Vocational training

Vocational training

The vocational training system has a long tradition in Germany and enjoys high acceptance in business. It makes a decisive contribution to the fact that Germany has the lowest youth unemployment within the EU. Find out here about the many opportunities to learn a profession in Germany.

1. Forms of vocational training

The following are to be differentiated

  • dual vocational training (in companies and at the vocational school)
  • school-based vocational training (at trade and technical school, full-time vocational school or vocational college),
  • general higher education entrance qualification training or special training in business,
  • study and dual study,
  • continuing vocational training

Vocational training must not be confused with continuing vocational training, which is offered alongside work at (vocational) academies. The aim here is to adapt knowledge and skills to changed requirements in the professional field.

2. Dual vocational training

Around 70% of all vocational training courses completed in Germany are completed in the form of dual vocational training (in-company training). “Dual” describes a two-part form of training at two different training locations: In the part-time vocational school, the trainee learns the theoretical specialist knowledge, in the company practical knowledge and skills. The combination of on-the-job training and vocational training guarantees a connection between theory and practice. Precisely because of the connection between theory and practice, this form of training is a special feature of the German education system and is also recognised internationally.

Most of the State recognised  apprenticeships, currently around 350, are based on the dual system. Above all, professions in crafts, trades, industry, services or agriculture are trained in the dual system. The vocational school teaching normally takes place 1 to 2 days a week in addition to work in the company. For some training courses, school lessons are held in block form: Here the trainee is alternately at school for a few weeks at a time and then goes back to the company providing training. During in-company training, you receive remuneration from the company providing training.

Note: The short videos of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BiBB) in German and English provide an insight into vocational training.

3. School-based vocational training

In addition to dual vocational training, there is also school-based vocational training in Germany. In terms of its value, purely school-based training is seen as being on a par with dual training. There is a large selection of school-based vocational training, for example in the field of health and social services (health and nurse, pharmaceutical-technical assistant, geriatric nurse, social assistant, educator, etc.), in the field of foreign languages and in the fields of technology and IT (information technology assistant) or design (design assistant). The school education is completed full-time at State or private vocational schools or vocational academies and lasts 1 to 3 years. The private vocational schools may charge school fees if necessary. As a rule, during the school education the students receive no remuneration. However, vocational school students may be entitled to financial support under the Federal Training Assistance Act - better known as Students - BAföG.

Tip: Since there are usually fixed registration deadlines for vocational schools, you should get information from the schools you want as soon as possible. The database KURSNET of the Federal Employment Agency offers a detailed overview of the vocational schools in the Federal States.

4. General higher education entrance qualification training or special training in business

Business (especially industrial and trading companies, insurance companies) offers training courses which are specially tailored to general higher education entrance qualification graduates and which are referred to as “Special training in business” or “General higher education entrance qualification training”.

There are different models for these training opportunities in the individual Federal States. They are usually characterised by practical relevance, close reference to the needs of business and high theoretical standards. There are offers in the commercial area, but also in IT (business IT specialist), foreign languages and in the field of transport (air traffic controllers). In the part-time vocational school, knowledge of bookkeeping, accounting, marketing, IT or foreign languages is taught in specialist classes.

There is a special general higher education entrance qualification training especially for the following professional groups:

  • Industrial technologist - specialising in data technology
  • IT assistant
  • IT specialist
  • Business IT specialist
  • Air traffic controller

During the training period, you receive remuneration from the company providing training.

Tip: The Careers Information Centre of the Federal Employment Agency offers helpful information on all apprenticeships. The personal career advice of the Federal Employment Agency is also helpful.

In their considerations, prospective trainees should always keep an eye on the dates for the start of their training: Most training courses begin on 1 August or 1 September of each year. Many companies start looking for trainees at the beginning of the corresponding year, banks and larger companies in particular advertise their positions a whole year before the start of training. Apprenticeship applicants should already consider in the penultimate school year the question of which occupation could be the right one for them. Information days in the job information centres of the employment agencies or apprenticeship fairs also offer support in finding training.

5. Continuing vocational training

Vocational training must not be confused with continuing vocational training, which is offered alongside work at (vocational) academies. The aim here is to adapt knowledge and skills to changed requirements in the professional field.

Continuing vocational training can also deepen or expand already existing professional training. Earlier phases of education and/or interim employment preceded this. Vocational training can be self-taught, through a publicly accessible training measure or, if the training is initiated by the company, also in the form of in-company training.

A distinction is made in continuing vocational training:

  • Further training (Adaptation of the knowledge in the profession learned),
  • Retraining (career reorientation),
  • Upgrading training or additional qualification,

Continuing vocational training is basically also part-time, meaning that it is possible alongside the job.

Further training aims to preserve those qualifications that have already been acquired in a training occupation. They should be deepened, adapted to technical developments or expanded so that career advancement is possible. The qualifications acquired through further training are usually verified by examinations carried out by the responsible bodies (mostly chambers of crafts or chambers of industry and commerce).

Upgrading training describes, for example, the courses attended by skilled workers that lead them to the master craftsman examination, courses to prepare for examinations for the Business administrator qualification or the courses that prepare for an examination according to the Instructor Aptitude Ordinance (AEVO) to become an instructor.

Retraining is understood as being the training or further education for a different activity than the one previously exercised or learned . Knowledge and experience from the previous job often allow a shortening of the training for the new job description compared to a beginner. It is true that, under special conditions, someone without prior vocational training can take part in a retraining measure, but this is then considered as vocational training.

Retraining is an opportunity to qualify for a new job if the old job can no longer be practiced, for example for health reasons. Or due to the constant structural change on the labour market, there is a changed need for skilled workers and thus different requirements for the training of employees (for example in the course of digitisation).

With the help of a retraining measure, a professional reorientation can take place and a new profession can be learned.
Retraining ends with the examination from the responsible chamber (Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Chamber of crafts, etc.). It leads, for example, to a recognised Chamber of Industry and Commerce vocational qualification or to a journeyman's certificate. The duration of the retraining depends on the actual duration of the training in the respective profession. The commercial training courses usually have a training period of 3 years (from 21 months of retraining period) and the technical professions 3.5 years (up to 28 months of retraining period).

In Germany, retraining is often financed by the public sector, mostly the regional job centres and the Federal Employment Agency, sometimes also the Ministry of defence, or as a rehabilitation service (statutory accident insurance, German pension insurance, insurance, etc.).