Chapter 8. Boosting employer engagement in apprenticeships at the local level in Turkey

This chapter explores employer engagement in work-based training programmes enacted as part of wider active labour market policies in the Turkish economy. The legislative background and the implementation of work-based programmes are examined, particularly with respect to their ability to meet the needs of employers while providing vocational skills to apprentices.


Key findings

  • Turkey is a vibrant and dynamic economy which has experienced significant improvements in economic growth and development in recent years. Vocational education enjoys a long history in the Turkish labour market, but recent efforts from the central Turkish government have aimed to improve the scope and provision of apprenticeship opportunities.

  • This chapter highlights the role of collaboration between employer groups and public employment services in helping to deliver active labour market policies and provide work-based training places to jobseekers.


This chapter will address apprenticeship and other types of work-based learning in Turkey with a particular emphasis on employer engagement in skills development for the youth. This report presents a general background description of the Turkish labour market, the education system, and the laws and regulations that operate apprenticeship and work-based learning and then examines a collaboration between the Turkish Employment Agency and the Turkish Confederation of Employer Associations. The collaboration is based on the implementation of a work-based programme from the national employment agency by the member companies of the employer association. A general account of social partners, employers and workers organisations and affiliated associations is presented alongside the predecessor programs which aim to engage employers in skills development of the unemployed, especially the youth.


Although declining, youth unemployment is still a challenge for many countries (ILO, 2015). Promoting and strengthening high quality apprenticeship systems is considered a means for making apprenticeships more valuable to both youth and employers (OECD, 2014). The European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA) was launched on 2 July 2013 with the goal of strengthening the quality, provision and status of apprenticeships in Europe. To this end, EAfA brings together governments with other key stakeholders, like businesses, social partners, industry chambers, vocational education and training (VET) providers, regions, youth representatives or think tanks (EU, 2015). As a candidate country, Turkey also agreed in June 2015 to undertake policy measures that would increase the quality, supply and attractiveness of apprenticeships (EAfA website, National Commitments, Turkey).

Apprenticeship and work-based learning in Turkey has a long tradition and dates back to the 13th century with the foundation of a fraternity organisation named Ahi Associations (Özyılmaz, 2011). These associations determined the rules, regulation and operation of trades and workshops. An important function of Ahi Associations was training the young through work. Education and training in the Ahi system integrated vocational training at the workshop with general and social education at dervish lodge (zaviye, religious school) (Çağatay, 1989). One would start working in an occupation as an assistant apprentice and through the years would become first an apprentice, then a journeyman, and finally a master. For centuries, Ahi Associations had been the major economic, social and cultural power in the Seljuk and Ottoman Empires although their names and ways of functioning changed over time and were abolished altogether in 1912 (Ekinci, 1990; Çağatay, 1989).

When the Turkish Republic was established, all schools, including vocational schools, were brought under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education. In late 1940s, vocational courses were initiated as an important means for the training of a skilled labour force. In the 1960s, vocational high schools were established as well as 1-2 year practical trade schools. Technical high schools were included into the system in the 1970s. The system was restructured in 1973 with the National Education Basic Law No. 1739. According to the law, preparing individuals for an occupation, higher education or labour market was the objective of vocational and technical education (Akpınar, 2004). In these initial years, the “work-based” dimension (practice-orientation of students in companies) discontinued until the legal basis of VET and apprenticeship was established later in late 1970s and 1980s.

Policy context

The Turkish education system consists of “formal education” and “non-formal education”, and the main responsible body is the Ministry of National Education (Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı, MoNE), except for higher education. Compulsory schooling in formal education is twelve years, which consists of four years of primary education, four years of lower secondary education and four years of upper secondary education. Upper secondary education consists of general secondary education, and vocational and technical secondary education. In recent years, enrolment into VET secondary education has increased substantially. In the 2002-03 academic year, there were fewer than one million students enrolled in secondary VET schools (TURKSTAT, 2010). This has increased by 213% to 2.1 million students in the 2014-15 academic year, almost equalling the number of enrolled students in general secondary schools (2.9 million) (TURKSTAT, 2015a).

Apprenticeships in Turkey are considered non-formal, meaning that successful completion results in certification rather than a diploma. General Directorate of Lifelong Learning (Hayat Boyu Öğrenme Genel Müdürlüğü, HBÖGM) is the main body that runs apprenticeship training and non-formal VET courses. Various non-formal educational activities including apprenticeship training is provided by the MoNE, General Directorate of Lifelong Learning. Other social partners like Confederation of Turkish Tradesmen and Craftsmen (Türkiye Esnaf ve Sanatkarlar Konfederasyonu, TESK), Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (Türkiye Odalar ve Borsalar Birliği, TOBB), Turkish Confederation of Employer Associations (Türkiye İşverenler Sendikası Konfederasyonu, TİSK) and others provide support to VET in Turkey.

The VET and apprenticeship system in Turkey

The VET system in Turkey is dual in nature, with both theoretical (school-based training) and practical (work-based training/practical training in schools) dimensions. The major types of VET provision are:

  • VET upper secondary schools providing theoretical education and training at schools and work-based skills training and internships at enterprises;

  • Apprenticeship training, which is mainly based on training provided in enterprises where the person is employed, and theoretical training at vocational training centres;

  • Non-formal VET courses;

  • Post-secondary VET schools that offer two-year programs. Higher Education Council regulates these schools.

The legislation relating to the laws and regulations in VET changed and developed over the years in Turkey as the need for restructuring emerged. The main law in action is the Vocational Education Law No. 330811 enacted in 1986. There have been amendments to the Law in 2001, with the Law No. 4702, to set up new and strong co-operation with industry and commerce, and to bring flexibility to the system. With the amendments, Law No. 3308 is still the main law that regulates both VET and apprenticeship system in Turkey. Another important law in relation to the improvement of vocational education in Turkey is the Vocational Qualification Authority Law No. 5544 enacted in 2006.

There have been many projects to develop and strengthen the VET in Turkey. Some of the recent nationally funded projects include “The Specialised Vocational Training Centres Skills’10 Project” (Uzmanlaşmış Meslek Edindirme Merkezleri, Beceri’10 Projesi, UMEM) (2010-15), and “Improving the Vocational Skills Project” (Mesleki Becerilerin Geliştirilmesi Projesi, MESGEP) (2011-13). A recent internationally funded programme includes the project on “Improving the Quality of Vocational Education and Training in Turkey – I and II” (IQVET; Türkiye’de Mesleki ve Teknik Eğitimin Kalitesinin Geliştirilmesi Projesi- I ve II, METEK) (2012-2014, EU-IPA-4 funded).

The Turkish apprenticeship system

According to the Law No. 3308, workplaces are required to send their apprentices one day a week (not less than 8 hours) to Vocational Training Centres (Mesleki Eğitim Merkezi – MEM), or training units or institutions approved by the MoNE, to complement their work-based training with theoretical courses. During the other workdays, apprentices work at their workplaces where master trainers are responsible for their work-based development. At the end of their training period, which can take two to three years depending on the type of occupation, apprentices take an exam and become journeymen. Journeymen must also take a certification exam after their training, or if they have worked in the relevant occupational field for a certain period of time, or graduated from VET upper secondary school. Those who pass the exam become masters in their occupational fields and receive mastership certificates. Masters can then become master trainers by completing a 40-hour training course.

Currently, apprenticeship training in Turkey is carried out in 31 occupational fields and 153 branches as the latest revisions done by the 24th Vocational Education Council in December 2011. In the 2012-13 academic year, 104 342 apprentices, 46 286 foremen, and 19 107 master trainers attended programs through 369 Vocational Training Centres. In the same year, 68 412 foremanship certificates and 7 287 certificates to establish work were granted (TURKSTAT, 2014).

Out of 153 occupational branches, 13 listed in Table 8.1 comprise the highest enrolment levels (71.5% in total). The vast majority of apprentices are male (81.3%), between the ages of 15-22 (88.3%), and primary school graduates (94.2%).

Table 8.1. Apprentices by type of occupation, gender and level of education (2010-11)

Type of occupation



Level of education






Gen. High

VET High

Higher ed.


6 967

13 190

17 430

2 727

18 511

1 396




19 210


17 458

1 787

18 614




Wiring/Panel Installation

7 337


6 784


7 028




Auto Electro-Mech.

5 594


5 496


5 508




Auto Mechanics

4 505


4 324


4 452





4 153


4 106


4 115




Making Furniture

4 047


3 793


3 952




Auto. Framework

2 936


2 869


2 803




Lathe Operator

2 744


2 663


2 711




Welder’s Work

2 555


2 389


2 502




Auto Electrician

2 353


2 276


2 324





2 058


1 718


2 135




Model Machine

1 025

3 220

2 819

1 426

3 759





28 338

4 595

27 745

5 188

30 339

2 091




93 822

21 541

101 870

13 493

108 753

5 213

1 097


Source: TURKSTAT (2012).

Enterprises seek apprentices through direct advertisement. In general, small-scale workplaces seek apprentices either by job advertisements posted on their shop windows, or through various job advertisement channels including the related occupational chamber websites. Aspiring apprentices then apply for their desired positions.

Enterprises are not legally allowed to employ an apprentice below the age of 19 without a written apprenticeship contract. There is a period of probation of between 1‐3 months before such contracts become binding. The contract offers some financial benefits to the employers: once under contract, social security insurance premiums and insurance contributions for “Occupational Accidents and Diseases” of candidate apprentices and apprentices are paid by the state, which decreases the financial burden of the employers. Similarly, the employers of the apprentices are also exempt from other financial requirements such as revenue stamps, income tax, tax refund, and severance payment. Moreover, the wages paid to apprentices would be shown as expenditures by the employers. Once an apprentice becomes a journeyman, social security insurance premiums and the insurance contributions are no longer paid by the state.

Work-based skills training in upper secondary VET schools

VET upper secondary schools prepare students for the world of work as well as higher education. The graduates of VET upper secondary education may apply to two-year VET higher education programs for placement without sitting the nation-wide higher education entrance exam. There are 61 job families and 228 branches in VET upper secondary schools, as of 2012. Accordingly, students at VET upper secondary schools are directed to job families at the 10th grade and their occupational branches related to specific job families are determined by the 11th grade. Work-based skills training of VET upper secondary students take place at the 12th grade (MoNE, 2012). The structure of the work-based training was prepared in line with Law No. 3308, and the regulations are set by the MoNE Secondary Education Institutions Regulation issued in September 2013.

In the 12th grade, students go to their schools on two days of the week for theoretical training and the remaining three days they go to enterprises for their skills training. The work and skills training undertaken by students at the enterprises is monitored by the VET upper secondary school co-ordinator teachers (Özcan and Tamer, 2013). The co-ordinator field teacher prepares a folder for each student which explains not only the official requirements to be fulfilled but also the tasks to be carried by the student during the skills training. The student regularly fills in the relevant parts of the folder to indicate which tasks have been addressed through the training. The master trainer at the enterprise monitors the progress of the students and evaluates the tasks that are carried by the trainees and reports by filling in the relevant parts of the folder.

During the skills training process, enterprises are responsible for the interns, and the insurance premium costs for “Occupational Accidents and Diseases” are paid by the MoNE like the apprentices. Furthermore, the interns are paid at least 30% of the minimum wage during their enterprise-based training as required by MoNE Secondary Schools Regulation and Vocational Education Law No. 3308.

Secondary Education Institutions Regulation guides the assessment procedure for the enterprise-based skills training. Accordingly, an examination is conducted by a commission comprising the master trainer or the training personnel at the enterprise, the co-ordinator field teachers of the education institution, and representatives of employers association active in the area. This skills examination may cover practical and/or theoretical questions.

Policy context and issues

In 2015, the overall labour force participation rate was 52.1%. The average rate of unemployment in Turkey was 9.6%, but it was higher for workers in the non-agricultural sector (11.7%) and for young people (17.7%), particularly young women (21.8%) (see Table 8.2).

Table 8.2. Labour force participation and employment, June 2015




15 years and above population (000)

57 818

28 555

29 262

Labour force (000)

30 141

20 683

9 458

Employment (000)

27 261

18 900

8 361

Unemployed (000)

2 880

1 782

1 097

Those not included in labour force (000)

27 677

7 873

19 804

Labour force participation rate (%)




Employment rate (%)




Unemployment rate (%)




Non-agricultural unemployment (%)




Youth unemployment rate (15-24 age)




Source: TURKSTAT (2015b).

Technological developments in recent decades have had an impact on the industrial and service sector where low technology use has given way to high-technology production. There has been a corresponding increase in demand for advanced technological skills. However, education institutions have been slow to respond to the skills needs of the industrial and services sectors. This indicated a serious need to include employers in skills development policy and implementation.

The share of the Turkish workforce employed in the agricultural sector has somewhat declined in the period from 2005 to 2015, while the share of employment in construction and services has somewhat increased (see Table 8.3).

Table 8.3. Labour force participation and employment by sector and years

January 2005

January 2010

January 2015

Labour force (000)

21 320

24 449

29 347

Employed (000)

19 349

21 489

26 339

Agricultural employment (000)

5 323

5 116

5 455

Non-agricultural employment – total

Industry (000)

Construction (000)

Services (000)

14 026

4 030

1 030

8 966

16 373

4 416

1 394

10 564

20 884

5 349

1 920

13 615

Unemployed (000)

1 971

2 960

3 008

Labor force participation rate (%)




Employment rate (%)




Agricultural employment (%)




Non-agricultural employment – total

Industry (%)

Construction (%)

Services (%)













Unemployment rate (%)




Non-agricultural unemployment (%)




Youth unemployment rate (15-24 age)




Source: TURKSTAT (2015).

The higher rate of unemployment among the youth can be attributed to a lack of vocational experience or work-related skills. This indicates an increased need for employer engagement in skills development to improve the employability of the youth (Ünlühisarcıklı et al., 2014).

MoNE is the main body responsible for VET provision. However, employers, workers organisations and affiliated associations also contribute to vocational and technical education in Turkey. Recently, there have been increased efforts to involve the social partners for VET provision and contribution.

Social partners: Employers and workers organisations and affiliated associations

Turkish Confederation of Employer Associations (Türkiye İşverenler Kurumu, TİSK) is the main organisation that brings together the employers in Turkey. The umbrella organisation for the tradesmen and craftsmen is the Confederation of Turkish Tradesmen and Craftsmen (Türkiye Esnaf ve Sanatkarlar Konfederasyonu, TESK). The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (Türkiye Odalar ve Borsalar Birliği, TOBB) is the highest level representative body of the private sector, and the Turkish Employment Agency (Türkiye İş Kurumu, İŞKUR) is the biggest organisation that assists the job seekers and employers in Turkey.

The Law No. 3308 also regulates the roles of social partners and enterprises in the vocational education system in Turkey. Social partners participate in the planning, development and evaluation procedures of VET through the vocational education councils that have a tri-partite structure. Vocational Education Council has been established in accordance with the Law No. 3308 and all the related social partners are represented in this council.2

Vocational Education Council functions for making decisions and stating opinions to the MoNE on the planning, development and evaluation of education at any level, in which vocational and technical training curricula have been implemented, non-formal and apprenticeship training provided in vocational training centres, and practical training attained at institutions and enterprises. The MoNE and relevant vocational institutions execute the decisions taken by the Council. The chairman of the council is Undersecretary of Ministry of National Education. The members of the council are the representatives of relevant ministries, institutions, organisations and confederations of employers and employees.

Similarly, in accordance with the Law No. 3308, Provincial Vocational Education Councils have also been established in each of the 81 provinces of Turkey. These councils have the same duties as the Vocational Education Council at provincial level, and also have a tri-partite structure (Law No. 3308). Other platforms the social partners participate in are the National Education Symposia, Occupational Standards Committees, and the preparation of Five Year Development Plans.

In the following section, the contribution of some of the social partners to VET and skills development will be summarised. Then, a recent project that is based on engaging the employers for the skills development of the unemployed with the purpose of providing a job after the skills development program will be presented. Finally, the recent implementation of work-based training skills development programmes will be provided and discussed.

Turkish Confederation of Employer Associations

The Turkish Confederation of Employer Associations (Türkiye İşveren Sendikaları Konfederasyonu, TİSK) is the umbrella organisation that represents employers in industrial relations nationally and internationally. At the national level, TİSK represents employers in all tripartite platforms as a social partner, and is also involved with engaging international organisations such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Confederation of European Business (BUSINESSEUROPE), Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC), the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), the Union of Mediterranean Confederation of Enterprises (UMCE) and the Union of Black Sea and Caspian Confederation of Enterprises (UBCCE).

Although membership is voluntary, the level of affiliation to TİSK is high for large companies and employer associations. As an umbrella organisation, TİSK represents 20 employers’ associations that are active in various economic sectors with 9 600 workplaces and 1 200 000 workers. Dues paid by its member associations constitute the budget of the organisation. TİSK actively participates in vocational education projects.

The fundamental principles adopted by TİSK are (TİSK, nd):

  • Maintaining good relations between employers and workers;

  • Sustaining free enterprise and market economy;

  • Improving international competitiveness of enterprises and the economy;

  • Increasing production, productivity, investment and exports;

  • Protecting and expanding productive employment, and reducing unemployment;

  • Developing bipartite and tripartite co-operation;

  • Improving vocational training and lifelong learning opportunities for the labour force by establishing training-employment link;

  • Assisting Turkey’s integration with the modern world as well as with the EU.

Turkish Employment Agency

The Turkish Employment Agency (Türkiye İş Kurumu, İŞKUR) is the biggest organisation that assists both job seekers and employers in Turkey. The main responsibilities of İŞKUR are: helping both job seekers and employers; providing job and vocational consulting services and training programs; implementing active and passive labour market programs; and regulating private employment agencies. The General Board of İŞKUR consists of representatives of employer organisations, trade unions, institutions of higher education, chambers of commerce and industry, voluntary organisations, and government appointees.

İŞKUR, offers various training activities to unemployed people, women, youngsters, disabled people and ex-convicts either by itself or in co-operation with public and private institutions and organisations. These training activities range from market-oriented courses that result in the acquisition of specific entrepreneurial skills. Some of these programmes result in a job guarantee upon successful completion of the programme. Accordingly, İŞKUR is expected to place at least 60% of the trainees to suitable jobs. However, all these activities and efforts for providing educational programmes and job opportunities are not effective at reaching high numbers of people.

Confederation of Turkish tradesmen and craftsmen

The highest level of professional representation for the small enterprises in Turkey is the Confederation of Turkish Tradesmen and Craftsmen (Türkiye Esnaf ve Sanatkarları Konfederasyonu, TESK). About 90% of all enterprises in Turkey are small enterprises. The roots of TESK go back to the Ahi Associations.

TESK has more than two million members and is organised into 3 098 local Chambers that represent different professional activities, 82 Unions of Chambers in each of the provinces, and 13 Sector Federations grouped under TESK as an umbrella organisation.

TESK carry out three major tasks, namely: to protect the interests of the “occupation”; to keep a record of the members and collecting membership subscriptions; and to organise training activities to increase vocational qualifications of members. More than any other organisation under Law No. 3308, TESK has been involved in vocational and technical training for the provision of apprenticeship training for all occupations under the scope of MoNE.

As a non-governmental organisation, TESK undertakes an important role and responsibility in vocational and technical education by: organising training and giving TESK journeyman and TESK master certificates in occupational branches for which apprenticeship training is not provided by MoNE as defined by Vocational Education Law No. 3308; allocating an amount of share from the Confederation’s income for training activities; providing the means for financing vocational and technical training in line with the Vocational Education Fund Regulation (Official Gazette No. 27790, 2010); improving the quality of vocational and technical training by workplace investigations and consultancy when needed; maintaining Vocational Training and Technology Centres (Mesleki Eğitim ve Teknoloji Merkezleri, METEM), in which vocational training is provided for occupational improvement and adaptation to new technologies; and providing training for the young to contribute to their practical skill acquisition at workplaces.

The local Chambers are responsible for carrying out the examination for TESK certification and they also conduct preparatory courses for examination. A TESK journeymanship certificate is granted to those who are at least an elementary school graduate, above the age of 16, worked in a related occupation for at least two-years and succeeded the exam organised by the chamber. There are about 350 such occupations under the responsibility of TESK, usually in production or service fields. These occupations include food production, personal hygiene and beauty, or accommodation and entertainment professions, and the training periods would be no more than a few weeks.

In short, TESK has a crucial role for monitoring and inspecting the vocational and technical training that is taking place at the enterprises, as well as its role in examination and certification system. Therefore, TESK make a major contribution to vocational and technical training in Turkey (TESK website).

The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey

The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (Türkiye Odalar ve Borsalar Birliği, TOBB) is the highest level representative of the private sector. TOBB was established in 1950 and currently has 365 members. TOBB carries out administrative, representative and advisory functions for the chambers and commodity exchanges, and is also an active organisation in terms of vocational education.

According to Law No. 5174 (the Law of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey, and the Chambers and Commodity Exchanges; date of adoption: 18 May 2004), Article 12, additional duties of the chambers are as follows: opening commercial, maritime business and industry courses; assisting courses that have already been opened; training students abroad or within the country for areas needed and providing traineeship under the permission and supervision of the Ministry of National Education; working for the improvement of the vocational and technical education and training; issuing documents for vocational branches that are not covered by the Law No. 3308 to the member organisations; and others. TOBB is therefore actively involved in vocational and technical education.

A joint project conducted by the private sector, the public sector and university sector and facilitated by TOBB is presented in this chapter.

Existing Turkish programmes

The specialised Vocational Training Centres Skills’10 Project

Over the last decade, with the rapid advancement of technology the skills required in the labour market changed as new jobs with new skills sets came into existence while some traditional jobs disappeared. The Specialised Vocational Training Centres (UMEM) Skills’10 Project was developed with the purpose of producing a solution to the unemployment stemming from the mismatch between supply and demand among employee and employers. The initiative was launched to implement vocational training to decrease the unemployment rate after the 2008-09 crisis by equipping the unemployed with new skill sets that are employable. It also aimed to involve employers in the skills development of the unemployed and also featured an assessment of the needs of the labour market. The project was conducted over a five year period from June 2010.

To serve this purpose, a Labour Force Market Needs Analysis was conducted in 2010 for the first time in Turkey. Vocational training programs were designed based on the results of this needs analysis. Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), Ministry of Labour and Social Security Turkish Employment Agency (ÇSGB-İŞKUR), Ministry of National Education General Directorate of Vocational and Technical Education (MEB‐MTEGM) and TOBB Economy and Technology University (TOBB-ETÜ) were key stakeholders of the project. The project was therefore a co-operative effort between the public and private sectors.

Jobseekers that were registered with İŞKUR could apply for any particular vocational courses through UMEM. UMEM trainings consist of two sections: a course in the project schools (theoretical-practical training) and on-the-job training (internship) at the workplace. The initiative also enabled 140 VET secondary schools to expand their technical infrastructure to meet the increased demand. The theoretical-practical training period over a maximum of three months was provided through these schools. For another three months, on-the-job training (internships) were provided at chosen workplaces to facilitate the transition from unemployment to the workplace (Ünlühisarcıklı et al., 2014).

To benefit from the project, one should first be registered in İŞKUR as unemployed and looking for a job. After being registered to İŞKUR one would apply for the courses they are interested in, and be interviewed for selection. Over 88 000 unemployed people successfully completed these courses from the initiation of the UMEM Skills’10 Project in February 2011 to December 2015, constituting 74% of the demands from the employers (TOBB-ETÜ SPM, 2015). Throughout the training, trainers received some payment to support themselves during the skills improvement and job seeking process. Companies that employed successful trainees were exempted from paying an insurance premium. During the course of the project more than 60% of the trainees were employed by the employers they were matched with for the on-the-job training part of the program (Ünlühisarcıklı et al., 2014).

Overall, UMEM Skills’10 Project has been an important initiative for involving the employers in skills development of the unemployed.

Work-based Training Programmes

İŞKUR is involved in Active Labour Market Policies (ALMPs) and carries a number of programs, namely, vocational training courses, entrepreneurship program, work-based training program, and community services program.

In 2014, about 109 000 people participated in vocational training courses, 31 000 in entrepreneurship programs, and 60 000 in work-based training programmes (see Figure 8.1). The conditions for participating in these programs are defined in Active Labour Market Policies Regulation (Official Gazette No. 28585, 2013) and Active Labour Market Policies Circular (2013).

Figure 8.1. Participation in active labour market programmes, 2014

Source: İŞKUR (2014).


The aim of the work-based training programme is to increase the employability of those who lack vocational experience of work-related skills. It also provides employers the opportunity to train and provide hands-on experience to trainees before employing them in their enterprise. The broader aim is to improve the match between employers who seek qualified workers and unemployed people with limited or no vocational experience (İŞKUR, 2015).

There have been efforts to increase the involvement of social partners, including employers, in the skills development of young people, particularly those considered vocationally inexperienced. These priorities were emphasised in the Strengthening the Link between Employment and Vocational Training Action Plan (İMEİGEP) (Official Gazette 27642, 2010), and Turkey VET Strategic Paper and Action Plan 2014-2018 (Official Gazette 29024, 2014), which focused on the challenges of the VET system in Turkey. The Employment, Industrial Investment and Production Support Package (İstihdam, Sanayi Yatırımı ve Üretimi Destekleme Paketi) announced by the Prime Ministry in April 2015 also stressed the importance of employers to the success of the work-based training programme announced by İŞKUR.

The programme featured collaboration between the Turkish Employment Organisation (İŞKUR) and the Turkish Confederation of Employer Associations (TİSK) on behalf of the Global Apprenticeships Network (GAN). This protocol was signed in 2015 and aimed to enable the members of GAN Turkey to gain priority access to the work-based training programmes implemented by İŞKUR. This access hoped to help broaden access to the programme and engage employers more directly in the provision of vocational skills to the unemployed.

Box 8.1. Global Apprenticeships Network (GAN) and the Turkish GAN National Network

As noted in the G20 Declaration on “Key elements of Quality Apprenticeships” (2013), the responsibility for apprenticeships should be shared among employers, governments and trade unions. The curricula of apprenticeships should correspond to the needs of business and remain “work-place centred”.

In response, a network of businesses known as the Global Apprenticeships Network (GAN) was founded with the aim of promoting work-based training and improving the status of apprenticeship programmes. It also aims to provide a method of sharing best practices among countries at the local, regional, national and international levels. The GAN is co-ordinated by the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and the OECD’s Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) with the support of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The companies that join the GAN are expected to abide by three core principles:

  • strong commitment to integrating apprenticeships and internships in their human capital development strategies and promoting visibility.

  • sharing best practices of apprenticeships and on-the-job training.

  • encouraging networking between committed organisations at the global and local levels to share experiences and expand international co-operation.

As a GAN member, TİSK then created the Turkish global network in 2014 to promote apprenticeships at the national level. This group then disseminated information, met with representatives from other members and countries and signed a core protocol with the Turkish Employment Agency in 2015. This protocol enabled companies that were members of the Turkish GAN global network to receive young apprentices through the work-based training programme. Since then, 1 058 unemployed youth have benefitted from the programme and 305 of those youth were subsequently hired.

Governance framework and delivery arrangements

The procedure for the work-based training program is described in the Active Labour Market Policies Regulation (items 45-61) and Active Labour Market Policies Circular.

The legislation allows unemployed persons over the age of fifteen who are not immediate family of the employer to participate in a work-based training programme. Those enrolled in formal education programmes can also participate in active labour market programmes if approved by the provincial directorate. These work-based training programmes must be between 5-8 hours per day and cannot exceed 160 work days. The trainees must attend at least 90% of the relevant days.

The employers must be companies that are also registered with İŞKUR, and trainees are placed based on the labour force needs analysis, company visits, vocational consultants, meetings with the unemployed or the demands of the employers or the unemployed. The programme explicitly aims to target the sectors that require additional training or skills and enterprises that employ at least two workers.

The employer is responsible for the planning and the implementation of the work-based training programme in each relevant occupational field. Each company is thus able to organise the training according to their tasks, responsibilities and obligations based on the written agreement between İŞKUR and the company. The enterprise is also obliged to complete Trainee Evaluation Forms on a regular basis and monitor the trainee’s attendance. The company is also responsible for occupational health and safety of the trainees as enforced by law (Occupational Health and Safety Law No. 6331) including their training. At the end of the work-based training programme, the trainees receive participation certificates signed both by İŞKUR provincial directorate and the company. The companies involved in the program are required to employ at least 20% of the trainees after the completion of the program.

Budget and financing

The necessary expenses and insurance premium costs of employing a trainee are covered by İŞKUR for the duration of the work-based training programme. The trainees receive around USD12.5 per day from İŞKUR. Any further supplementary wages from employers are partially exempt from expenses (Income-tax Law 193, Article 40/11). If the trainees at the ages of 18-29 are employed within three months’ time after the Program, the Social Security Institution (Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu, SGK) employer premium is covered by the Unemployment Insurance Fund for 42 months in manufacturing industry and for 30 months in others. If trainees over 30 years of age are employed within the same time duration, based on the gender of the trainees, the coverage of the employer premium by the Fund is from 6 months to 30. Those workplaces that have 2-10 employees would be supported with one such trainee for a maximum of 160 work-days, and workplaces with at least 11 or more employees would be allowed to have such apprentices in training up to 10% of their number of employees.

Impacts of the programme

The core aim of the programme was to improve the vocational and occupation skills present among the Turkish labour force. The programme also aimed to increase the involvement of employers and social partners in building skills development among the labour force, particularly as a core issue among the Turkish labour force is a problem of occupational skills mismatch.

As noted above, 59 456 people (30 028 male and 29 428 female) throughout Turkey had successfully completed İŞKUR’s “Work-based Training Programme” in 2014. As a result of the collaboration between İŞKUR and GAN Turkey member companies, 1 058 unemployed youth benefitted from the program and 305 were subsequently hired by GAN Turkey member companies. This report focuses on the GAN Turkey member companies and their experiences related to “Work-based Training Program” of İŞKUR.

Experiences of the employers on İŞKUR and GAN Turkey collaboration

Four GAN Turkey member companies were surveyed for their impressions of the experiences of GAN and the work-based training programme. Of these four companies, two were actively involved in the İŞKUR work-based training programme, while the other two were still considered their participation. This sample featured companies in the cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, hospitality and automotive sectors.

Cosmetics company

The company has 90 years of experience in the cosmetics sector, and produces around 600 different types of cosmetics products in their factory.

The company’s human resources and training director noted that the VET system no longer provided the skills required in the cosmetics industry, and tended to focus more on theoretical knowledge rather than hands-on experience. He believed that this indicated that the currently high rates of unemployment in Turkey were most likely related to the lack of occupational skills. His own personal experience of vocational education in Turkey in previous decades had a higher focus on practical training and building softer skills, such as social development and character building.

The company has hired three trainees through the GAN-Turkey and İŞKUR work-based training programme. The company has aimed to provide work-based training and also accommodate the occupational aspirations and social development potential of the trainees. The HR director noted that it was necessary for his company to become directly involved in skills development because inexperienced young people did not have the appropriate skills necessary to address the skills shortages in his company. He found that the İŞKUR work-based training programme provided a transitional opportunity both for the employers and the unemployed to provide work-based-training in specific occupational fields.

The cosmetics company training director noted that the financial support of the government, the attitudes of the employers, the competence of the master trainers, and the selection of the trainees were fundamental factors to the programme’s success.

Service/Hospitality company

The service/hospitality company is an international company that is experiencing a period of rapid growth in Turkey. As a result, the company has high demand for more staff.

Despite being a GAN member organisation, the company have not yet taken part in İŞKUR’s work-based training programme. This is because they require candidates with a good command of English due to the international nature of their business. They noted that they were also interested in feedback from other member companies that benefitted from the programme before considering applying to the work-based training programme again.

The company has other internal workplace development programmes. White collar employees have the opportunity to pursue accelerated training programmes, that also include job rotation and on-the-job training, in order to reach positions such as “finance director”. Blue collar workers undergo an initial training period over forty five days.

The company also has strong links with vocational education students pursuing work-based training programmes. Around 100 students complete their internship at the company every year, and approximately 77% of all new hires in their company had previously completed work-based training at the company.

We believe in a 70/30/10 model for learning and development, where 70 percent is learning by doing, 20 percent is learning from others, and 10 percent is learning through courses. – Service/hospitality company education director

Pharmaceutical company

The company has more than 50 years of experience in the production of medicine and produces approximately 10% of all pharmaceuticals in Turkey. The company aims to become a leading global pharmaceutical producer. As a member of GAN Turkey, the company has engaged in the İŞKUR work-based training programme and has had both positive and challenging experiences.

The company noted that their expectations of the candidates were commensurate with their expectations of standard applicants, and that they expected trainees to undergo medical evaluation before acceptance. This resulted in a shortage of applicants; although the company intended to start with 30 trainees, they were only able to initially recruit 15 applicants, while a further 15 were hired two months later. They remained in constant contact with İŞKUR throughout this process.

The trainees from the İŞKUR work-based training programme complete a custom weekly training program with the pharmaceuticals company. The trainees also have the opportunity to complete the same training offered to all new recruits, which consists of a one-day orientation program and a five-week vocational training program interspersed with work.

  • Orientation program: The trainees initially attend a one-day orientation to the company program.

  • Five-week program: Following the orientation, the trainees complete a five-week vocational training program in specific areas. For the first three weeks, the trainees observe trained professionals performing specific job-related tasks. During the fourth week, the trainees complete these tasks under the supervision of more experienced staff. Finally, in the fifth week, the trainee is expected to be able to work independently and are assessed by supervisors and production managers.

  • Weekly training programme: The trainees are also able to take part in a custom training programme on each Saturday over a period of six months. These sessions are four hours in length and include occupational health and safety training, production and technical training and lessons in self-development, communication, team work and sustainable production.

Throughout the İŞKUR work-based training programme, the company prepared monthly trainee evaluation, and attendance reports for each trainee as required by İŞKUR. They trained 30 trainees through the work-based training programme and expected to hire about 20 of them. They also paid additional stipends to the trainees because the payment from İŞKUR was not enough for them to cover their living expenses.

The company viewed participation in the İŞKUR work-based training program as a core social responsibility. The company representative noted that the experience is beneficial for all recruits, regardless if they are not employed by the company at the end of the process. The programme helps young people build capability and skills, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and determine the best occupation for their future careers.

As a company they also found the program beneficial because they were able to rotate the trainees throughout different sections of the company to ensure the optimal occupational fit. This flexibility is sometimes lacking throughout the standard hiring process because the company often recruits staff for specific positions.

Company from the automotive industry

The automotive company has more than 50 years of experience in the production of automobiles. The company operates internationally and is one of the leading brands in the industry.

The company is not yet involved in the İŞKUR work-based training programme, but has previously participated in the UMEM Skills’10 Project, another active labour market policy programme. Following the completion of the UMEM Skills’10 courses, the company recruited most of the trainees who had acquired the skill sets required at the company. The vocational training manager of the company noted that they perceived the İŞKUR work-based training programme as an incentive for companies to receive trainees but were concerned that the daily allowances would not be sufficient for trainees who had dependants. He also questioned the lack of pre-set programme and noted that each company is responsible for planning and implementation of the work-based training programme based on their expertise. Still, the vocational training manager noted that the programme would be an important experience for the trainees.

The company has a well-developed training unit in a separate building from the factory. Through this unit, the company provides vocational training to different groups, including newly recruited workers, general workers, industrial VET upper secondary school students, VET higher education students, and apprentices.

Vocational training of the newly recruited workers: After the initial recruitment procedure, the newly recruited workers undertake occupational health and safety training for 1.5 days. This is followed by 3 days of orientation training and a further 37-40 days of theoretical and practical vocational training in the related occupational field. Finally, new recruits complete 5-6 days of on-the-job training in the related occupational field.

Apprenticeship training: From time to time the company recruited apprentices who worked 4 days at the company and for one day attended to a Vocational Training Centre for 15 months. They had to give up the apprenticeship training since they could not find new applicants. The company representative reflected that there were apprentices who had family dependents and the apprentices could not earn a living to support them since they received about one-third of the minimum wage.

Strengths of the initiative

The work-based training initiative from İŞKUR was intended to both promote employer engagement in skills development and increase the employability and skills of young jobseekers.

A core strength noted by the surveyed employers was that the initiative allowed workers to develop the competencies and skills required for high value-added production. The employers noted that they require skills beyond those learned in school, necessitating on-the-job training.

The employers also noted that they valued their ability to work directly with trainees to build positive attitudes and a high sense of personal responsibility to the enterprise. The initial work-based training period gives employers the chance to build softer skills, including motivation, problem solving and social skills, before starting full-time employment.

The programme enables companies to choose the best recruits out of a pool of trainees, and essentially functions as a probation period. At the end of the contract, the trainees receive participation certificates, and references from the company with a number employed after the work-based training program.

The surveyed employers also noted that there were benefits to membership of GAN Turkey. It enabled ease of application and implementation, and also facilitated consistent communication with İŞKUR and vocational consultants. GAN Turkey members were also able to recruit a pool of trainees as large as 20% of their existing workforce, which exceeds the standard limit of 10%. The organisations interviewed noted that they would be hiring most of the trainees following the programme. The companies considered the work-based training programme as both an opportunity to bring new skills into the enterprise and also as a corporate social responsibility initiative.

Weaknesses of the initiative

Overall, those who were interviewed did not mention any specific weaknesses or obstacles to the implementation of the program.

However, some of the companies surveyed had reservations before the implementation of the program. They noted that the administrative procedures associated with application might be more difficult for smaller enterprises. Assistance and vocational consultancy are invaluable for employers, and should be integrated into the programme in order to ensure long-term success. While the application process was streamlined for GAN Turkey members, it may be more difficult for other employers without the assistance of a consultancy or external experts.

During the interviews it was specifically stressed that İŞKUR put certain criteria on the selection of the trainees and numbers of trainees that are allowed during the program to prevent any potential misuse of the work-based training programme. While some employers view participation in such programmes as a matter of social responsibility, others may take the opportunity to exploit recruits and trainees. Including employers and workers associations as partners in the development of programmes can help to deepen the sense of civic responsibility and improve the practices of member companies.

Generally, the companies did not mention any difficulties in the implementation of the work-based training programme. However, it was noted that İŞKUR does not allow trainees to work in shifts as the recruits were in training. This proved to be a challenge for the pharmaceuticals company because the production was run in three shifts throughout the day. Another problem noted by one of the company accountants was that there is a mismatch between the exemption from tax and the Social Security Institution Law No. 5502. Accordingly, the days spent on training would not be counted as days for their retirement although the trainees’ insurance and premium costs were paid. The important lesson here is to prepare such procedures and regulations in line with other legislature.

As mentioned above, the work-based training programme lacks a defined programme and the employer is responsible for the organisation of work-based training within the confines of the tasks, responsibilities, and obligations of the occupation. The only regulatory responsibility of the company is to regularly complete Trainee Evaluation Forms and monthly attendance sheets. The company is also responsible for occupational health and safety of the trainees as enforced by law (Occupational Health and Safety Law No. 6331) including their training. Although the employers surveyed had internal skills development programmes of good quality, the lack of standardised criteria for the work-based training of the trainees may lead to bad experiences in other enterprises.

Potential transferability

The overall aim of the Work-based Training Program by İŞKUR is to increase employability of the youth that lack vocational experience or work related skills by matching them with employers who are looking for qualified workers. As noted by one of the representatives of the company, this system is best suited to “countries like [Turkey], where there is [both] unemployment and also skills shortages.”

The employers provide the skills training while İŞKUR covers the necessary expenses and insurance premium costs. The funding provided was indispensable although it was mentioned more than once that the allowances were not satisfactory for the trainees. On the other hand, it is understandable that the payment of full wages for the completion of work-based training by the unemployed youth and payment would not be possible. An alternative incentive could be providing some studentship rights to the trainees.

The procedure for the Work-based Training Program is based on a regulation (Active Labour Market Policies Regulation) and circular (Active Labour Market Policies Circular) which provided the conditions and the processes to be followed throughout the program. Therefore, before initiating such a program the legislation would be prepared.

The success of such programmes hinges upon publicity and informing potential trainees. This could be achieved through an official website introducing the program to the potential trainees, social networking websites, and a call centre established for the programme. As in the case of the involvement of GAN Turkey, building a network to promote such a programme to other enterprises, share experiences and provide support for the implementation of the programme can help to build employer engagement.

The success of work-based training programmes depends on funding, the selection and/or matching of the trainees and the willingness of the companies to channel their efforts to train the unemployed for a certain period of time. These are the core considerations for any countries wishing to pursue a similar active labour market policy programme.


To conclude, work-based training is an important method for employers to contribute to the skills development of youth who lack specific work experience or skill sets. Overall, work-based training not only contributes to the unemployed but VET and apprenticeship training in Turkey since companies also provide training opportunities to VET upper secondary school students as interns, and apprentices.

The engagement of employers can also help to ensure that the technology, know-how and skills required for the future workforce are kept up-to-date in vocational education. As noted by one VET school administrator, Turkish VET schools would be outdated quickly even if they were equipped with the best infrastructure and facilities. Work-based training provides a useful bridge between the worlds of school and work in order to equip youth for employment.


Akpınar A. (2004), Initial Vocational Education and Training in Turkey, İŞKUR, Ankara.

Çağatay, N. (1989), Bir Türk Kurumu Olan Ahilik (The Ahi, a Turkish Organization), Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara.

Ekinci, Y. (1990), Ahilik ve Meslek Eğitimi (Ahi System and Vocational Training), Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı, İstanbul.

EU (2015), Good for Youth Good for Business, European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA), available at

G20 (2013), Key Elements of Quality Apprenticeships: A joint understanding of the B20 and L20, June 2013, available at

ILO (2015), Global Employment Trends for Youth 2015: Scaling up investments in decent jobs for youth, Geneva: ILO, available at

MoNE (2012), An overview of Turkish VET system: Summary of a long story, Ankara, 2012.

OECD (2014), G20-OECD-EC Conference on Quality Apprenticeships for Giving Youth a Better Start in the Labour Market background paper, Paris: OECD, available at Apprenticeship%20Conference_Issues%20Paper.pdf.

Özcan, M. and M.A. Tamer (2013), Örgün Mesleki ve Teknik Eğitim Sürecine Genel Bir Bakış (A general overview of formal vocational and technical education processes), Eğitim Sen Yayınları, Ankara.

Özyılmaz, Ö. (2011), “Ahilik ve Çağdaş Uygulamalar Arasında Mesleki Teknik Eğitim Sistemimiz”, in Ahilik (editors: Baki Çakır and İskender Gümüş), Kırklareli Üniversitesi Yayınları, Kırklareli.

TİSK (nd), Turkish Confederation of Employer Associations: Social Partner, 48th Anniversary, available at .

TOBB-ETÜ SPM (2015), UMEM/Beceri’10 Meslek Kursları İzleme Bülteni, TOBB-ETÜ Sosyal Politikalar Uygulama ve Araştırma Merkezi (16 December), available at .

TURKSTAT (2015a), National Education Statistics: Formal Education 2014-2015, TURKSTAT.

TURKSTAT (2015b), Labour Force Statistics, June 2015. Press Release, No. 18641, available at

TURKSTAT (2014), Non-formal Education Statistics 2012/’13, TURKSTAT.

TURKSTAT (2012), National Education Statistics: Non-Formal Education 2010/’11, TURKSTAT.

TURKSTAT (2010), National Education Statistics: Formal Education 2009-2010, TURKSTAT.

İŞKUR (2015), İşbaşı Eğitim Programı Bilgi Notu (Work-based training program fact sheet), Turkish Employment Agency, available at programi.pdf.

İŞKUR (2014), 2014 İstatistik Yıllığı, Turkish Employment Agency, available at

Ünlühisarcıklı, Ö., Ç. Arslan and Y.E. Dinç (2014), “UMEM Skills’10 Project”, How the Private Sector Develops Skills: Lessons Learned from Turkey (editor: G. Dikmener), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development (IICPSD).


← 1. The original name was Apprenticeship and Vocational Education Law No. 3308 until the amendment in 2001.

← 2. Deputy Undersecretary of Ministry of Health, Deputy Undersecretary of Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Deputy Undersecretary of Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Deputy Undersecretary of Ministry of Tourism, State Planning Organisation, General Directorates responsible for VET (MoNE), Turkish Tradesmen and Craftsmen Confederation, Turkish Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Maritime Trade and Union of Commercial Exchange, Worker’s Confederation with the highest number of members, Turkish Confederation of Employer Association.