The Vocational Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz) and the Crafts Code (Handwerksordnung) do not require people to have a specific educational background to undertake vocational training. That said, depending on the occupation in question, most companies require the people they take on as apprentices to at least have a secondary general school-leaving certificate (Hauptschulabschluss), if not an intermediate school-leaving certificate (mittlerer Schulabschluss or Realschulabschluss), or even an entrance qualification for universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulreife) or a higher education entrance qualification (Hochschulreife or Abitur). It is very difficult to find a training place in the German labour market if you do not have a school-leaving certificate.
Secondary general school-leaving certificate:
The secondary general school-leaving certificate qualifies above all for taking up dual vocational training. To do so, however, young people first have to find an apprenticeship in a company. However, many companies providing training require an intermediate school-leaving certificate.
Young people who are no longer required to attend school and
- have not yet found a training position or
- have lost the training position and want to reorient themselves professionally or but
- do not have a school leaving certificate,
Intermediate school-leaving certificate:
For young people with an intermediate school-leaving certificate (also called secondary school leaving certificate or middle school graduation) the range of career opportunities is significantly larger. The intermediate school-leaving certificate opens the way to many vocational training courses. In addition to dual vocational training, it also enables full-time school-based vocational training and provides access to the various types of school at the upper secondary level (specialised upper secondary school, two-year full-time vocational school, specialised academic secondary school) and the higher education entrance qualification (Abitur), in some cases subject to a certain average grade.
Higher education entrance qualification (Abitur):
The higher education entrance qualification opens up the possibility of studying at a university if this is desired. This can be a university or a university of applied sciences. The university entrance qualification is obtained by means of the following school qualifications:
- the general higher education entrance qualification (Abitur),
- subject-restricted higher education entrance qualification (subject-restricted Abitur) or
- the entrance qualification for universities of applied sciences (Fachabitur)
It is normally possible for adults to gain a school-leaving certificate at night schools (there are night school versions of secondary general schools, intermediate schools and academic secondary schools) and at full-time adult education colleges (Kollegs). Night secondary general schools (Abendhauptschulen) offer a one-year course (2 semesters) leading to a secondary general school-leaving certificate (Hauptschulabschluss). Night intermediate schools (Abendrealschulen) offer evening classes (4 semesters) which enable adults to obtain an intermediate school-leaving certificate (Mittlerer Schulabschluss). Evening academic secondary schools (Abendgymnasien) enable adults to gain the higher education entrance qualification (Hochschulreife), usually over a period of 3 years. Full-time adult education colleges (Kollegs) enable adults to study full-time to obtain the higher education entrance qualification.