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Topic - Vocational Training & Profession

Vocational training and work


Germany’s vocational training system is a recipe for success. It has been instrumental in ensuring that Germany can boast the lowest unemployment rate of all EU countries.

Vocational training provides excellent opportunities for young people entering the job market, opening up a wide range of careers for them. German businesses are in need of highly skilled labour. This means that prospects for young people undergoing vocational training are better than at almost any time in history.

What sets dual vocational training apart from other training systems is its combination of training modules in the workplace on the one hand and in the classroom on the other. Apprentices are employed by a company that provides practical training 3 to 4 days a week and attend vocational school during the remaining 1 to 2 days. This is where they receive the theoretical part of their training. Specialists within the company provide the bulk of “on-the-job” training. They are also heavily involved in the designing of training regulations – defining the technical content of the training course at the company and deciding on what will be tested during exams. This ensures a high level of acceptance for training regulations among companies.

Initiative to provide equipment for vocational colleges: preparing future professionals for the age of digitalisation

Vocational colleges train specialists of the future. Even though digitalisation is today part of every business, one third of all vocational colleges lacks access to internet. They lack Wifi access, software and technical equipment.

Modern and networked machines, robots and smart control systems must also be integrated into the everyday life of vocational colleges. Municipalities often lack the necessary funds to update the equipment in their technical colleges. This is why Federal Economic Affairs Minister Brigitte Zypries calls for an action programme for technical colleges and a closer cooperation between the Federal government and the Länder in the field of education.

Figures and facts around dual vocational training

Symbolicon für Schultasche

Number of different occupations
for which formal training was provided in 2016

Symbolicon für Unternehmen in Deutschland

Number of companies
providing vocational training (2014)

Symbolicon für Menschen

Share of apprentices
that go on to work for the same company after completing their training

Symbolicon für Notizen

New training agreements signed in 2016,
including 304,263 in the industrial sector, wholesale and retail

Alliance for Initial and Further Training

A strong alliance for good-quality vocational training

In order to strengthen vocational training, the Federal Government sealed the new Alliance for Initial and Further Training with business, trade union and Länder representatives in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy in December 2014.

There is a shared aim to strengthen dual vocational training and to promote the equal value of vocational and academic education. In forging the Alliance, the German government has delivered on a promise made in the Coalition Agreement, the ‘training guarantee’. Every young person interested in training is to be shown a "path" which can lead him or her to a vocational qualification as quickly as possible. Vocational training within a company is a clear priority.

At their annual summit meeting on 2 June 2016 the partners in the Alliance for Initial and Further Training took stock after one and a half years of activity and reaffirmed their commitment to the dual system of vocational training. In a new declaration for strong vocational training, they included priorities for the years to come, coordinating steps for refugees and for people already on the labour market. Amongst other things, the partners advocate for a high number of vocational training places and want to create over 500,000 such training places this year.

In 2015, the partners within the Alliance put in place some key measures to do this. In particular, the intensive and joint campaigning for more vocational training places and reporting these to the Federal Employment Agency, the new Assisted Training support instrument, the expansion of support to people receiving training, and a comprehensive post-placement concept represent specific contributions taken by the Alliance for Initial and Further Training in 2015 to strengthen the dual training system.

Creating real prospects for refugees

Several key measures that are to help refugees gain access to work and vocational training were agreed within the Alliance for Initial and Further Training on 18 September 2015 and endorsed by its members (the German government, businesses, unions, and the Länder). In a joint declaration delivered by the members of the Alliance and entitled “Joining forces for real prospects for refugees”, they announced that there will be

  • additional language and integration classes,
  • ‘refugee guides’ who will act as contacts between companies and refugees (ministry programme launched in early 2016 with 140 refugee guides),
  • children and teenagers among the refugees taught in mainstream schools (both general and preparatory vocational schools),
  • fast access to preparatory training (including the new Assisted Training programme) put in place for individuals whose deportation has been suspended and for asylum seekers who are likely to be granted leave to remain.

The various partners within the alliance will continue to actively address the challenges that currently present themselves on the training market and that affect young people born in Germany as well as young refugees.

Please click here (PDF: 8,7 MB) to read the Agreement signed by the Alliance. For the text of the partners’ declaration concerning refugees, please click here (in German).

Occupations requiring formal vocational training

327 occupations, 327 exciting careers

Wanted: highly motivated apprentices! With 327 occupations to choose from, literally everyone seeking to complete vocational training can find something that suits them. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy wants to make sure that it stays that way and that apprentices continue to acquire all the skills they need in a fast-changing work environment. That’s why we are working with employers and employees to ensure that all training regulations are always in line with the latest state of technical developments.

The specifics of on-the-job training for each profession are laid down in the relevant training regulations. These set out uniform standards for the content of the training, the time at which certain parts of it are to be taught during the course, and for exams. This nation-wide standard and the fact that qualifications are recognised by the state work like a hallmark of quality that companies seeking to employ new staff can use as guidance. As a result, employees can switch positions fairly easily.

Training regulations are regularly updated to ensure they correspond to the latest state-of-the-art of technology, and to changes in the work environment and in society at large. Regulations can be modernised or new ones created, depending on what businesses need. For an overview of the current dual vocational training system, please click here.

Furthermore, education is an important aspect of the German government’s Digital Agenda. This year’s national IT summit will place a strong focus on digital education.

More transparency and stability

We want to make the system more flexible and dynamic, ensuring that dual education becomes available to all young people, certainly those with school qualifications, and from companies of all types and sizes. We also want to find ways for young people who are not starting out from an ideal position to be able to access vocational training without them to have to wait or attend preparatory training first.

Tailored matching of applicants and companies offering training places

There are around 170 professional ‘matchmakers’ working for the business chambers and other business organisations who help SMEs find German and foreign-born apprentices to take up their training places. This programme helps prevent a skills gap from forming and makes SMEs more competitive. The advisors also help SMEs develop a culture of welcome and integrate foreign-born apprentices and skilled workers.

You can find a list of the business chambers and organisations that work with such advisors here (in German). The German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH) is in charge of organising the programme and can provide you with further information.

Women working in the STEM occupations

Science, technology, engineering and maths – the so-called STEM occupations – offer ideal job prospects for skilled professionals who have completed vocational training. As digitisation proceeds, demand for STEM professionals will continue to grow. Unfortunately, it is still the case that not many girls choose a career in these fields. Work placements for school pupils can be an excellent way for young people to gain a realistic idea of what it would be like to work in this occupation and to become interested in pursuing in the STEM occupations.

It is a key objective of the ministry to arouse female pupils’ interest in taking up vocational training for a STEM occupation. The ministry is therefore very supportive of the National Pact for Women in STEM occupations, whose motto is “Come on, go for STEM.”

Providing vocational training for young people with disabilities

Dual vocational training provides for social inclusion. It opens up career opportunities for young people with disabilities and allows them to actively participate in society. Many companies are already employing apprentices with disabilities. The Centre of Excellence on securing skilled labour, an institution funded by the ministry, offers support to small and medium-sized companies that seek to include young apprentices with disabilities into their workforce. The centre organises information events and provides companies with advice and best-practice examples.

A to Z of occupations requiring formal vocational training

What does working in the occupation actually involve? Who can do this job and how is the training organised? What are the career opportunities? Please click here for answers to these questions and for more detailed information on the most important dual vocational training occupations (only in German).

Vocational training – a gateway to integration

A strong basis for successful integration

For refugees coming to Germany, vocational training is a key to successful integration. It allows them to build a career, play an active part in society and to make their own choices in life.

In the medium-term, refugees can be part of the solution when it comes to securing Germany’s skills base. It ensures that refugees not only find shelter from war and displacement, but also new opportunities in Germany.

‘Refugee guides’ for refugees pursuing vocational training

There are around 140 ‘refugee guides’ based at the business chambers and other business organisations, who act as a point of contact for small and medium-sized companies seeking to offer vocational training, work experience or employment to refugees. The refugee guides visit companies and provide advice around the legal framework, the paperwork possibly involved, and the regional and national support mechanisms available to companies. The aim in each is to find a bespoke solution for the company. Furthermore, the refugee guides help companies put in place and develop a true culture of welcome within the workforce, which is key to successful integration.

You can find a list of the business chambers and organisations that work with refugee guides here. The German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH) is in charge of organising the programme and can provide you with further information.

The Bundestag adopts Integration Act

In order to guarantee better training opportunities for refugees and to give them clear prospects, the Bundestag adopted an Integration Act on 7 July 2016 which promotes the integration of recent arrivals both into our society and the labour market, and at the same time obliges them to make their own efforts towards integration. The Act includes a number of important measures to support companies that want to train and employ refugees. Former Federal Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel was particularly promoting the "3+2 principle" according to which refugees who have completed three years of vocational training in Germany will be granted another two years’ leave to remain so that they can work in Germany. For further information regarding the "3+2 principle", please follow the link.

Set of measures adopted within the Alliance for Initial and Further Training

In addition to providing shelter from war, displacement and political persecution, Germany wants to open up opportunities for refugees to obtain professional qualifications and work in our country.

Language classes are essential for better integration of newcomers. The German Government has significantly increased the financial envelope for these language classes. As of 2017, 470 million euros are available to finance work-related German-language classes for 300,000 refugees and migrants. Please go to the section on the Alliance for Initial and Further Training for information on additional measures.

Host of measures adopted within the Alliance for Initial and Further Training

In addition to providing shelter from war, displacement and political persecution, Germany wants to open up opportunities for refugees to obtain professional qualifications and work in our country.

Language classes are essential for better integration of newcomers. The German Government has dramatically increased the financial envelope for these language classes. A total of 559 million euros is now available to finance German-language classes for 300,000 refugees and migrants. Please go to the Alliance for Initial and Further Training for information on additional measures.

BQ Portal for the assessment of professional qualifications obtained outside Germany

Assessing foreign qualifications to see whether they can be recognised as equivalent to German ones is key to the efforts to successfully integrate refugees and migrants in the German labour market. There are many companies on the lookout for skilled labour in Germany. The BQ Portal is there to help them gain a better understanding of foreign qualifications.

‘Companies integrate refugees’ network

The nationwide ‘companies integrate refugees’ network was launched in March 2016. It is financed by the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and is to support companies in their efforts to provide vocational training, work experience and jobs to refugees. The network acts as a platform for companies to learn from one another and seek support.

Centre of excellence on securing skilled labour: information for small and medium-sized enterprises

The Centre of Excellence on securing skilled labour operates an online platform to support small and medium-sized companies in their HR work. They can also find tailored information on how to include refugees in work and vocational training. Small and medium-sized companies can find out what rules and legal provisions apply when employing refugees and where they can turn to for support. There are also some real-life examples showing how integration can work in practice.

Further information

  • 17/12/2015 - Press release - Migration and asylum

    Press release: Minister Gabriel launches 'refugee guides' project

    Open detail view
Apprentice at work symbolizes Vocational training and work; Source: Franz Bischof/Laif