Aimed at young people, these training schemes take the form of series of periods of practical vocational experience and periods of theoritical training. The concept may be used to designate apprenticeship and alternance contracts or just alternance contracts, or even training at school. 

Synonyms: Formation en alternance

Apprenticeship training

A period of long-term training substantially carried out within an undertaking and regulated by statutory law or custom according to an oral or written contract which imposes mutual obligations on the two parties concerned: the trainee; and, normally, an employer who has assumed responsibility for giving the trainee initial training for a recognised occupation subject to apprenticeship.

The apprentice is contractually linked to the employer and receives remuneration (wage or allowance). The employer assumes responsibility for providing the trainee with training leading to a specific occupation.

CEDEFOP Glossarium - 2001.


Learning supported by information and communication technologies (ICT). E-learning is not limited to ‘digital literacy’ (acquiring ICT skills). It may encompass multiple formats and hybrid methods: using software, Internet, CD-ROM, online learning or any other electronic or interactive media.

Source: Cedefop, 2002.

Training certificate

A training certificate is a document given to trainees that certifies their participation to an internship or a training. 

Virtual classroom

A virtual classroom is an online learning environment.  The environment can be web-based and accessed through a portal or software-based and require a downloadable executable file. 

Internship agreement

The internship agreement is a mandatory document for any internship.  This contract defines the framework of the internship and the intern’s missions. It must be signed by the three concerned parties: the intern, the company and the training establishment. 

Exchange of good educational practices

The exchange of good educational practices allows the stakeholders in the training and educational area to meet and share the ideas and behaviours that might be beneficial for their field of activity. 

Lifewide learning

Learning, either formal, non-formal or informal, that takes place across the full range of life activities (personal, social and/or professional) and at any stage.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Distance learning

Education imparted at a distance through communication media: radio, TV, telephone, correspondence, computer or video.

Source: ILO Thesaurus.

Training of trainers

Theoretical or practical training for teachers and trainers.

Training of trainers is for teaching/training personnel, either practising as professional teachers or trainers; as professionals in a given field who accompany trainees in their work environment (occasional or part-time teachers or trainers). It covers a wide range of skills: knowledge specific to the field in question (general, technical or scientific); educational,
psychological and sociological skills; management skills; familiarity with the world of work; and knowledge of training schemes and target audience. Training of trainers also covers training related to course design, organisation and implementation as well as the content of training activities, i.e. imparting knowledge, know-how and skills.

Source: Cedefop, 2003


Anyone who fulfills one or more activities linked to the (theoretical or practical) training function, either in an institution for education or training, or at the workplace.

Two categories of trainer can be distinguished:
- professional trainers are teaching specialists who have completed a teacher training course for delivering vocational training. Their job may coincide with that of the teacher in a vocational training establishment;
- part-time or occasional trainers are professionals in various fields who take on, in their normal duties, part-time training activity, either in the company (as mentors and tutors of recruits and apprentices or as training providers) or externally (by occasionally offering their services at a training establishment).

Trainers must carry out various tasks:
- design training activities;
- organise and implement these activities;
- provide the actual training, i.e. transfer knowledge, knowhow and skills;
- help apprentices develop their skills by providing advice, instructions and comments throughout the apprenticeship.

Source: Cedefop, 2003 adapted from AFPA, 1992.

Adult education

Education provided for adults, often intended for general purposes rather than vocational education. It is usually used:
- to provide general education for adults in topics of particular interest to them (e.g. in open universities);
- to provide compensatory learning in basic skills which individuals may not have acquired in their initial education (such as literacy, numeracy);
- to enable people (a) to access and attain qualifications not gained, for various reasons, in the initial education and training system or (b) to acquire, improve or update skills and/or competences in a specific field: this is continuing vocational education and training.

Source: adapted from ETF 1997.

Formation des formateurs

Formation théorique ou pratique destinée aux enseignants ou formateurs.

Cela s’adresse aux enseignants et formateurs en exercice ou en cours de formation (appelés formateurs professionnels), ainsi qu’aux professionnels qui encadrent l’apprenant sur le lieu de travail (appelés formateurs occasionnels). La formation des formateurs couvre une large palette de compétences: compétences disciplinaires (générales, techniques, scientifiques ou
professionnelles), compétences psychologiques, pédagogiques et sociologiques, connaissance du monde du travail,connaissance des dispositifs et des publics). Elle s’applique également à l’ingénierie de formation, l’organisation et la mise en oeuvre de la formation, ainsi qu’à l’activité proprement dite de formation, c’est-à-dire la transmission des savoirs, savoir-faire et compétences.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Alternance training

Education or training alternating periods in a school or training centre and in the workplace. The alternance scheme can take place on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis depending on the country. Participants are not contractually linked to the employer where they do their practice, nor do they generally receive remuneration (unlike apprentices).

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Off-the-job training

Vocational training undertaken away from the normal work situation. It is usually only part of a whole training programme, in which it is combined with on-the-job training.

Source: Unesco, 1979.

Initial vocational education and training

General or vocational education carried out in the initial system usually before entering working life. 

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Vocational education and training (VET)

Education and training which aims to equip people with skills and competences that can be used on the labour market.

Source: adapted from ETF, 1997.

Social inclusion

The integration of individuals – or groups of individuals – into society as citizens or as members of various public social networks. Social inclusion is fundamentally rooted in labour market or economic inclusion.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.


Twinning is a legal and social agreement that binds two parties in different geographical areas. Twinning helps implementing national programs and it can be the framework for virtual and physical mobility.  

Twinnings can take several forms : exchange of trainees and students, exchange of trainers, study visits, virtual classrooms, best educational practices exchange.

In order to accomplish a twining, an agreement must be signed by both training centers. 


An employee who is assigned to a prescribed training program to fit him to perform adequately the normal operations of a specified job.


The ability of an individual to move and adapt to a new occupational environment.

 Mobility can be geographical or ‘functional’ (a move to a new function in a company or to a new occupation). Mobility enables individuals to acquire new skills and thus to increase their

Source: Cedefop, 2000.

Organisme certificateur

Organisme délivrant des qualifications formelles (certificats, diplômes ou titres) qui attestent d’une manière officielle et formalisée les résultats d’un individu à l’issue d’une procédure normalisée d’évaluation.

Source: Cedefop, 2003 d’après OCDE.

Guidance and counselling

A range of activities designed to individuals take education, vocational or personal decisions and carry them out before and after they enter the labour market. 

Guidance and counselling may include : counselling (personnal or career development, educational guidance); assessment (psychological or competence -/performance related); information on learning and labour-market opportunities and career management; consultation with peers, relatives or educators; vocational preparation (pinpointings skills/competences and experience for job seeking); referrals (to learning and career specialists). 

Guidance and counselling can be provided at school, training centres, job centres, in the workplace, the community or other settings. 

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Perfectionnement professionnel

Formation de courte durée, à objectif précis, généralement dispensée à la suite de la formation initiale et destinée à compléter, améliorer ou mettre à jour des connaissances, aptitudes ou compétences spécifiques acquises lors d’une formation antérieure.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.


An official record (certificate, diploma) of achievement which recognises successful completion of education or training, or satisfactory performance in a test or examination;
and/or the requirements for an individual to enter or progress within an occupation.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Learning region

A region in which all stakeholders cooperate to meet local learning needs and devise joint solutions to local problems.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Learning outcomes

The set of knowledge, skills and/or competences an individual acquired and/or is able to demonstrate after completion of a learning process.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.


Knowledge means the outcome of the assimilation of information through learning. Knowledge is the body of facts, principles, theories and practices that is related to a field of work or study. In the context of the European Qualifications Framework, knowledge is described as theoretical and/or factual. 

National qualification system

National qualifications system means all aspects of a State's activity related to the recognition of learning and other mechanisms that link education and training to the labour market and civil society. This includes the development and implementation of institutional arrangements and processes relating to quality assurance, assessment and the award of qualifications. A national qualifications system may be composed of several subsystems and may include a national qualifications framework;

Transition from school to work

The move from education to employment, covering the period between leaving education and entering the labour market.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Transparency of qualifications

The degree to which the value of qualifications can be identified and compared on the (sectoral, regional, national or international) labour and training markets.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Training supervisor

A training supervisor is an employee in charge of a trainee. He or she defines the tasks and missions assigned to the trainee and accompanies him during the whole training period. 


Any activity offering a learner guidance, counselling or supervision by an experienced and competent professional. The tutor supports the learner throughout the learning process (at school, in training centres or on the job).

Tutoring covers various activities:
- academic subjects (to improve educational achievement);
- careers (to ease the transition from school to work);
- personal development (to encourage learners to make wise choices).

Source: Cedefop, 2003 and National school network,

Study visit

Study visits are brief stays ( from three to five days) in a host country. These visits aim at trainers, heads of training centers, executives and any professional willing to give a closer look at a precise aspect of education and/or training in another country. 

Participants in a study visit are invited to :

  • Observe and exchange good practices with peers
  • multiply, spread, improve and put in practice new methods 
  • reinforce educational cooperation and professional training process 

The visits are organised around themes of common interest : educative systems and their values, stakeholders of education (students/interns, teachers/trainers, relatives), teaching methods, training, etc. The point of these visits is to create a common culture and to establish partnerships in order to develop common projects. 

Mutual recognition of qualifications

The recognition by one or more countries of qualifications (certificates or diplomas) awarded in one or more other countries.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Recognition of skills and competences

The process of granting official status to skills and competences either
- through the award of certificates 
- through the grant of equivalence, credit units,validation of gained skills and/or competences. 

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

On-the-job training

Vocational training given in the normal work situation. It may constitute the whole training or be combined with off-the-job training.

Source: Unesco, 1979.


Practical knowledge or expertise.

Source: adapted from New Oxford Dictionary of English.

Social partners

Employers’ associations and trade unions forming the two sides of (bipartite) social dialogue.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Learning organisation

An organisation where everyone learns and develops through the work context, for the benefit of themselves, each other and the whole organisation, with such efforts being publicised and recognised.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Programme of education or training

An inventory of activities, learning content and/or methods implemented to achieve education or training objectives (acquiring knowledge, skills or competences), organised in a logical sequence over a specified period of time. 

Source: Cedefop, 2003.