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Article - Vocational Training & Profession

Dual vocational training – a recipe for success


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 have never been better for young people undergoing vocational training.

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.

Teaching and learning social skills - input for instructors and trainees

For trainees and professionals alike, having a good set of social and emotional skills is just as important as possessing the right technical expertise. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy therefore supports innovative, hands-on model projects to strengthen social skills in dual vocational training, not least to foster the integration of refugees. In three funding periods, 46 projects and project networks have developed and tested new learning tools to specifically practice and train social skills as part of dual vocational training. These tools also include digital applications such as smartphone apps, online seminars and e-learning platforms. Below, interested companies and trainees will find a product overview (in German) (PDF, 134 KB) of the new learning tools, an image brochure (in German) and a project brochure (in German).

Figures and facts around dual vocational training

Symbolicon für Schultasche

Number of different occupations
for which formal training was provided in 2018

Symbolicon für Unternehmen in Deutschland

Number of companies
providing vocational training (2017)

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 2018,
including 309,831 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, in December 2014 the Federal Government together with representatives of businesses, trade unions, the Federal Employment Agency and Länder conferences sealed the new Alliance for Initial and Further Training in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

The partners’ common goal is to strengthen dual vocational training and to promote the equal value of vocational and academic education. Every young person interested in vocational training is to be shown a "path" which can lead him or her to a vocational qualification as early as possible. Vocational training within a company is the preferred method to achieve this. The partners are particularly committed to the integration of refugees.

At the annual summit meeting in March 2017, the partners in the Alliance for Initial and Further Training reaffirmed their commitment to the dual training system. They focused on the quality and attractiveness of dual vocational training and its ability to integrate local young people and young refugees. In 2015, the partners within the Alliance put in place some key measures to do this. In particular, the intensive campaigning for “dual” vocational training and the reporting of more training places in companies 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 the partners within the Alliance for Initial and Further Training made in the last three years to strengthen the dual training system.

And this approach has been successful: In 2016, approximately 11,600 young people and the companies where they receive training have used Assisted Training. The instrument is thus making an important contribution to paving the way for disadvantaged young people directly into working life. In 2017, the partners within the “Alliance” initiated a dialogue process on the topics of mobility and flexibility in dual vocational training and examined in more detail how to secure skilled labour in selected sectors. The mismatch on the training market remains an important issue for 2018.

The text of the Agreement signed by the Alliance can be found here (PDF, 553 KB), the text of the partners' declaration concerning refugees can be found here (in german) (PDF, 132 KB).

Occupations requiring formal vocational training

326 occupations, 326 exciting careers

Wanted: highly motivated apprentices! With 326 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 click here (PDF, 175 KB).

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy also provides dual vocational training itself.

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.

Greater flexibility and less rigidity

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 160 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. In addition to helping companies recruit trainees, 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.

Training without borders

To help trainees and young skilled professionals prepare themselves for the demands of a globalised economy, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy provides funding for the vocational training without borders network. The network wants to bring up the number of apprentices and newly qualified professions who spend some time working abroad. More than 50 mobility advisors in the chambers of skilled crafts and chambers of industry and commerce that take part in the programme provide companies, trainees and young skilled workers with advice and support in organising and conducting traineeships abroad. They further help find partner companies abroad and obtain funding.

Companies that do a lot to support their young talent to venture abroad can apply for the ‘vocational training without borders’ award. The award was presented on 24 April.

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 consult the list below for answers to these questions and for more detailed information on the most important dual vocational training occupations. Please click here for an overview of vocational training regulations.

Vocational training – a gateway to integration

A strong basis for successful integration

For many young people with a migrant background and refugees coming to Germany, vocational training is a key to successful integration. It opens up long-term career prospects and excellent conditions for integration and inclusion.

More than 16 million people in Germany have a migrant background. Until now, however, young people from immigrant families have been underrepresented in initial vocational training under the dual system - as have the more than 700,000 companies in Germany run by entrepreneurs with a migrant background.

Vocational training ensures that refugees not only find shelter from war and displacement, but that they are also given new prospects for the future through targeted integration into the German labour market. In the medium term, this will help secure the next generation of skilled workers in Germany.

As the competent ministry for dual vocational training and SME policy, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is of particular importance when it comes to providing access to training for immigrants and refugees. Because today’s trainees are the skilled professionals in world of tomorrow.

Vocational training – a gateway to integration

The Economic Affairs Ministry’s “Integration through Training” initiative (in German) aims to help increase the number of young people with a migrant background who complete in-house vocational training at a company. It is intended to encourage these people to take up training for one of the 327 professions for which vocational training is available. Furthermore, the initiative seeks to encourage entrepreneurs with a migrant background to take on more trainees.

‘Refugee guides’ for refugees pursuing vocational training

There are 170 ‘refugee guides’ based at around 110 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 (in German) (PDF, 548 KB). 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. Under the “3+2 rule”, 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 dramatically increased the financial envelope for these language classes. Please go to the section on 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.

Our programme entitled “Stark für Ausbildung” (a strong commitment to training)

The "Stark für Ausbildung" programme, which is funded by the Economic Affairs Ministry, is aimed specifically at training staff in small and medium-sized enterprises. It provides these employees with the necessary knowledge and skills to be able to successfully train young people with special personality profiles, such as young people who had to flee their country as well as people with fewer opportunities and high-performing trainees.

Further information

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