A pioneering role in Italy, a reference point in Europe. The Enel model apprenticeship is leading the way. It has received an award from the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA) as the “best European experience of quality apprenticeship” and is already being prepared for Industry 4.0 and a technological evolution that requires new digital skills. If the world of work is evolving, then so too must the relationship between the labour market and school and between school and university.
EAfA, the network coordinated by the European Commission to promote good practice in apprenticeship at an international level, already counts 246 stakeholders from 36 countries. On 21 June, the network held a conference at the Enel Auditorium in Rome with a meaningful title: “Apprenticeships: from school to work - the Italian case.”
The Enel model: a pioneering programme
“The Italian case,” that’s right. Enel was the first business in Italy to launch an apprenticeship programme, a year ahead of Legislative Decree no. 81 which, in 2015, instituted apprenticeships for the awarding of secondary school level diplomas for young people between the ages of 15 and 25.
Enel CEO and General Manager, Francesco Starace, explained how the idea took hold in the company: “School programmes tend to have some holes in their relationships with the labour market, businesses tend to complain and do nothing about it. We have tried to take a step forward and experiment with a model to fill that gap.”
“This project is a way to help new recruits enter the workforce. We are now planning to amplify the programme, making it more varied, increasing the numbers and extending it to other countries where the Group is present. Furthermore, we provide the Ministry with constructive feedback, because the business world is changing fast under the pressure of digitalisation and it is important to adapt”
Francesco Starace, Enel CEO and General Manager
“Everything began with the Enel project,” confirmed Maria Assunta Palermo, Director General of MIUR (the Ministry of Education, University and Scientific Research), referencing the Memorandum of Understanding signed by MIUR, Enel and various Italian regions in July 2014. “Two more regions - Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna - have now joined the programme and the Enel experience has been replicated in small and medium enterprises present in areas where the production systems are less developed.”
Filippo Contino, Head of Enel Industrial Affairs, explained the Enel model. “In 2014, we were basically pioneers, because there was no regulatory framework. Training has always been at the heart of our DNA, we have always been committed to passing on skills to the young to ensure that the knowledge lasts over time.”
The Enel dual model is a training programme of 36 months, divided into two phases. The first, which lasts 23 months, is an entry-level apprenticeship required to gain a secondary school diploma: it takes place during the 4th and 5th year of “electronic and electro-technical” school. The second phase, which lasts 13 months, is a second-level apprenticeship which is required to earn the professional qualification of “electrician”: the apprentice is present full-time at the company during this phase, which also includes 120 hours of internal training.
The Enel model, essentially, offers early entrance into the labour market and training in the "soft" skills needed in a working environment (team working, problem solving etc.) to students while still at school and opens an exchange between business and school through the “shaping of the programmes” and direct contact with technological innovation.
“It was a great experience, on the human front too – continued Contino – the tutors we trained were all enthusiastic: their exchanges with these brilliant, innovative youngsters the same age as their children were good for everyone.”
And there’s more: all the 138 apprentices admitted to the State exam received their diploma and 136 of them were considered suitable by the company to continue working in Enel. The results of their school leaving exams also went beyond expectations: 65% of the apprentices received a final grade over 80/100.
In a video message sent to the Rome event, Marianne Thyssen, the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, described apprenticeship as a “win win” experience, useful for students to start out in the labour market and for businesses to stay competitive. After praising Enel for the company’s “excellent systems of innovative apprenticeship,” Thyssen reminded the attendees of the November appointment in Vienna which will celebrate five years of the Alliance and present the new support services for “demand-driven” apprenticeships that are more closely tailored to meet the needs of businesses dealing with digital transformation.
Pierangelo Albini, Director of Work and Welfare at Confindustria, sees the Enel model as “an example of great know-how in a country that needs to restore the dignity of know-how.”
João Santos, Deputy Head of Unit in the Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs, and Inclusion at the European Commission, noted that Enel “had understood before all the others” that the time of waiting for the education system to catch up was over: today change is fast, it needs to be planned for, the systems of the European member states are extremely varied and it is very hard to unify them. The next step for the European Union is to extend the Erasmus programme to include professional internships abroad as Erasmus Pro, doubling the investment to €30 billion and extending it to two million young people per year (today the figure is 650,000). Apprenticeship? The numbers work, says Santos: youth unemployment in Europe dropped from 24% in 2013 to 15% in 2018, although there are still disturbing highs of 30% in Greece, Italy and Spain.
“The Enel apprentices are still, sadly, a minority within a minority” – was the bitter consideration of Antonio Ranieri, a researcher for Cedefop (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) – “because Italy does not yet have a true apprenticeship system, it is fragmented and incomplete, but Enel has shown the way.” His colleague Lisa Rustico added: “Scholastic apprenticeships were introduced in 2003, but they were never practically applied before Enel got involved.”
Enel apprenticeship: what next?
“What next?” is the question, says Francesca Di Carlo, Enel Head of Human Resources and Organisation. “We asked ourselves what was needed to direct the evolution of the apprenticeship programme towards new digital skills and the data economy: today, being able to read data means that you are able to make decisions as the difference between doing and knowing is getting smaller all the time.”
“We asked the Turin Polytechnic for help and started an experimental programme, that goes beyond a traditional apprenticeship, with 40 students at two schools in Northern Italy, to try to close the gap between school and university”
Francesca Di Carlo, Enel Head of Human Resources and Organisation
The Rome conference also offered the opportunity to compare the Enel model with those of other companies, some of which formally joined EAfA in a signing ceremony on 21 June. These included the insurance group Allianz, proving that apprenticeship is also relevant to the service industry, the Ankara Chamber of Industry, the Czech Chamber of Commerce, the Connect Trade Union, the University of Strathclyde, FORMA.zione, Scuola Centrale Formazione, the Uniser Social Cooperative, Electricity Supply Board Networks and UGT Spain.
Giacomo Piantoni (Nestlé) addressed the importance of working with other businesses to join forces and share best practices, while Filippo Di Gregorio (Dallara) talked about the creation of an inter-university course in the Emilia-Romagna region to train the automotive engineers of the future.
“Enel can be an excellent testimonial for the promotion of apprenticeship projects in Italy and help the Ministry create training programmes that are closer to the businesses of tomorrow,” concluded Carlo Tamburi, Enel Head of Country Italy.
“Apprenticeship is not simply a way of helping young people join the labour market, but also a means of preparing them for life: they don’t study just to find a job, but also for personal improvement and development”
Carlo Tamburi, Head of Country Italy