The project QuABB (Capacity building for students, companies and vocational schools involved in apprenticeship-training) provides a collection of tools for the identification of apprentices at risk of early leaving, and guidance to trainers, VET teachers and parents to deal with this situation.


The early warning system targets the four main actors close enough to the apprentice and the apprenticeship’s evolvement to notice warning signals: apprentices, parents, trainers in the enterprises providing the enterprise-based part of the apprenticeship, and teachers in VET schools providing the compulsory school-based part of the apprenticeship.

The target group of the counselling guidelines are counsellors and the relevant scientific community.

The target group of the assistance for enterprises are all trainers involved in enterprise-based apprenticeships.


Country/ies or organisation that developed the tool

Implemented by the Institute for Vocational Training, Labour Market and Social Policy – INBAS (Germany)

Date of creation of toolkit and periodicity of updates

The project was piloted in 2009-15 in selected locations. Since 1 July 2015, QuABB is run as a state programme in all regions of Hesse.

The early warning toolkit was introduced in 2011, the assistance for companies tool in 2015, and the counselling guidelines in 2016. 

Purpose of the toolkit

The aim of the early warning toolkit is to prevent drop-outs in dual education (VET) and secure an immediate perspective after drop-outs, if inevitable. It provides:

  • guidance on how to identify and monitor early school leavers or those at risk of early school leaving
  • sensitisation of all involved apprenticeship trainers and trainees
  • provision of recommendations in order to resolve upcoming troubles

The additional tools present the following purposes:

  • Counselling guidelines: a guidebook to assist practitioners throughout the guidance and counselling process.
  • Assistance for enterprises: giving quick and practical assistance for problems in the workaday life of enterprise-based apprenticeships (short version) and providing comprehensive information on handling trainees and early warning signals (long version).

Description of each of the tools

The early warning toolkit contains a collection of 30 tools. One third of them aim at providing information and raising awareness of concerned parties (apprentices, VET teachers, trainers, parents). The following list reports the tools’ names:

Tools for apprentices:

  • rights and duties of apprentices
  • frequently occurring legal questions in VET
  • information on support during apprenticeships available in case of low grades
  • conversation guide for apprentices to address problems and solve conflicts related to apprenticeship
  • handout for apprentices for the documentation of overtime
  • guidance in case of dismissal or conciliation
  • mood barometer
  • information on regional counselling offers in VET (hotline service)
  • up-to-date information on starting an apprenticeship and financial support during the apprenticeship

Tools for company trainers:

  • checklist of ’weak signals’ to recognise of early pointers to problems during apprenticeships including guidelines
  • booklet on drop-outs entitled ‘Learning together’
  • guidelines for contact/dealing with apprentices, in general and in case of conflicts
  • guidelines for finding apprentices who meet the enterprise’s expectations
  • welcoming culture and the start of the apprenticeship
  • conversation guide for discussions on conflicts
  • notification system of the early warning signal of ‘poor results in interim examination’
  • rights and duties of apprentices
  • frequently occurring legal questions in VET
  • an annex to the apprenticeship contract - template enterprise rules
  • apprenticeship agenda for trainers with overview of all relevant deadlines

Tools for VET teachers:

  • checklist of ‘weak signals’ to recognise early pointers to problems during apprenticeships including guidelines
  • indicator hand-out on the early warning system for ‘school’
  • instruction module ‘apprenticeship drop-outs’
  • instruction module ‘apprenticeship drop-outs and motivations’
  • instruction module ‘rights and duties during the apprenticeship’
  • instruction module ‘conflicts during the apprenticeship’
  • instruction module ‘what is a good class?’

Tools for parents:

  • information on recognising weak signals
  • letter to parents
  • guidance in case of dismissal or conciliation

The Counselling guidelines are a document aimed at consultants who train apprentices, but also at other counsellors in education and employment. It provides advice on the target group (at-risk students), the social context of contract dissolution and the different phases of how to prevent drop-outs by supporting, counselling and consulting.

The assistance to enterprises is a practical aid for training personnel. The document includes comprehensive information on how to deal with students and for the early detection of problems, as well as templates for practical use. Another element of the tool provides rapid and pragmatic action aids for daily operations.

Type of indicators used in the identification of learners at risk of early leaving

Mood barometer:

The mood barometer is discussed in class. Its purpose is to receive a snapshot of the emotional situation of the class and to enter into conversation with apprentices with negative moods.

The checklist of ‘weak signals’ helps to recognise early pointers to problems during apprenticeships, in order to put in place countermeasures (these are listed in next section):

  • insufficient results for practical tasks/examinations
  • weak performance in school
  • frequent tardiness
  • unexcused absence/frequent notification of sickness
  • striking, massive or sudden change of behaviour
  • change in the social environment of the apprentice
  • conflict with other apprentices, colleagues or supervisors
  • repeated disobedience in relation to job orders
  • private problems (conflict with parents or partner, debt, living situation, etc.)
  • frustration arising from apprenticeship-related failures
  • aggressiveness and losing control on small issues and frequently moodiness or anger
  • inability to communicate, quietness and chosen loneliness

Early warning signal of ‘poor results in interim examination’ (Zwischenpruefung): Poor results (below 50% of possible points) leads to the State Medical Chamber of Hesse (responsible for examinations) sending an information letter on available support options offered by QUABB and furthermore assistance.

Instruction modules on drop-outs serve to raise awareness about conflict situations and their consequences and to introduce VET teachers and trainers in the enterprises, as contact persons in case of conflict: case studies about conflict situations. Apprentices then answer questions related to the cases individually and within the group.

Type of guidance given to users

In case of weak signals, trainers, VET teachers and parents are advised to:

  • have a conversation with the apprentice to explore reasons, consequences, solutions and goals
  • lead this conversation in private
  • elaborate solutions together with the apprentice
  • take a role as mediators in case of conflict with colleagues

The conversation guidelines help parties address problems and solve conflicts related to apprenticeship, prepare for the conversation and identify causes for the conflict, as well as possible solutions during the conversation. The following rules should be adhered to during the conversation:

  • Everybody is allowed to finish speaking.
  • Everybody remains objective and tries to express arguments clearly.
  • Everybody speaks for themselves: there is no apportioning of blame.
  • The conversation is an exchange, not monologues.
  • The parties try to understand the others’ situation and find a common solution.

The information ‘welcoming culture and the start of the apprenticeship’ explains the importance of providing a good apprenticeship start by making the apprentice feel welcome, and thereafter having clear monitoring and goals. The following tips are provided in the toolkit:

  • Make the first day of the apprenticeship an unforgettable ‘professional birthday’
  • Let the apprentice feel that he or she is welcome, reserve some time for her or him. If you do not have time, appoint a contact person who will be responsible for her or him.
  • Introduce the apprentice to all colleagues, both in the workshop and the offices.
  • Show the apprentice the entire company, from the basement to the roof.
  • Explain the learning modules step by step – now is the time to hand over and explain the documentation booklet.
  • The working day is long, take some breaks.
  • Point to rules bit by bit.
  • Increase your expectations slowly: a few days in the company help to decrease insecurities.
  • Doing small tasks typical for the occupation helps for having a good start – it makes proud and motivates.

Source of information of the different tools

The tools were compiled and field-tested through a multi-annual process within the programme, by an interdisciplinary workgroup (teachers, counsellors, training experts), managed by an expert of the Institute for Vocational Training, Labour Market and Social Policy (research consultancy). Tools were partly collected and exchanged with other programmes and organisations throughout Germany, aiming at the same goal (tackling early leaving from VET). This professional mutual interchanging process helped attain the programme goal.

Link/s to the toolkit and further information


Project QuABB