Italia (picture froma Wikimedia)Italy has reformed its education and training system by focusing on vocational training and apprenticeships through work-study programmes.

The education system and vocational training system (Sistema di istruzione and sistema della formazione professionale) have been brought together and are considered as a right and a duty (diritto-dovere) to be practised for 12 years (from 5 to 18 years of age). This approach has given vocational training a positive image as it is promoted on equal terms with the mainstream programme. It guarantees that each young person has a mainstream or vocational qualification before entering the job market. Vocational education streams have been reorganised and enhanced and apprenticeship contracts have been modified.

The regions are largely responsible for vocational education and training and are in charge of defining the diplomas.

VET offered by the regions used to be very heterogeneous. To address this issue, the State-regions conference agreed on minimum education and training standards (valid at national level). These are linked to national occupational profiles and the corresponding qualifications and programmes included in the qualifications register created in 2011,courses organised within apprenticeship schemes are crucial for accessing the job market; 2015 survey.

The Italian education system – 2013


Italian system (© Onisep / Elise Veteau)




The vocational pathway in Italia


Secondary education

The first compulsory cycle of schooling takes place over an 8-year period and includes primary school (5 years) and secondary school (3 years), finishing with a final examination.

Pupils can then choose:

  • To continue their studies in the upper secondary school for 5 years (Licei, istituto tecnico, istituto professionale) ending with the esame di stato examination enabling pupils to enter higher education.
  • To enrol for vocational training under the aegis of the regions for 3 years in order to prepare a vocational qualification (Certificato di qualifica professionale). This enables them to start working or to go to upper secondary school to continue their studies or specialise in a post-qualification course. This specialisation gives students the possibility to join the IFTS (Istruzione Formazione tecnica superiore/non-university higher technical training) and the ITS (Istituti tecnici superiori).
  • To enrol in vocational training which alternates between work experience and the classroom and allows young people to acquire basic knowledge plus skills they will be able to put into practice on the job market.

Horizontal mobility in both directions is possible between the mainstream education system and vocational training.


Higher education

Vocational training centres have been set up in the regions where schools, universities, enterprises and research teams collaborate on the same theme.

Higher technician diplomas can be awarded after 4 to 6 semesters of courses according to the speciality studied in the higher technical institutes (ITS – Istituti tecnici superiori). Higher vocational training leading to a diploma (2 semesters) is offered by the regions in relation to local and regional requirements in the frame of the IFTS (Istruzione Formazione tecnica superiore). Universities propose vocational diplomas in the field of health, paramedical sciences and the arts, over a variable duration, and also profession-oriented Master’s degrees.



Work-study programmes are designed, put into practice, monitored and assessed under the responsibility of the school or training establishment according to agreements signed with enterprises. As yet they are few and far between.

Apprenticeships are open to young people aged 15 to 18 in the frame of compulsory schooling, but are also available to 18 to 29 year-olds. They combine periods at the training centre – at least 120 hours per year – with training in the workplace in the frame of a specific work contract. According to the age and level of the apprentices, the duration of the contract varies between 18 months and 4 years. It results in a vocational qualification registered in the students training passport. As an incentive to adopt this new tool, employers are exempt from paying certain social contributions.


Key figures

  • Since 2010, technical upper secondary education (currently attended by 57% of young people) has been reformed. It has become more flexible and more closely linked to the needs of the job market. Two fields – economics and technical studies – are on offer with 19 specialities available.
  • Professional apprenticeships previously aimed only at young people (aged 18-29) have been expanded to include adult workers who have been made redundant. (EUROPA – 2016)

Last update : 19/06/2018