Workplace-based learning in Central and Eastern Europe – how to learn from each other?

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The vocational education system in Central and Eastern European countries is mainly school-based. Back in communist times, schools had been directly linked to large industrial conglomerates. Since the transition to a market economy, it has been an uphill battle to connect vocational schools and newly emerging firms for workplace-based training. In particular, the region’s many small firms struggle to offer high-quality training, given the required investments and manpower. Yet, partly inspired by investors from German-speaking countries with their strong tradition of dual vocational education workplace-based training innovations have been evolving in increasing numbers in the region. What are the success stories so far and what are hurdles for rolling out dual educational training more systematically? What can players from different countries learn from each other?

On 18 March, we explored answers to these questions in a joint webinar with the German Institute for Labour Market Research (IAB).


Marieke Vandeweyer | OECD Policy Analyst

Tobias Bolle | Project Coordinator at the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce

Marcin Budzewski | Project Manager at the Institute for Labour Market Analyses, Poland

Andrej Hutta | Head of Board of Employers for VET, Slovakia

Marián Lovás | Head of Dual Vocational Education at Brose, Slovakia

Tomasz Mackiewicz | Manager at the R&D Centre for Modern Technologies, Poland


Nicola Brandt | Head of OECD Berlin Centre

Key findings from the discussion:

  • In many Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, vocational education is considered less valuable than general education. Awareness campaigns and studies that evidence the return to workplace-based training for companies and apprentices would help, along with good opportunities to build on it with more advanced degrees.
  • Usually only large corporations implement workplace-based training. Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) often lack the capacity to take on apprentices and handle the associated paperwork. Many complain that regulations and procedures to apply for support are too complex and change too frequently to follow suit.
  • In Austria, SMEs join forces to train their apprentices in joint programs, thus ensuring that they acquire a broad spectrum of skills. These consortia can also contribute to a standardized high quality curriculum and broadly recognized certification. In Austria, so-called Group Training Organisations take over much of the paperwork, recruitment and placement of apprentices for the companies that adhere to them. Similar structures could enable SMEs in the CEE region to participate more in workplace-based training.
  • In the German-speaking world, chambers of commerce play a crucial role in promoting, organizing and certifying dual vocational education programs. They can provide a structure where stakeholders –  companies, schools and (local) governments – can coordinate and organize high quality education. Building institutions in CEE countries that can take on a similar role would be helpful for a further roll-out of dual education. The Board of Employers for VET in Slovakia is one such example.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic is strongly affecting work-based and school-based education. Curricula and schools need to adapt to the situation and improve conditions for distant learning, including providing all apprentices with a computer and internet access. For workplace-based elements of the training curriculum, though, presence will often be indispensable. Work safety and hygiene measures need to ensure that this is possible.

Watch the discussion:

Presentation by Marieke Vandeweyer:

Download the slides.

Further reading:

Work-based learning and apprenticeships. Dedicated OECD web page gathering analysis and policy recommendations on work-based learning.

DIHK-Kompetenzstelle Internationale Berufsbildung. Dedicated DIHK web page in German offering information on German Chambers of Commerce abroad that support local businesses with workplace-based training.

Striking the right balance – Costs and benefits of apprenticeship. OECD working paper (February 2017)