Vocational training

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Vocational training

The German vocational training system offers school leavers many opportunities to gain a foothold in the labour market with a recognised vocational qualification. You can do company training in the “dual” system or school-based vocational training, but you can also gain qualifications or specialise by means of further training.

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 state-recognised apprenticeships – currently around 324 – 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 back at the company providing training. During in-company training, you receive remuneration from the company providing training.

Note: The multilingual short presentations of the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BiBB) provide an insight into vocational training, information on the initial and continuing training occupations of the dual system according to the Vocational Training Act (BBiG) and the Crafts Code (HwO) as well as on the nursing occupations according to the Nursing Occupations Act (PflBG), these can be found on the BiBB website in German and English . A brief overview of the forms of training in Germany is given on the Eurydice website.

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 full-time vocational school or vocational academies and lasts 1 to 3 years. The private full-time vocational schools may charge school fees.

As a rule, you do not receive any remuneration during your school education. However, vocational school students may be entitled to financial support under the Federal Training Assistance Act – better known as the 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 full-time 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 school leavers with a higher education entrance qualification 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. Continuing 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 theInstructor 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 therefore 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 job can be learned. Retraining ends with the examination before the competent chamber (Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Chamber of Crafts, etc.). It leads, for example, to a recognised Chamber of Industry professional qualification or a journeyman’s certificate. The duration of the retraining depends on the actual training duration of 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 by the regional job centres, the Federal Employment Agency or, in the case of health problems, as a rehabilitation measure by the German Pension Insurance .