Apprenticeships: More bang for your buck

At the beginning of 2015, more than four million young people under 25 were unemployed across the 28 member countries of the European Union.

While these figures from the EU's official data provider Eurostat are heading in the right direction, down from the same time last year, some countries are still suffering the effects of the economic crisis that has hit Europe hard over the last seven years or so.

And it seems to be the young who are the hardest hit. While the overall unemployment rate for the EU in January 2015 was 9.8 percent, it was nearly 22 percent for those aged under 25. In Spain and Greece, every other young person is unemployed – the countries' youth unemployment rates are around 50 percent.

Compare this with German and Austrian youth unemployment at the beginning of this year – 7.1 and 8.2 percent respectively – and it's clear to see that a great deal of work still needs to be done.

CNBC takes a look at one way to get more young people in Europe back to work: Apprenticeships.

What does a 'European style' apprenticeship look like?

For many, when it comes to apprenticeships, Germany's are the gold standard. So what do they involve?

According to the website of Make It In Germany – a portal operated by Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy – a German apprentice will usually spend three or four days a week training at a company, with the rest of their time spent, "at a vocational school, where apprentices receive a theoretical grounding in their future job."

Make It In Germany go on to explain that an apprenticeship in Germany will usually last between two to three and a half years, with apprentices earning around 650 euros a month from a 'training allowance'. Once their apprenticeship is completed many go on to gain full time employment with the company they learnt their trade at, with opportunities for further training and managerial roles if they perform well.

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Apprenticeships can be taken on in a range of sectors, from nursing to manufacturing. According to the website of Germany's Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), "About 525,300 juveniles in Germany concluded a new apprenticeship contract within the dual system (enterprise/vocational school) in 2013."

The picture is not all rosy, however. Destatis went on to conclude that, based on provisional figures, the number of young people completing vocational training was down 4.3 percent compared to 2012.

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Aiding growth

For Bob Bischof, Vice-President of the German British Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the German British Forum, the importance of apprenticeships should not be underestimated. "They are important in every respect, not just in aiding growth but [in] making the transition from school to work life," he told CNBC.com in a phone interview.

Bischof added that the strong ties between apprenticeships and the German Mittelstand – small to medium-sized enterprises that are described as "the backbone of German industry" – shows just how well the schemes can work.

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"They skill them properly and hang on to them in good times and in bad times. If you have a hire-and-fire culture like we have in America and in the U.K., that doesn't sit very well with training people properly for two or three years in apprenticeships, because it costs money."

Benefiting business

It might cost money to train an apprentice, but the figures seem to show that any outlay is money well spent. The U.K. government's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills estimates that for every pound the government invests in apprenticeships, the economy gets £28 back.

For Bertie Stephens, CEO and co-founder of London based online start-up Flubit, the apprentices he has taken on – there are currently three at the business – have enriched and added value to his company. "What you'll find with apprenticeships is that the people… are wanting to deliver for you," Stephens told CNBC.com in a phone interview.

Stephens went on to add that having a motivated, clued-up apprentice is also crucial.

"If you can work with them on that you can turn them into a team member who is perfect for you," he said. "If you have a continual influx of apprentices like that, then in two to three years you'll have the core basics of a team which have learnt with you, have experienced with you, have grown with you and are delivering for you," he added.

Retaining talent

Mike Thompson is Head of Employability and Early Career Programmes at U.K. lender Barclays. For Thompson, the ability of a business to "mould" an apprentice and instil specific cultural and working practices is another reason for why the schemes should be encouraged.

"If you hire somebody from another company and another organization they may have a different set of values that they've been working with, or a different culture, and therefore you have to re-educate that individual on how your business operates and the values that your business has," he said.

"If you take an apprentice, you're taking them really fresh," Thompson added. "You're able to help them understand your values and make sure that they fit into your organisation… what you also see is that you get a huge amount of loyalty from apprentices."

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In an article for HR Magazine last month, Thompson wrote that in 2014, "Barclays' own programme hit the milestone of hiring 2,000 young people into apprenticeships." Barclays has made a commitment to employ 2,800 apprentices by the end of 2015.

And Thompson told CNBC.com that Barclays' retention levels for apprentices were, 'very, very high'. Why? "You're investing in their education and you're giving them a career… That in itself engenders loyalty, which you perhaps don't get through hiring just in the open market."