More than half of all school graduates, about 522 000 young people, started an apprenticeship (‘dual system’) in 2014, 1.3% less than in 2013.

The overall situation for apprenticeship has slightly improved, with more places on offer for applicants, but for many it is still very difficult to find a suitable placement. Education and labour ministers have said that more young people have to be placed in apprenticeships faster.
"The prospects of obtaining an apprenticeship placement were never as high as they are now", said Federal Education Minister Johanna Wanka during the presentation of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) Report 2015. Yet, 20 900 applicants failed to find an apprenticeship placement by end of September 2014. 60 300 bridged the gap by taking up a prevocational education scheme, a work placement or an entry-level vocational qualification while continuing their search for an apprenticeship placement.
"Prevention instead of repair is the common catchphrase", said Federal Labour Minister Andrea Nahles. Both ministers called on businesses to provide VET also for youth holding a lower secondary education school qualification (Hauptschule). Small businesses, they said, can make use of coaching that supports engaging and training young people with learning difficulties.
Currently, growing numbers of small businesses choose not to provide VET. They often struggle to keep up with medium-sized and large businesses in the competition for apprenticeship applicants.

The federal government offers different programmes nationwide, said Federal Labour Minister Nahles.
The Bildungsketten (educational chains) programme with a budget of EUR  1.3 billion supports individual skills audits and professional information and orientation for 500 000 pupils. In future, these analyses will be carried out also in the eleventh grade of grammar schools.
With a budget of EUR 1 billion, the employment agencies can support 113 000 young people in 3 000 schools on their path to taking up an apprenticeship. This support for pupils who perform less well is provided a year prior to completing school.
In the training year 2015/16, the federal employment agency will initially provide up to 10 000 apprenticeship placements with specific assistance for disadvantaged young people. Apprentices and businesses receive support throughout the entire apprenticeship. The national government has created the necessary legal framework to increase the number of apprentices receiving this type of support.
Municipal youth and social services are strengthening their cooperation with employment agencies to ensure apprenticeship for particularly disadvantaged youth. There is also a specific programme (KAUSA, Koordinierungsstelle Ausbildung und Migration) that supports young immigrants in their apprenticeships.
A large number of businesses did not fill their apprenticeship positions: about 37 100 remained unfilled, 10% more than in the previous year and a new record high. The trend affects industry, commerce and skilled trades alike. Apprenticeship placements for restaurant specialists, salespersons specialising in food and systems catering specialists, plumbers, butchers, bakers, chemists, animal caretakers, chefs and industrial cleaners are positions remaining unfilled. Increasingly, young people's career aspirations, the regionally different range of occupations on offer and the demands placed on applicants lead to mismatch.
In December 2014, the national government, the federal states (Länder), industry, unions and the federal employment agency joined forces in the 2015–18 vocational and advanced training alliance  (Allianz für Aus- und Weiterbildung 2015 – 2018)  They intend to help all young people interested in an apprenticeship to obtain a professional qualification as fast as possible. Taking responsibility for improving the match between applicants and businesses providing VET, they give clear priority to   company-based apprenticeships.
256 110 youth started a transitional programme instead of an apprenticeship: this is 160 000 fewer than in 2005 but still too many. Almost half of the learners hold a lower secondary education leaving certificate, while about 21% have no school-leaving qualification. They can catch up on completing a lower secondary education leaving qualification by  attending training courses, completing a vocational preparation year, an entry qualification, or educational programmes at vocational colleges.
On completion, 42% of participants started a regular apprenticeship within six months, more than half after 14 months and 70% in total after 38 months.

VET increasingly competes with universities in recruiting young talent. The national government supports industry initiatives, for example, the skilled trades’ initiative, to attract youth with a university entrance qualification and university drop-outs to the dual system. Following a shortened apprenticeship programme, university drop-outs can immediately continue with advanced training. The 'jobstarter plus' programme supports such projects. This way, VET offers good career prospects for them as future VET specialists and executives.

More information:

Sources: German government,, press release, revised by iMOVE and Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), BIBB website, revised by ReferNet Germany

Every year Germany publishes a comprehensive report on vocational education and training (VET). It is accompanied by a data report which includes detailed analyses of initial and continuing training, provides a summary of national government and federal state VET funding programmes and also covers international indicators and benchmarks.

The 2014 VET data report provides valuable insights into the German VET system and contributes to the debate on the role of VET in the economy and society. It is meant to support the understanding of the German VET system by practitioners, decision makers and researchers from abroad.

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