Apprenticeship: EBC exchanges with Commissioner Schmit at SMEunited event

SMEunited and its members, including EBC, are holding several activities in 2022 under the theme ‘Youth and Skilled Workforce’ as part of the European Year of Youth and the 2022 European Vocational Skills Week. As part of this series, SMEunited organised the event ‘Making apprenticeship more attractive for SMEs and for youth,’ with the participation of the Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit and EBC Secretary General Fernando Sigchos Jiménez.

In her opening speech, Véronique Willems, SMEunited Secretary General, stated that Crafts and SMEs play a significant role in supporting young people acquire the right skills to thrive in the labour market and become entrepreneurs.

Commissioner Nicolas Schmit stressed that apprenticeship is the best tool for a successful transition from education to the labour market. ‘Despite a decrease in the youth unemployment rate, more efforts need to be done to support young people to access the labour market. Apprenticeships are beneficial both for companies and for young people, and the Commission will continue to ensure that this message reaches them,’ continued Mr Schmit.

The debate continued with an intervention by the OECD on its initiatives to collect data on Vocational Education and Training with a view to publishing an international VET assessment highlighting the knowledge gap still existing on the subject.

Finally, a round table discussion with SMEunited members provided an opportunity to explore national and sectoral challenges and best practices. After presentations from CMA France, the Skilled Crafts Chamber of Berlin in Germany, HOK in Croatia and WKÖ from Austria, the EBC Secretary General brought a sectoral perspective to the debate by giving an overview of the specific challenges to attract and retain apprentices in the construction sector.

Mr. Sigchos Jiménez explained how apprenticeship in construction has a social and societal dimension as it helps to perpetuate certain technical skills of the trades and avoid the loss of traditional know-how. 

SMEs and craftsmen in the construction sector are suffering from a demographic struggle to avoid losing the knowledge of older generations and to have a generational passing of the torch. He stressed the major task of changing the image and perception of construction in European society, making the most of current and future opportunities for change in the context of the twin green and digital transition; he explained that by breaking down the usual stereotypes of construction careers, raising the profile of vocational education and developing training programmes more in line with the day-to-day skills needs of construction SMEs, the sector will become more attractive to younger generations and under-represented groups, such as women.

To learn more about the Erasmus+ initiative Construction Blueprint for Skills, visit the website:

To learn more about the Pact for Skills in Construction, click here.