cultural experiences and a potentially further internationalizing labour force; getting an international touch within the company; new impulses, ideas and knowledge of new markets; possibility of students bringing in new approaches and new (working) methods; improved language attainment of staff; greater cultural awareness and technical understanding; improving the profile and attractiveness of the particular sector.

  • b. Benefits of transnational IVET mobility from the perspective of VET institutions

  • Attractiveness of IVET

  • An international environment within the institution

  • Competence development of teachers and trainers

  • Benchmarking

  • Pro-active internationalisation strategies and policies

  • VET institutions as ‘knowledge centres’

  • c. Benefits of transnational IVET mobility from the perspective of IVET participants

  • Triple competence development

  • Benefits according to IVET participants (Increased cultural awareness; Increased language ability; Increased self-confidence; Willingness to go again; Understanding other countries in Europe; Improved communication skills; Work relationships; Personal relations; More motivated to complete the study; Increased interest in other people; Expected positive impact on career opportunities;Improved vocational knowledge)

II. Obstacles to mobility

a. Obstacles to transnational IVET mobility from the perspective of employers

  • Awareness (Awareness here means: being informed about the different opportunities for transnational placements and in particular for the possibilities for funding such placements; knowing about the (potential) benefits of transnational placements, both for the IVET participants concerned and –more important- for the enterprise itself)

  • Costs [Costs incurred by the sending IVET participants on a transnational placement, form a considerable obstacle for these enterprises. These costs concern: hiring extra staff during the period when apprentices are absent; the contractual obligation for employers to pay the wages of the apprentices during their stay abroad (this differs between countries)]

  • Other obstacles (Structural decisions and administrative procedures in e.g. the Leonardo da Vinci

  • programme, but also some national programmes, have made it difficult, in particular for SMEs, to participate directly in such programme activities. There is too much ‘red tape’ in connection with applying for funding as well as reporting. There is the impossibility for applying for individual funding)

b. Obstacles to transnational IVET mobility from the perspective of VET institutions

  • Institutional obstacles

  • Funding

c. Obstacles to transnational IVET mobility from the perspective of IVET participants

  • Before going abroad

  • During stay abroad

  • After stay abroad

d. Obstacles to transnational IVET mobility from the European and national (policy) level

  • ‘red tape’ in dealing with applications

  • The lack of national policies with regard to mobility in IVET

  • funding in most countries, involving various ministries, the lack of cooperation between ministries in developing policies and programmes with regard to transnational mobility in IVET is considered problematic

Through the subsequent stages of the project, in particular those stages in which data were collected and analysed from a variety of sources, this ‘long’ list was reduced to a ‘top 10’ of the most relevant and pressing obstacles for mobility in IVET. This top 10 is (not in order of priority):

  • Lack of quality placements;

  • Lack of knowledge on the benefits of mobility;

  • Lack of pedagogical know-how on learning in placements;

  • Lack of sustainable internationalisation strategies;

  • Lack of research on mobility;

  • Lack of communities of practice for placement organisers;

  • Legal and administrative barriers;

  • Lack of interest among young people;

  • Lack of linguistic and cultural background knowledge;

  • Lack of recognition.

4) Recommendations

This development of IVET systems has to be taken into account and further inhibits the establishment of generic quality criteria. When talking about quality of transnational mobility, placements in particular, three aspects have to be considered:

  • quality awareness (make actors and stakeholders aware of ‘quality’ or the lack of it);

  • defining quality (describing what it is, establishing quality criteria);
  • quality assurance (facilitating quality at a hands-on level by applying operational versions of quality criteria to individual projects).



  • Transform generic quality criteria to specific quality assurance strategies

  • Ensure quality in mobility is monitored and recognised

  • Address lacunae in knowledge of mobility projects by building complete

  • databases of good practice

Support mechanism

  • Make funding available to individual young people

  • Create shared service centres for placement organisers and SMEs

  • Use web innovations to enable match-making between demand and supply

  • Support and create communities of practice

Sustainable strategies

  • Develop strategic frameworks and make funding dependent on an action plan

  • Connect and enthuse key-decision makers to raise capital


  • Develop a publicity campaign and use mass media to communicate to target groups

  • Use existing channels for mass media coverage

Legal and administrative

  • Consider legal status for apprentices

  • Develop measures for dealing with health, safety and liability insurance at the workplace

  • Improve access to existing information

About the Author: Maurizio

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *