VET in Austria has the following main features:
- VET ranks high; about 70% of each age cohort opt for a VET path at the end of compulsory education ( ).
- early leaving is comparatively low at 7.3% in 2018 and a ‘safety net’ for young people has been in place for many years. In 2017, the training obligation until age 18 was introduced: all young people who are not in education and training, or in a job, must participate in mainstream school-based programmes, apprenticeships or other recognised training;
- school-based VET and apprenticeships (dual track training) coexist. They cover nearly all economic sectors and lead to different qualification levels (either EQF 4 or 5).
- there is a variety of VET programmes at tertiary level and for adults.
Distinctive features ():
- the broad range of available VET programmes is not only reflected in the various types of training and qualification levels but also in the fields of study, which include business, engineering, tourism, fashion, design, arts, and agriculture. Programmes can be adapted to regional economic contexts and skill needs, and allow learners to develop their strengths and talents in the best possible way.
- all programmes at upper secondary level, whether school-based or dual-track, combine VET with general education and theory with practice. Work-based learning is central to VET, particularly in apprenticeships where learners spend 80% of their training time in a company. School-based VET is also practice-oriented, including learning in workshops, labs, training restaurants and practice firms, complemented by mandatory work placements in companies. Project and diploma assignments as part of the final exam of the five-year VET programme (EQF 5) are often set by companies or carried out with their collaboration. Many teachers have experience in business and industry, which, for certain areas, is also an admission requirement;
- much attention is paid to the acquisition of key competences (e.g. team work, digital and entrepreneurial skills). At least one foreign language is mandatory − in some study fields (such as tourism) up to three − and is also used as a working language at several schools. Competence-orientation is a key principle in VET;
- the number of apprentices (within the dual VET-track) being trained is driven by company demand. On completion of compulsory education, young people apply for apprenticeship places in companies and conclude a training contract with them. Apprentices are also assigned to the respective school-based programme, which is mandatory;
- many VET programmes are offered outside the formal education system. A diverse range of institutions offers continuing training and progression opportunities to complement or upgrade people’s initial qualifications.
Despite its wide recognition, VET faces several challenges:
- basic skills: OECD-PISA results in recent years suggest that the share of learners with low achievement in reading literacy and maths is comparatively high. Companies tend to point to young apprentices’ basic skills gaps. This drives the current government’s goal that no young person should leave compulsory education without having achieved basic competence levels in reading, writing and maths.
- early leaving from education and training: early leaving rates from education and training have been comparatively low and a ’safety net’ for young people has been in place for many years. What used to be an offer became a training obligation until age 18 in 2017: all young people who are not in post-compulsory education and training, or in a job, must participate in mainstream school-based programmes, apprenticeships or other recognised training until the age of 18.
- value of non-formal training: Austria has a relatively segmented education system; permeability is limited, particularly between non-formal and formal programmes at higher levels. Public perception of formal and non-formal qualifications is not the same. The national qualifications framework (NQR) is expected to provide a new perspective on them, as assignment to NQF levels is based on learning outcomes, irrespective of the institutional context in which they were acquired.
Data from VET in Austria Spotlight 2017 ().
Population in 2018: 8 822 267 ()
The continuous increase in the size of the population since the mid-1980s is mainly due to the growing influx of foreign nationals, rising particularly sharply in recent years. Overall, roughly 16% of the Austrian population are foreign nationals ().
It increased since 2013 by 4.4% mainly due to migration (). According to the projection of Statistics Austria, based on assumptions on fertility, mortality and migration, the population will continue to grow to nine million people by 2022, to over 9.3 million by the year 2030 and to 9.53 million people by 2040 (+8% compared to 2018) ( ).
The demographic development reveals that the population is ageing, as in many other EU countries. In 2015 only 18.5% of the Austrian population were aged 65 years or older; the share of this population segment in the population overall is expected to increase to over 29% by 2060.
The old-age dependency ratio () will also continue to rise. In 2016 the number of people aged 65 and above, in relation to the 15 to 64 year-olds, was still slightly more than one to four (27.4%); projections show this ratio reaching about one to two by 2060. This means there will be less than two people in employment for every pensioner ( ).
Population forecast by age group and old-age-dependency ratio
Source: Eurostat, proj_15ndbims [extracted 16.5.2019].
The demographic structure and dynamics in Austria – mainly driven by migration and an aging society – will have an impact on available resources as well as on the demand for education ().
Because of migration, support structures (such as classes in German) have been created for the acquisition of German as a foreign language (language of instruction) and measures have been taken to make it possible for migrants to complete VET programmes: these include transition courses, the ‘b.mobile’ programme () of the Austrian economic chambers.
The demographic development towards an ’aging society’ will have an impact on the education sector. In order to keep pace with the (future) requirements of the economy, lifelong learning (LLL) will become imperative. Therefore it is/will be necessary to encourage participation of older employees in further and higher qualification (VET) programmes ().
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the Austrian Economy: 99.6% of all enterprises are SMEs. Around 330 000 such enterprises employ nearly two million people (2016) ().
87% of them are micro-enterprises with fewer than ten employees. 11% are small enterprises employing between ten and 49 people, around 2% are medium-sized enterprises with 50 to 249 employees. Overall more than 1.9 million people are self-employed or work in dependent employment in Austrian SMEs. This means that SMEs provide work to around two thirds of the entire workforce. The share of large enterprises in the total number of Austrian companies is only 0.4%. But they employ roughly one third of all employees. Especially for SMEs – and particularly for micro and small enterprises – vocational education and training (VET) that is properly differentiated and adjusted to current and future requirements is very important because these companies, as a rule, do not have their own in-house HR (development) and research departments ().
Since the 1960s, the Austrian economy has undergone fundamental changes. In 1960, agriculture and forestry still boasted an 11% share in the gross value added. The services sector, at around 42%, was behind the manufacturing sector (47%). In the 1970s, structural change started and continues today; it has led to a shrinking of the primary and secondary sectors to the benefit of the tertiary sector. Today more than 70% of the value added is created in this sector, which also employs around 70% of the workforce. In response, new specialisations and qualifications have been introduced in the education sector (mainly in wholesale and retail trade, tourism, healthcare) to meet the requirements of the economy. In addition, increasing attention is being paid to teaching key competences, which play a major role in the services-oriented economy ().
The most important manufacturing sectors (by turnover 2017) and export sectors of the Austrian economy with the dominance of SMEs are ():
- energy supply;
- machinery and motor vehicles;
- metals and metal products;
- electrical and electronic equipment;
- food and feed;
- petroleum, chemical and pharmaceutical products;
- plastic, glass, wood, paper products.
In terms of foreign trade, tourism, environmental technology, construction and infrastructure, creative industries, training and the service sector are strong sectors ().
In Austria around 200 professions are regulated (); they require a specific professional qualification when accessing or exercising them. Certificates/diplomas are generally very important, although for most jobs they are not a formal requirement.
Total unemployment (2018): 4.3% (6 % in EU-28); it increased by 0.9 % percentage points compared to 2008 ().
Unemployment rate (aged 15-24 and 25-64) by education attainment level in 2008-18
NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; breaks in time series; low reliability for ISCED 5-8, age 15-24.
ISCED 0-2 = less than primary, primary and lower secondary education.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
ISCED 5-8 = tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, lfsa_urgaed [extracted 16.5.2019].
Unemployment differs strongly for persons with low-, medium- and high-level formal education.
In 2018 the unemployment rate of persons (aged 25-64) without an upper secondary qualification was 10.9%, almost three times higher than of persons with at least upper secondary education (3.8%) and even higher than of people with tertiary education background (3%).
Younger people (aged 15-24) with no or lower formal qualifications are especially affected by significantly higher unemployment risks and rates. However, in 2018, Austria had the sixth lowest unemployment rate (13.9%) in an EU-28 comparison (21.9%) among young people (15 to 24 year-olds). This is particularly due to the varied VET programmes offered at the upper secondary level ().
The employment rate of 20 to 34 year-old VET graduates increased from 86.3% in 2014 to 88.6% in 2018; it is 8.1 percentage points above the EU 28-average (80.5%) ().
Employment rate of VET graduates (20 to 34 years old, ISCED levels 3 and 4)
NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; breaks in time series.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, edat_lfse_24 [extracted 16.5.2019].
The employment of 20-34 year-old VET graduates of ISCED levels 3 and 4 increased to 88.6% (+2.3 pp) between 2014 and 2018 ().
This is due to the wide range of vocational programmes at upper secondary level, which make it possible for graduates to enter the labour market directly ().
The employment rate and the change between 2014 and 2018 in the employment rate of 20-34 year-old VET graduates at ISCED levels 3 and 4 is higher compared to that for all 20-34 year-old graduates (2014: 83.5%, 2018 84.5%) ().
In 2018 more than half of 25 to 64 year-olds (52.6%) acquired a qualification in an education programme at ISCED Level 3 or 4, i.e. an apprenticeship diploma or a qualification from a school for intermediate vocational education or a general secondary school. This also reflects the importance of the upper secondary sector within the Austrian education system.
About one third of the population (32.7%) between the ages of 25 and 64 years completed a tertiary education programme, also including ‘short programmes’ (ISCED 5) below the bachelor degree, such as the qualification obtained at a five-year school-based VET programme or at an industrial master college.
But many programmes aiming at vocational further and higher qualifications (such as the engineer qualification, the financial accountant qualification, qualifications obtained in the police force) are offered outside the formal education system and are not included in ISCED ().
The share of the population with no or low-level qualifications (ISCED 0-2) is significantly lower (14.7%) compared to the EU-28 average (21.8%), and the share of the medium-qualified (52.6 % at levels 3-4) significantly higher (EU-28: 45.7%). The shares of the high-qualified (ISCED 5-8) are almost balanced (AT: 32.7%, EU-28: 32.2%).
Population (aged 25 to 64) by highest education level attained in 2018
NB: Data based on ISCED 2011. Low reliability for ‘No response’ in Czechia, Iceland, Latvia, and Poland.
ISCED 0-2 = less than primary, primary and lower secondary education.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
ISCED 5-8 = tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, lfsa_pgaed [extracted 16.5.2019].
In Austria nearly 70% of all upper secondary education VET learners (ISCED level 3) are enrolled in vocational programmes compared to 47.2% in the EU-28 average (2017) ().
This is primarily due to the high attractiveness and inflow of approximately 40 % – a relative constant rate since the mid- 1990s – of an age cohort to the apprenticeship training in Austria.
Share of learners in VET by level in 2017
Source: Eurostat, educ_uoe_enrs01, educ_uoe_enrs04 and educ_uoe_enrs07 [extracted 16.5.2019].
Share of initial VET learners from total learners at upper secondary level (ISCED level 3), 2017
NB: Data based on ISCED 2011.
Source: Eurostat, educ_uoe_enrs04 [extracted 16.5.2019].
Around 70% of each age cohort opts for a VET programme at the end of compulsory education (). There are more male learners in these programmes (80% choose a VET programme) than female ones (70%) ( ).
Education choices of females and males in IVET differ:
- young males are traditionally overrepresented in apprenticeship training (77 %) with the main focus on technical trades and crafts. They also favour technical branches in school-based VET;
- young females generally prefer school-based VET with commercial, economic, social, healthcare and pedagogical programme orientation.
In Austria the share of early leavers from education and training – 18 to 24 year-olds, who have not graduated from upper secondary level and are currently not in education and training – has further decreased from 8.8% in 2009 to 7.3% in 2018. The national target of 9.5% in 2020 has already been passed and is clearly below the EU-28 average (10.6%) with the European benchmark of less than 10% for 2020.
This relatively favourable figure in comparison to the EU-28 is attributed to the wide and differentiated range of education and training programmes after compulsory schooling, especially apprenticeship training and the VET school sector.
Early leavers from education and training in 2009-18
NB: Share of the population aged 18 to 24 with at most lower secondary education and not in further education or training.
Source: Eurostat, edat_lfse_14 [extracted 16.5.2019] and European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/info/2018-european-semester-national-reform-programmes-and-stability-convergence-programmes_en [accessed 14.11.2018].
Austria has already achieved, even exceeded, the EU benchmark for lifelong learning of 15%, reaching 15.1% in 2018. The Austrian government in 2011 upgraded the national target for adults aged 25 to 64 years to take part in lifelong learning to 20% by 2020 ().
LLL participation is generally higher among women than men and is clearly above the EU-28 average (11.1%) ().
Especially in an aging society, lifelong learning (LLL) will become imperative to keeping pace with the (future) requirements of the economy. Encouraging participation of older employees in further and higher qualification programmes is essential ().
Participation in lifelong learning in 2014-18
NB: Share of adult population aged 25 to 64 participating in education and training.
Source: Eurostat, trng_lfse_01 [extracted 16.5.2019].
Adults in education and training by age group
Source: National data (Statistics Austria, Micro Census – Labour force survey).
According to the labour force survey, around 400 000 people between 15 and 19 were in education and training (IVET) in 2016. Just below 430 000 people aged 20 to 29 were in IVET or CVET; more than 590 000 people at the age of 30 and above participated in an education and training programme.
Structure of the Austrian education system:
- kindergarten or preschool education (ISCED 0);
- primary level (ISCED 1);
- lower secondary level (ISCED 2);
- upper secondary level (ISCED 3-4);
- post-secondary non-tertiary level (ISCED 5);
- tertiary level (ISCED 5-8).
General compulsory schooling starts at the age of six and lasts nine years. To promote equality of opportunity and employability, a training obligation up to the age of 18 has been established after completion of compulsory schooling; this means that young people are obliged to take part in a training programme or attend an educational measure up to the age of 18.
- primary level (four years, learners aged 6 to 10): before entering the four-year primary school, half-day attendance at nursery school/kindergarten is obligatory. For children with special educational needs (SEN) integrative classes are set up at primary school or there are specific special needs schools which are geared towards the education requirements of individual types of disability;
- lower secondary level (four years, learners aged 10 to 14): at this education level learners can choose to follow general secondary education offered at the academic secondary school (AHS) or at the new secondary school (NMS). In these school types, the learners with SEN can either attend integrative classes or the fifth to eight grade of a special needs school. To switch from primary school to NMS or the lower cycle of AHS, learners need a positive final certificate of the fourth class of primary school; for entering the lower cycle of AHS, additional performance requirements (such as specific marks in the main subjects) and possibly an entrance examination are foreseen;
- upper secondary level (one to five years, learners aged 15 to 19): the first school year of upper secondary education is, at the same time, the final year of compulsory education. Compulsory education ends after attendance of nine school years; there is no separate compulsory school certificate. At the upper secondary level, learners can choose between general and (pre-)vocational education programmes. Many of these programmes support direct entry to the labour market, provide access to post-secondary programmes and/or lead to the tertiary sector either directly or upon acquisition of higher education entrance qualifications;
- post-secondary and tertiary level (different durations; learners aged 19+): higher VET programmes (which aim to provide further and higher qualifications, especially for holders of initial VET qualifications), many of which are organised in cooperation with work-based learning in companies, are offered in the formal education context (schools and universities) but also the non-formal context (outside schools in adult education institutions). Higher education programmes, which lead to Bologna qualifications and are primarily academically oriented and designed as pre-professional, are offered at universities, universities of applied sciences and university colleges of teacher education;
- education outside the formal education system: many adult education establishments provide programmes for personal and professional continuing education. There are also programmes which make it possible for adults to acquire qualifications in the formal education sector. For the unemployed and those threatened by unemployment, programmes are offered as part of active labour market policy.
At secondary level, learners can choose from various pre-VET and VET options in different occupations/ sectors:
- different types of one- or two-year pre-VET (Polytechnische Schule, PTS, ISCED 341; berufsbildende mittlere Schule, BMS, ISCED 351): learners acquire general education, key competences and basic vocational skills preparing them for further school-based VET, apprenticeships and simple jobs on the labour market;
- three- to four-year school-based VET (berufsbildende mittlere Schule, BMS, ISCED 354, EQF 4): learners strengthen their general education and acquire the respective occupational competences and qualifications to perform medium-level jobs. Those who complete an add-on programme or take the Berufsreifeprüfung (exam for people whose initial VET does not automatically qualify them for entry into higher education) also obtain general access to higher education studies;
- five-year school-based VET (berufsbildende höhere Schule, BHS, ISCED 354-554, EQF 5): combining theory and practice, these programmes offer high-quality occupation-related training while strengthening learners’ general education. They lead to double qualifications for senior positions in business and general access to higher education at the same time (Reife- und Diplomprüfung);
- apprenticeships (dual track training) (ISCED 354, EQF 4) in some 200 occupations and trades for learners from age 15 onwards, after compulsory education. They lead to qualifications at medium level. Graduates can progress to qualify, for instance, as master craftsperson or, following additional exams, access tertiary level training in a related field. By completing the Berufsreifeprüfung or an add-on programme they can also obtain general access to higher education;
- training for occupations in the health sector: access to programmes preparing for care and medical assistant professions (ISCED 351 and 353) and other occupations in the health sector (ISCED 351) requires completed compulsory education, being of minimum age, and/or a specific qualification. Training to become a specialist and general care nurse (ISCED 454) is being upgraded to bachelor level. This process will be completed by 2023.
VET at post-secondary level
The introduction of ISCED-2011 has had the result that a series of VET programmes which had formerly been classified as ‘post-secondary, non-tertiary’ are now considered as ‘tertiary’. Due to this change in classification, the number of post-secondary programmes is now reduced while the number of tertiary programmes has risen. ISCED Category 4 basically only comprises schools for healthcare and nursing (ISCED 454). However, the programme to become a specialist and general care nurse offered in this school is being upgraded to a bachelor programme at universities of applied sciences. This process will be completed by 2023, so no VET programmes at ISCED level 4 will be provided in the future.
VET at tertiary level
At tertiary level (ISCED 5 to 8) a wide range of VET programmes are offered. These are provided at higher education institutions, in particular by universities of applied sciences and university colleges of teacher education.
- Bachelor and master programmes provided at the universities of applied sciences (FH, ISCED 665 / 767) are offered both as full-time and also as part-time in the evening (with extended overall programme duration). A period of work placement is a mandatory part of the bachelor programme curriculum. The programmes are completed with an academic thesis followed by a final exam. Successful completion of an FH master’s programme entitles graduates to access subject-related PhD courses at university.
- Teacher education programmes offered by university colleges (PH, ISCED 665) aim to train compulsory school teachers for the type of education selected in a four-year bachelor programme. These PH programmes focus on imparting knowledge and skills related to teaching and didactics as well as their application in school life. There are practical teacher training phases within the bachelor programme as well as an induction period, a one-year phase in which graduates teach at a school under the supervision of a mentor.
Tertiary VET is also provided in special schools or in adult learning centres. This includes add-on courses (Aufbaulehrgänge) and post-secondary VET programmes (Kollegs), which both lead to the same qualification as offered by the five-year school-based VET programme at secondary level. There are also special schools offering the industrial master programme (Werkmeisterschule) and the building craftsperson programme (Bauhandwerkerschule). Preparation for the master craftsperson examination (Meisterprüfung) is offered by master craftsperson schools (Meisterschulen) within the formal education system or by adult learning centres, which are not considered to be part of the formal system.
Learners can acquire qualifications in one of the 200 legally recognised apprenticeship programmes with different area specialisations (construction, electro, information technology, wholesale and retail) offered at ISCED 354 level (EQF 4). Apprenticeship training takes place at two places of learning: in the training company and at vocational school. A prerequisite for taking part in an apprenticeship is the successful completion of nine years of compulsory education. Learners need to find themselves an apprenticeship place in a company to be able to access this programme. Once a training company is found, leaners need to sign an apprenticeship agreement with the authorised apprenticeship trainer, which is recorded by the apprenticeship offices (Lehrlingsstellen).
There is an Austrian-wide training regulation (Ausbildungsordnung) for every apprenticeship. It includes the job profile (Berufsbild), a type of curriculum for the company-based part of training, which lays down the minimum knowledge and skills to be taught to apprentices by companies. The competence profile (Berufsprofil), which is also part of the training regulation, formulates in a learning- outcome-oriented manner the competences apprentices acquire by the end of their training in both learning sites. The social partners are essentially in charge of taking decisions about what in-company curriculum and/or competence profile an apprenticeship occupation is based on and they exert a decisive impact on the structure and content of apprenticeship training via their work in relevant advisory councils.
At the end of the apprenticeship period, every apprentice can take the apprenticeship-leaving examination (LAP), comprising practical and theoretical parts. The apprenticeship qualification can also be acquired via a so-called exceptional admission. For this purpose, relevant periods of professional practice and attendance of relevant course events are credited as a substitute for formal apprenticeship training.
Following successful completion of the LAP, graduates have various progression options, such as taking the master craftsperson exam for a skilled craft. Access to HE programmes can be acquired by taking the exam called Berufsreifeprüfung (BRP) during or after the apprenticeship training. For many, an apprenticeship also forms the basis for a self-employed career. Almost 40% of managers in the business sphere have completed an apprenticeship.
The increasing tendency for young people to want to acquire a professional qualification, preferably in apprenticeship training, combined with the fact that the willingness of companies to train apprentices has decreased, has led to the expansion of supra-company training (ÜBA, Überbetriebliche Berufsausbildung). Originally conceived as a temporary education offer until entry to a regular, company-based apprenticeship, ÜBA was incorporated as an equivalent part of dual VET in 2008. Now it is possible for young people who do not find a company-based apprenticeship post or have not been accepted by a VET school to spend the entire duration of the training in an ÜBA, which is funded publicly through Public Employment Service Austria. The school-based part of apprenticeship training is provided at the regular vocational school.
The heterogeneity of people interested in dual VET has also resulted in the establishment of inclusive VET in 2003. Inclusive VET is mainly intended for young people who, at the end of compulsory schooling, have special educational needs and have not graduated from lower secondary level. It can be implemented in two variants, either the training period can be extended by one or two years, or only selected competences of an apprenticeship are taught (partial qualifications). Partial qualifications are supported by vocational training assistance (Berufsausbildungsassistenz). This advises and supports the training companies and young people before and during the training.
A relevant apprenticeship training scheme has also been set up for especially talented young people who find learning easy: in 2008 the ‘apprenticeship with the matriculation certificate’ scheme (Lehre und Matura) was introduced; this enables apprentices to acquire the Berufsreifeprüfung (BRP) parallel to their apprenticeship training and to attend preparatory courses and complete partial exams free of charge. Since 1997 they have also had the option to complete the entire BRP after obtaining their apprenticeship diploma ().
Learn more about apprenticeships in the national context from Cedefop’s European database on apprenticeship schemes: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/data-visualisations/apprenticeship-schemes/scheme-fiches
The responsibilities for VET at the upper secondary level are widespread: pre-vocational schools and most of the mainly school-based VET programmes are under the responsibility of the education ministry. This ministry is responsible for tasks such as preparing important school legislation, elaborating framework curricula, selecting, paying and providing further training for teaching staff, and maintaining schools.
The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for building and maintaining five-year school-based VET programmes in agriculture and forestry and for selecting and paying teachers at these schools. The costs for teachers at three- to four-year VET schools of agriculture and forestry are shared equally by the Ministry of Agriculture and the provinces.
The education directorates in the provinces are responsible for enforcing school legislation, including quality assurance, school supervision and education control.
The competences for dual VET are within the spheres of the Ministry of Economy, which is responsible for the legal bases and content of the company-based part, and the Ministry of Education, which is responsible for the complementary school-based training (curricula, selection of staff).
The social partners are also involved significantly in the governance structure of apprenticeship training (designing the training regulations, carrying out the assessment procedures).
The funding of the company-based part of apprenticeship training is taken on by the training companies; State subsidies are also available. The school-based part is funded by the Ministry of Education. The costs of paying teachers are shared with the provinces. The Ministry of Agriculture and the provinces are responsible for dual VET in agriculture and forestry.
The health ministry is responsible for the legal basis of programmes in the healthcare sector. The provinces pay the teachers who are employed in these training establishments. Their construction and maintenance is also largely taken on by the provinces on behalf of the Federation.
For VET () at the upper secondary level, the education ministry is responsible for paying teachers and providing further training for teaching staff, and maintaining schools.
The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for building and maintaining five-year school-based VET programmes in agriculture and forestry and for selecting and paying teachers at these schools. The costs for teachers at schools of agriculture and forestry are shared equally by the Ministry of Agriculture and the provinces.
The funding of the company-based part of apprenticeship training is taken on by the training companies; State subsidies are also available. The school-based part is funded by the Ministry of Education. The costs of the paying teachers are shared with the provinces. The Ministry of Agriculture and the provinces are responsible for dual VET in agriculture and forestry.
Teachers in programmes in the healthcare sector are payed by the provinces. The construction and maintenance of the training establishments is also largely taken on by the provinces on behalf of the Federation.
The funding of CVET depends on what type of training is attended. In most cases, the costs of CET are borne by the participants and/or companies. There are, however, a number of measures (such as educational leave) and financial subsidies (in the form of grants and tax relief) in order to (partially) cover expenses. All these initiatives aim to serve as incentives to take part in CET in order to improve the companies’ economic situation and strengthen the CET participants’ position in the labour market.
Model calculation: Comparison of the public expenditure for IVET, per learner/apprentice for one year (2016)
Costs per person/apprenticeship place and year (in EUR)
Total public expenses per person/ apprenticeship place and year (in EUR)
Dual VET (company and VET school)
VET school: 4 927
State subsidies: 1 548
Supra-company training (training in a state-funded workshop and at VET school)
VET school: 4 927
PES: 12 018
Province: 1 148
School-based VET programmes
Source: Dornmayr/Nowak 2018 ().
VET has the following types of teacher:
- general subject teachers (in school-based VET programmes, including VET schools of apprenticeship training);
- VET-subject teachers (in school-based VET programmes, including VET schools of apprenticeship training;
- IVET trainers (in-company trainer in apprenticeship training);
- trainers (in adult learning centres).
The training of teachers () changed when the Federal Act on the New Teacher Training Scheme came into force in July 2013. Since then, all teachers have been trained as part of tertiary bachelor and master programmes (ISCED 6 and 7) at universities and university colleges of teacher education.
The study offer for teachers at secondary level comprises the following two programmes:
- teacher training programme for secondary general education programmes (ISCED 2 to 5): this programme qualifies graduates to teach learners aged between 10 and 19 years old in the general education subjects offered at a secondary level programme;
- teacher training programme for secondary VET (ISCED 2 to 5): this programme qualifies graduates to teach learners aged between 14 and 19 years old in the VET subjects or packages of subjects of secondary VET chosen in the study programme.
All teacher training programmes require a one-semester introductory and orientation period (Studieneingangs- und Orientierungsphase or StEOP).
The master programme can be completed immediately after the bachelor programme. In any case, new teachers are accompanied by a mentor in their first year of service (one-year induction year). From 2029 it will no longer be possible to complete the master programme on a part-time basis.
As well as having a minimum age of 18 years, an IVET trainer needs to furnish proof of certain qualifications. This proof can take the form of the IVET trainer exam, the IVET trainer course, or a substitute for exam or course attendance (such as the master craftsperson exam, or completion of the industrial master college). Most IVET trainers carry out their training as part of their main work but larger companies often have full-time trainers.
IVET trainer courses are offered by the adult education establishments of the social partners. In 40 periods of instruction completed with an expert interview, they aim to impart the necessary pedagogical, psychological, training plan-related and training method-specific as well as legal knowledge and skills required for the training of apprentices. The course contents are the same as those of the IVET trainer exam.
There are no regulations on the required qualifications of trainers in adult learning centres/CVET provider institutions, though relevant know-how in the subject they teach is essential. In many cases these are individuals who practise a profession and impart relevant specialisations. Commercial and technological courses, for example, are taught by practitioners from business, and language classes by native speakers. Didactic skills are not required, but people with teaching practice are preferred. Trainers mainly exercise their profession in a self-employed capacity.
CPD for teachers:
According to the new Service Code (Dienst- und Besoldungsrecht) (), all teachers – irrespective of the school at which they teach and which subject they teach – are obliged to undergo further development measures to improve their profession-oriented competences. By order they are required to attend in-service training events for up to 15 hours per school year while there are no lessons. In-service training programmes may be connected with absence from teaching only if in the significant interest of the service.
CPD events are primarily offered by university colleges of teacher education (PHs). Teachers can register for these events via the system ‘PH-Online’ in order (depending on the duration of the event) to be granted leave by the school management or the school supervision to attend this event.
CPD measures are financed by provincial funds. These funds are provided directly to the provider establishment so that participation is free of charge for the teachers.
CPD for trainers:
There is no CPD obligation for IVET trainers. However, CPD programmes are offered at adult education establishments; in some cases, in-house CET programmes are also available. In recent years so-called IVET trainer colleges (Ausbilderakademien) and IVET trainer forums have been set up in most Austrian provinces with the aim of providing CPD specifically for IVET trainers. For the most part they are coordinated by the regional economic chambers in cooperation with the respective chamber’s CET institution. Most of them offer certification in various stages. They also promote experience exchange and networking between IVET trainers. The latter is also the goal of regional and sector-specific get-togethers for IVET trainers.
The Economic Chamber funds measures related to the CPD of IVET trainers in their interaction with apprentices, such as pedagogy, didactics, personal development, diversity. A prerequisite for support is minimum participation of eight hours. The funding covers 75% of the course fees but no more than € 1 000 per trainer and calendar year.
Existing VET programmes are regularly developed, updated and adjusted to guarantee that VET is business- and labour-market-oriented. One major goal of this adjustment process is to achieve congruency between VET and employment as well as between qualification supply and demand, attempting to appraise future developments at an early stage and respond to them. In Austrian VET there are different anticipation processes that lead to curriculum adjustments. Major stakeholders in this process include the social partners, which can frequently support coordination between educational provision and qualification requirements and/or make statements on curriculum drafts. The outcomes of various analyses of qualification requirements are also considered in this process.
Mechanisms and processes to anticipate qualification requirements
The most important include:
- skill needs studies: these are mostly conducted for specific sectors and industries (e.g. timber, IT), but also for regions (such as federal provinces) and education programmes (certain specialisations of colleges for higher vocational education, dual VET, etc.). The main beneficiaries of these studies are stakeholders in these sectoral/regional areas as well as staff responsible for the curriculum and other areas in the VET pathways that are of relevance for the specialisations;
- skills barometer of PES Austria (AMS-QB) ( ): this online system, which was set up in 2002, summarises current and foreseeable labour market trends and qualification requirements and makes them accessible to the general public in a structured format via the internet. The AMS-QB uses existing written data (e.g. from skill needs studies) and information gathered in interviews with experts from the various occupational areas. Contents refer to the whole of Austria, and they are complemented by summary information presented for every province and analyses of job ads;
- ’New skills’ activities: in 2009 a standing committee on news skills was founded at PES Austria. This committee, in which relevant ministries, the social partners and their CET provider establishments are represented, functions as advisory board for PES Austria in questions concerning the design of education offers within active labour market policy and the activities to be undertaken to identify future skills needs. Since the committee’s foundation, roundtable discussions have been held in which company experts from various vocational areas (such as HR) and education experts (e.g. representatives of providers) have discussed and exchanged information about current and future skills needs/trends. This should give providers a first-hand picture on skills requirements of the economy to be able to design or adjust their offers adequately. Besides these roundtable (group) discussions, one-to-one/in-depth expert interviews (mainly with key companies of a vocational area) have also been conducted. Other New skills activities have included presentations and information events, to inform learners, employers and CET interested people about skills requirements and trends. Since 2018 the New skills activities have focussed on the subjects ’digitalisation’ and ’Industry 4.0’.
See also Cedefop’s skills forecast () and European skills index ( ).
In the following, the processes during the development of curricula are presented for various VET programmes.
The educational objectives and content of VET schools at the upper secondary level are laid down in framework curricula. They are issued by the education ministry. Although the acquisition of professional competences has always been a key goal of VET, competences have been defined explicitly in the curricula since 2012 as a result of the development of the national qualifications framework and its orientation towards learning outcomes. The competence-oriented curricula specify the knowledge and skills that learners have acquired by the end of their training and which qualify them to act appropriately in different situations at work. As well as subject-related competences, interdisciplinary competences are also listed as they are considered of major importance in Austrian VET.
Initiatives towards curriculum reforms and/or the introduction of new subjects/area specialisations are launched by the education establishments themselves or by the Ministry of Education. In so-called curriculum steering groups and working groups, teachers and experts of the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with representatives of the economy, prepare draft curricula for the respective subjects. As well as a number of other institutions, the social partners also receive the drafts to issue their statements. In the implementation of the framework curricula, schools are entitled to change the number of lessons of individual sub-jects autonomously within a given framework or develop their own focuses, taking account of (regional) economic requirements.
Special curricula can be established for individual school locations as school pilot projects to be able to respond swiftly and flexibly to current developments such as in technology, society or on the labour market.
Dual VET (apprenticeship)
The training content for every apprenticeship occupation is laid down in training regulations (for the company-based part) and curricula (for the school-based part). The Ministry of Economy issues the in-company curriculum and the competence profile (the activity description formulating the competences which apprentices need to have acquired by the end of their training at the company and vocational school) as part of the training regulation. The initiative to modernise existing and develop new in-company curricula/competence profiles (new apprenticeship occupations) is usually launched by companies or the social partners. The Federal Advisory Board on Apprenticeship (BABB) – which comprises social partner representatives and advises the Ministry of Economy in dual VET issues – also introduces proposals or prepares expert opinions about possible reforms. The specific designing of in-company curricula/competence profiles, and the orientation towards current and future qualification requirements, is generally conducted by BBAB subcommittees or the education research institutes of the social partners, mainly ibw Austria – Research & Development in VET. Framework curricula for vocational schools within the framework of apprenticeship training are designed in a similar way to those for school-based VET. Framework curricula are laid down in analogy to company-based training.
Programmes at universities of applied sciences (UAS)
The initiative to modify existing or introduce new fields of study at UAS frequently comes from the business sphere. For the curriculum, which is prepared by a development team, an application for accreditation needs to be submitted to the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria (AQ Austria). An important part of this application is proof that the economy has a demand for graduates and the planned degree programme can expect demand from potential participants. This proof can be furnished, for example, in the form of needs and acceptance analyses. The accreditation of a degree programme is granted for a maximum of six years by the Ministry of Education following a decision by AQ Austria. During that time it is possible to make necessary adaptations by submitting change applications. Upon expiry of this period, it is necessary to submit an application for reaccreditation, which follows the same rules as the initial accreditation.
Continuing vocational education and training (CVET)
CVET finds it easiest to adjust programmes to skills requirements and to respond to the economy’s needs most quickly. Providers often cooperate with professional organisations and companies to tailor their offers to needs. They also use the information from skills needs analyses and the results of the New skills activities.
Quality assurance in VET is a highly differentiated and permanent process.
The regular updating of curricula and training plans is a major part of quality assurance and many other measures are taken to maintain the attractiveness of VET among learners and companies and to safeguard the recognition of the qualifications.
The VET Quality Initiative (QIBB) for school-based VET () was introduced in 2004, setting up the framework conditions in a way that successful teaching and learning is guaranteed. For this purpose, processes have been defined and instruments introduced which enable systematic planning, observation, documentation, evaluation of and reflection on the quality of procedures and results ( ).
Another major element of quality assurance at five-year school-based VET programmes is the partly standardised final examination, which was introduced in the school year 2015/16. It consists of standardised exams in the language of instruction (most often German, but also Slovene, Croatian and Hungarian), in applied mathematics and in a foreign language (English, French, Italian or Spanish). The assignments for these exams, as well as the duration and time of their implementation, are laid down centrally for the whole of Austria. The uniformly defined exam assignments and assessment criteria mainly aim to ensure the objectivity and reliability of the exam results and promote the transparency and comparability of the final exam.
In dual VET, many quality-assuring measures are carried out in addition to the regular adjustment of apprenticeship occupations to economic and technological developments. These measures include the accreditation of training companies: every company that wants to train apprentices is obliged to undergo an accreditation process. This consists of an examination by the apprenticeship office with the cooperation of the Chamber of Labour to check if the company meets the legal and corporate prerequisites for apprenticeship training to teach the knowledge and skills foreseen in the competence profile.
In 2013 the Ministry of Economy set up a clearing office for apprenticeship-leaving examinations at ibw Austria – Research and Development in VET (). This office’s main task is to safeguard a uniform quality standard by examining the assignments of the apprenticeship-leaving examination, the evaluation guidelines and proposed solutions for compliance with the respective examination regulation, subject-related correctness, practical relevance and didactic quality. The apprenticeship-leaving examination is organised by the apprenticeship offices and is taken before a board of examiners. This ensures that training and validation are separated, which significantly contributes to objectivity and quality assurance.
Also in 2013 the quality management in apprenticeship training initiative (QML) was launched by the social partners with the objective of reducing the number of apprenticeship dropouts and increasing the success rate in apprenticeship-leaving examinations. The QML builds on annually evaluated indicators of apprenticeship dropouts, the number of those who (do not) attempt to take the apprenticeship-leaving examination as well as (un)successful apprenticeship-leaving exams. In the case of apprenticeship occupations where the dropout rate or the failure rate in the apprenticeship-leaving examination are relatively high, more in-depth analyses are carried out jointly with the competent sectoral representations to find the reasons as far as possible and take related measures (such as adapting the in-company curricula, improving career guidance, and measures to support apprentices including private tutoring or coaching, IVET trainer courses, and supporting materials for training companies).
Quality-assurance measures are also taken in the post-secondary and tertiary sectors, as in the definition and implementation of master craftsperson and proof of competence examinations. The main basis for this is formed by the European guidelines on quality assurance in higher VET (), which have been developed in analogy to the Standards and guidelines for quality assurance in the European higher education area (ESG) with substantial involvement of Austria.
Validation of non-formal and informal (prior) learning is a topic gaining international importance. In Austria, major importance is traditionally attached to formal education qualifications from the school-based, dual and higher education sectors. However, learning also increasingly takes place outside formal education in adult learning institutions, on the job, and within the framework of voluntary activities. Rapid changes on the labour market – due to technology and globalisation – require a formal pathway to be followed by the need to learn, brush up and deepen existing knowledge. To promote competence acquisition outside the formal education context and encourage lifelong learning, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science, published a strategy to validate non-formal and informal learning in 2017 (). This strategy introduces a framework for the further development, coordination and network formation of existing validation approaches. The goal is to promote quality and foster trust as well as enhance visibility and access to validation offers.
There are various incentives for VET learners (or their families) irrespective of the type of education and training they have chosen ():
- for learners who have reached full legal age and attend a school or HE institution, family allowance is prolonged and still granted until their 24th birthday; in certain cases this entitlement can be further prolonged;
- learners for whom family allowance is received may apply to a public transport authority for free transport on the route between their home and school/training company (Schülerfreifahrt); in this case, they need to pay a flat-rate contribution of EUR 19.60 a year. Where no public means of transport is available, they may apply for a school or home commuting grant;
- required school textbooks are provided to learners free of charge;
- the Schooling Allowances Act (Schülerbeihilfengesetz) ( ) provides for the following three types of allowance:
- school allowance is granted to learners from grade 10 onwards who attend an upper secondary programme and are in need of financial support;
- boarding school and travel allowance (Heim- und Fahrtenbeihilfe) are offered to learners from grade 9 onwards, in case that they cannot stay in their parents’ house because the school location is too far away. Financial need must also be proven. The basic amounts of school allowance and boarding school allowance are EUR 1130 and EUR 1380 per year; they can be increased or reduced depending on financial needs. Travel allowance is EUR 105 per year. A further extraordinary allowance may be granted in cases of ‘social hardship’;
- special allowance is granted to learners, who have been working for at least one year and for the last six months before their final exam, where they stop working to prepare for the exam.
In IVET, the following financial incentives are available for apprentices ():
- apprentices can apply for state funding for attending a preparatory course for the apprenticeship-leaving examination (up to 100 % of the course fees);
- the second or third attempt to sit the apprenticeship-leaving examination is free of charge (no examination fees or material costs);
- language courses and foreign work placements organised within the Erasmus+ programme are part-funded by the state (EUR 15 per day).
Attending CVET programmes is financially supported (directly and indirectly) by the state, the provinces or municipalities. The social partners provide the following funding as do individual companies:
- provinces and municipalities, as well as social partners, provide funding for course fees in various forms (education cheques, educational accounts, education vouchers). Preferred funding target groups are employees, young people, and those at a disadvantage on their respective regional labour markets;
- companies often partly fund the CVET activities of their employers by providing direct funding or allowing their employers to attend courses during paid working hours;
- PES Austria finances skills training and retraining measures within the framework of active labour market policies;
- PES Austria is also responsible for the education leave scheme. Any employee who has been employed within the last twelve months for a minimum period of six months may take educational leave. During this, IVET or CVET as well as language courses may be attended, resumed or completed both in Austria and abroad. Written proof must be furnished that education measures of at least 16 to 20 weekly hours have been taken. During the leave period, subsidies are granted to the level of the unemployment benefit that the employee would get in the event of unemployment. There is a minimum and a maximum daily rate, depending on prior earnings;
- employees have the possibility to write off costs as expenses for occupationally relevant CVET measures when filing their tax returns at the end of each year.
In 2008 a new funding scheme was introduced for training companies offering apprenticeship posts. This scheme is not only intended to increase the number of apprenticeship posts offered but also improve the quality of training. Within this funding scheme, there are various types of support ():
- basic support (Basisförderung): every training company is entitled to basic support. This comprises three gross apprenticeship remunerations in line with the collective agreement in the first apprenticeship year, two in the second year, and one each in the third and fourth years. The training company can apply for basic support at the end of the respective apprenticeship year;
- training alliances and additional VET courses: subsidies also cover inter-company and supra-company VET measures and the acquisition of competences which go beyond the in-company curriculum. Attending a preparatory course for the apprenticeship-leaving exam can also be funded;
- apprenticeship for adults: the training of adults (18+) is funded if they are paid as unskilled workers, i.e. more than apprenticeship remuneration.
- companies where apprentices pass the apprenticeship-leaving exam with good results or distinction can also apply for grants;
- subsidies are also available for CET measures for IVET trainers;
- financial means are also available for measures taken for apprentices with learning difficulties (such as tutoring courses).
Other benefits cover non-wage labour costs:
- there are reduced rates for the company’s health insurance contribution for apprentices (3.35 % instead of 7.65 %) and for the unemployment insurance contribution (2.4 % instead of 6 %);
- the contribution to accident insurance for apprentices is waived throughout the entire apprenticeship.
Public Employment Service Austria (AMS) also runs apprenticeship post support schemes designed to integrate problem groups into the labour market. Companies receive a flat-rate grant towards the costs of an apprenticeship. The grant includes the following categories of apprentice:
- young women in apprenticeships with a low proportion of women (below 40%)
- disadvantaged apprenticeship post seekers (young people who have mental or physical disabilities or emotional problems, learning deficits, or who are socially maladjusted)
- adult apprentices (18+) with qualification/employment problems (e.g. dropouts)
In CVET, training providers can also receive subsidies in order to be able to offer courses free of charge. Two initiatives are relevant in connection to vocational training:
- adult learning initiative ( ): financed by national and ESF means, the aim is to enable young people and adults to acquire basic skills (reading skills, basic skills in German or in another language, mathematical and digital skills) and the compulsory schooling qualification free of charge.
- apprenticeship training and HE entrance exam ( ): from autumn 2008 apprentices can attend preparatory courses for the Berufsreifeprüfung (HE entrance examination for graduates of NQF level 4 VET qualifications) and take the four partial exams free of charge.
There is considerable diversity of institutions, providers and initiatives in the field of information, counselling and guidance on learning and occupations. The main providers are the education institutions, the public employment service and the social partners. Counselling and guidance is offered at the following levels in education institutions:
(a) all schools of lower and upper secondary level offer counselling and guidance from the fifth school grade through counsellors and career guidance officers. They are available for schoolchildren and parents and provide information about possible education paths, access requirements, as well as the qualifications and entitlements to be acquired. They also give young people a basic overview of continuing education and training options. Guidance is conducted by teachers who have the relevant qualifications and who are termed, depending on the school type, school counsellor (Schülerberater/in) or education counsellor (Bildungsberater/in) and provide their counselling services in addition to their teaching activity. In the final two years of lower secondary level, career guidance is a compulsory subject totalling 32 hours a year. The aim of these lessons includes improving the learners’ decision-making competence, social skills, determination and perseverance. Short periods of work placement at companies and personal contacts with people from different occupations aim to help learners examine their career aspirations and take independent decisions;
(b) career guidance plays a particularly important role at prevocational schools as this school type is at the interface between obligatory and further schooling. Career guidance aims to inform learners and parents about regional possibilities in apprenticeship training and, in vocational guidance classes, prepares them for so-called real-life encounters (such as days of practical work experience) as well as important information events and job information fairs;
(c) in school-based VET programmes at upper secondary level (BMS and BHS) () teachers with specialist qualifications also work as career guidance officers. Learners at BMS and BHS have already taken their first decision about their professional career. But, thanks to the good level of general education provided at schools, the entire range of professional development options is also open to them;
(d) most universities offer both psychological counselling offices and career planning centres, bodies which are within the sphere of responsibility of the science ministry. The psychological student counselling services at universities and university of applied sciences (Fachhochschule) offer general course guidance, psychological counselling, psychotherapy, aptitude diagnostics, coaching, and supervision, etc. to holders of the upper secondary school-leaving certificate and HE students. Career planning centres at universities support students on their entry into the world of work by offering one-to-one counselling, information events on topics such as job applications and CVs, as well as individualised career planning. The centres also organise seminars on areas such as presentation techniques, rhetoric and IT, as well as events such as careers fairs and company presentations;
(e) in the CET sector education counselling and career guidance is becoming increasingly important. This is particularly evident in the establishment of comprehensive education databases (http://www.ams.at/lehrstellen jointly with the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber.), an Austria-wide platform for education counselling, and the merger of institutions to guarantee independent and supra-institutional information and guidance services. Major adult learning establishments, such as the institutions run by the social partners frequently offer their own guidance services. More than 60 career guidance centres (BIZ) of AMS offer comprehensive information about occupations, their contents and requirements, about initial education and training, CET paths, the labour market and employment options across Austria. Apart from information material in the form of brochures, information leaflets and videos, The Public Employment Service Austria (AMS) also develops information databases on occupations and on initial and continuing education and training programmes for different target groups ( ). For apprenticeship post seekers, AMS operates the online apprenticeship post platform
EURES (European job mobility portal) advisors who are employed at AMS provide information about job offers and working conditions in other countries of the European Economic Area. Anyone who is interested can use the information and service offers provided by BIZ free of charge. Print media, videos and online databases are available for customers to obtain information themselves. For young people in need of career guidance there is a selection of tools (e.g. the compass for apprenticeship occupations, interest test). The advisors working at BIZ provide support in information search and are available for one-on-one counselling talks to assist in career and education decisions. BIZ also provides services for specific target groups (learners, teachers, parents) and on specific topics (career guidance, presentations of occupations, job applications, days of technology for girls). AMS offers one-on-one counselling talks for people registered as unemployed. These talks aim to match the jobseekers’ personal requirements, strengths and intentions with the situation on the labour market. There is also the possibility to take part in training programmes and courses (vocational guidance courses, training for job applications, job trials, skills training and qualification courses). In special cases, (young) women can take advantage of assistance in career choice, skills training and qualification. AMS also supports school-based information activities by means of a large number of brochures, career guidance films, occupational information and CET databases on the internet, and by organising events and trade fairs.
The different chambers offer education counselling and career guidance. The chambers of labour and trade unions provide these services mainly via their joint adult learning institutions: the vocational training institutes (bfi). They publish information material and organise information events. The counselling services of the economic chambers and their adult education institutions, the institutes for economic promotion (WIFIs), focus on IVET and CVET. These services are offered across Austria at several locations in the BIZ. With the career guidance tool () the economic chambers have their own web portal where job descriptions, VET and CVET options, tips on career choice and job applications, as well as a large variety of service materials, are offered, in some cases in several languages. The career guidance centres of the Economic Chambers provide comprehensive information material on a self-service basis and organise events geared towards the world of work, such as sector presentations, school and information events, as well as training for job applications. As well as information for groups (such as school classes), one-on-one counselling talks are also offered. The institutes for economic promotion’s career guidance officers offer individualised counselling services on the basis of comprehensive psychological testing procedures ( ).
- Guidance and outreach Austria national report ( )
- Cedefop’s labour market intelligence toolkit ( ).