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CVER Research Paper
Building apprentices’ skills in the workplace: Car Service in Germany, the UK and Spain
Philipp Grollmann, Hilary Steedman, Anika Jansen and Robert Gray December 2017
Paper No' CVERDP011:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: I24; I25; J24

Tags: vocational education; apprenticeship; international comparisons

This paper analyses how employers in three countries, Germany, the UK and Spain experience and view apprenticeship. The focus is a single occupation – Vehicle Maintenance and Repair (Car Service) based on case studies and a representative employer survey carried out in the three countries. Apprenticeship is well-established in Germany and is strongly promoted by the UK government. In Spain, Car Service courses are full-time college courses which include a workplace internship. German and UK firms are satisfied with the practical and theoretical content of apprenticeship programmes but case study evidence reveals that the workplace training element of apprenticeship makes heavy demands on firms’ resources. Spanish courses demand less of employers but skills are less well-developed. While German Car Service firms train more apprentices than they immediately require, UK firms under-invest in apprenticeship citing the heavy time demands on experienced employees. Local employer associations in Germany ensure that firms act cooperatively to procure an adequate skill supply. In the UK firms incur high recruitment costs as a result of skill shortages but refrain from apprenticeship through fear of poaching. Spanish firms value the internship period as a way of screening potential employees. Full-time college courses with a short internship are inadequate as a preparation for multi-skilled employment in an occupation with a strong technical knowledge base and electro-mechanical skills content. The UK should consider a different financing model for technical apprenticeships. In addition, increased labour market regulation and employer cooperation could encourage investment in apprenticeship.