Five years ago, the senior experts service (SES) initiative VerA (Verhinderung von Ausbildungsabbrüchen - prevention of apprenticeship discontinuation) was launched to avoid training dropouts and improve the training process by intervening quickly to help young people help themselves. A veritable success story: 3000 apprentices have taken advantage of the initiative.

’An extraordinarily positive result’, says SES managing director Dr Susanne Nonnen. ’Five years ago, we decided to take action to get young people safely through their training. Of course, we also help with other problems, not only when there is danger of discontinuation of an apprenticeship.

Many training contracts are prematurely dissolved in Germany. In the national average, every fifth young person fails to complete their training. Although there are numerous projects offering support, VerA goes one step further by ensuring tailored support. The VerA initiative was launched at end 2008 by SES, a leading German volunteer organisation for retired specialists and management. What makes VerA so special is the tandem model: as a rule, each trainee is assigned a voluntary training mentor for one-to-one assistance.

These mentors are specially trained SES experts. More than 2 000 of the current over 11 000 retired experts registered at SES have undertaken this special training. ’We also value the interest shown by experts as a great success’, says Ms Nonnen.

In VerA, help becomes tangible: for instance, an experienced carpenter supports a carpenter-to-be, a banker supports a 'budding' beautician, a master baker or pastry chef supports a masonry apprentice. As observed over the years, it is the expert’s professional and social competence that makes training mentoring so successful. The important aspect is that mentors and 'their' trainees get on well together. If the chemistry is right and if both parties are prepared to tackle problems, a first important step in the right direction has beentaken.