Businesses hiring graduates of lower-secondary schools (1) (Hauptschüler) as apprentices are usually quite satisfied with them. This is the result of a study by the German Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB).

Young people's demeanour, appearance and articulateness largely satisfy expectations of their trainers, yet businesses are also happy with the occupational knowledge that newly-hired apprentices already have. Here, lower-secondary school graduates perform even slightly better than all other groups.

About 33 % of all new apprenticeship contracts are concluded with Hauptschul-graduates. In the crafts sector for instance, with 38 %, their share of newly-hired apprentices is above average. In industry and commerce, however, it is only 24 %. According to BIBB, this means that the potential for filling vacant apprenticeship places remains untapped.

However, businesses hiring young people from this group show a higher commitment towards them, by helping them to develop their basic skills, German language skills and social skills. Small and medium-sized enterprises in particular increasingly support their apprentices well beyond their school lessons.

To assist businesses in training young people who did not perform well before, policy-makers should establish external training management, support structures and services to assist with recruitment and organisational aspects. Additional lessons at vocational colleges could also help, BIBB suggests. Likewise, intercompany training facilities may improve Hauptschul-graduates’ chances of obtaining an apprenticeship.

Many young people do not immediately find a fully qualifying apprenticeship place although numbers of school graduates are declining and demand for skilled labour is rising. In particular Hauptschul-graduates often achieve this only after a lengthy period of search and participation in transitional programmes. We must counteract this mismatch in the vocational education and training market with increased efforts, demands BIBB president Friedrich Hubert Esser.

(1 ) At lower secondary level, for 10-15 or 16 year-olds, there are different types of programmes (level 2 of the international standard classification of education (ISCED)). Hauptschul-programmes comprise years 5-9/10 (depending on the duration of compulsory education in the different Länder) and offers basic general and some pre-vocational education. Realschul-programmes (years 5-10) provide broader general education. So-called Gymnasien comprise lower and upper secondary level, traditionally leading to qualifications that allow higher education access. There are also comprehensive schools. It is interesting to note that in Germany more than 20% of new apprentices have acquired upper secondary qualifications that allow university access.

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