3.4 Career guidance and counselling
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Germany has a broad variety of labour market policy instruments that can be used to establish the key recommendations of the EU Youth Guarantee. The recommendations suggested have largely been taken up and implemented. See also the assessment of the Youth Guarantee implementation in Germany (October 2020).
Main providers and partnerships
Programmes and schemes for career guidance and counselling are legal services anchored in Book 3 of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB III). They already take place during schooling and continue when young people leave school. Employment agencies (Agenturen für Arbeit) exist across the country and provide career guidance and counselling. They offer advice as a group service for entire school classes or on a one-on-one basis.
Employment agencies work together with professional bodies and businesses to give young people an insight into working life, for example by offering work placements for students in years 9 and 10.
The federal states (Länder) ensure that programmes and schemes offering career guidance and help with the transition from school to work are properly coordinated in their region. The federal government and the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA) support the Länder and local authorities in improving and extending partnerships between schools, employment agencies, job centres and youth welfare organisations.
Young people can also visit the job information centres (Berufsinformationszentren) run by the employment agencies. Some centres also offer an online chat service. They offer personal counselling for the under-25s. The agencies also organise events (talks, fairs, information events), where young people can learn about career opportunities.
BA and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) provide online career counselling services:
- planet-beruf.de – A BA website on topics relating to career choice, applications and training. For lower secondary school pupils aged 13 to 17 years.
- abi.de – A BA website on university studies, vocational training and careers after gaining an Abitur university entrance qualification.
- berufe.tv – A video portal provided by BA with over 300 short films on apprenticed professions and study careers.
- berufsfeld-info.de – A BA service offering information on all sorts of careers.
- Dropped out - what now? (Studienabbruch – und dann?) – A portal by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research with information for students who are questioning their choices on training options both within and outside of universities as well as information and support services for students who want to change their course of study, drop out of university and enter vocational training.
Federal government initiatives and campaigns
The Educational Chains Initiative (Initiative Bildungsketten) is a joint project by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales, BMAS) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF). Young people are supported on their journey to employment. The aim is to guide every young individual who is ready and old enough to start an apprenticeship (ideally) through to the successful completion of their training. Various promotional tools are available across Germany: analysis of potential, career guidance, mentoring the transition into work, voluntary coaching (the VerA initiative to reduce the apprenticeship drop-out risk) and schemes for the transition from school to work. Agreements have already been signed with the federal states, including Hamburg, Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia. (See also the section “Integration of young people into the labour market”, specifically “Youth employment measures”).
- The Vocational Orientation Programme (Berufsorientierungsprogramm) is part of Bildungsketten initiative (since 2008). This programme is mainly for pupils in years 7 and 8. They can test their strengths using potential analysis tool then try out different occupational fields. Between 2008 and summer 2020, the programme will have reached 1.5 million school pupils. Funding committed through to May 2020: 600 million euros.
Girls' Day and the Boys' Day (funded by BMFSFJ) are nationwide career guidance days offering career guidance and help with future plans for girls and boys in year 5 and above. Between 2001 and 2019, 1,978,901 places were made available for girls in a total of 147,944 organisations and companies. Boys’ Day was only introduced in 2011. Between 2011 and 2019, 287,511 boys took part in the campaign in 2,154 organisations and companies.
Career guidance initiatives in the federal states (Länder)
North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) runs an initiative called no school-leaving certificate without future prospects (Kein Abschluss ohne Anschluss, KAoA) to offer specific help for young people transitioning from school to work. As of 2012, school pupils in NRW can access career guidance services that include analyses of their potential, introductions to occupational fields and work placements. In the 2018/2019 school year, 91% of all suitable schools in NRW participated.
Choosing the right career at an early stage (BRAFO – Berufswahl richtig angehen frühzeitig orientieren) is a joint initiative in Saxony-Anhalt of the State of Saxony-Anhalt and the regional directorate for Saxony-Anhalt/Thuringia of the Federal Employment Agency (Regionaldirektion Sachsen-Anhalt/Thüringen der Bundesagentur für Arbeit). It promotes early career choices among year 7 and 8 students at secondary schools, comprehensives and schools for children with learning difficulties.
'SCHAU REIN! – Die Woche der offenen Unternehmen' is Saxony’s largest initiative for hands-on career orientation. It encourages pupils in year 7 and above to choose their preferred occupation and is an opportunity for them to meet face to face with apprentices and employees. It is supported by the Free State of Saxony, the regional directorate for Saxony of the Federal Employment Agency (Regionaldirektion Sachsen der Bundesagentur für Arbeit), the Saxon Chamber of Industry and Commerce (Landesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Industrie- und Handelskammern im Freistaat Sachsen) and the Saxon chambers of crafts and trades (Sächsischer Handwerkstag).
Future Day (Zukunftstag) for girls and boys in the state of Brandenburg is a one-day hands-on opportunity to get advice on a career or university degree. Pupils in years 7 to 10 spend a day getting to know various occupations. The programme is funded by the state of Brandenburg, specifically the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health, Women and Family (Ministerium für Arbeit, Soziales, Gesundheit, Frauen und Familie) and the European Social Fund (ESF).
The career orientation project BOGEN in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania develops and designs models for gender-reflected career and university degree guidance that go beyond the Girls’ Day and Boys’ Day events in the state. The programme is funded by the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, specifically the Ministry of Social Affairs, Integration and Equality (Ministerium für Soziales, Integration und Gleichstellung) and the European Social Fund (ESF).
Main user of services / target groups
Career guidance and counselling services are open to all young people. The vocational guidance experts at the Federal Employment Agency bureaus advise pupils from all types of schools as well as apprentices, students and university graduates.
Special target groups: NEETs, young migrants, young members of the immigrant community, young refugees, young disadvantaged people (without or with a (poor) Hauptschulabschluss (lower-level secondary school leaving certificate), young people with a disability or special educational needs.
There are several ministries at federal and regional level that provide funding for career guidance and counselling as described above. Funding from the European Social Fund is also deployed. It is not possible to provide a single number here as funding comes from different sources and ministries.
Actualspending in 2019 on career guidance programmes in accordance with Section 48 of Book 3 of the Social Code: 59.34 million euros.
Further information about funding initiatives at federal (national), Länder (state) and EU level for career guidance, career preparation, vocational training, transitions and additional training is available in the database of the Office for Transitions to Training and Work (Fachstelle Übergänge in Ausbildung und Beruf) and in the following sections of the Youth Wiki chapter on Employment & Entrepreneurship:
- Traineeships and apprenticeships > Funding
- Integration of young people in the labour market > Funding of existing schemes/initiatives
There are no general quality assurance systems in place for career guidance and counselling services in Germany.
Section 29 et seq. and Section 288a et seq. of Book 3 of the Social Code (Employment support) (Sozialgesetzbuch – Drittes Buch, SGB III – Arbeitsförderung) contain principles applicable to counselling, including career guidance and labour market counselling, which must be followed by employment agencies. The Federal Employment Agency sets basic mandates and targets in its instructions on quality assurance tools and the enhancement of processes in its customer portal. It has also issued a series of guidelines that apply to career counselling for young people under the age of 25.
The BA careers service guides young people throughout the process of choosing a career. It helps them to identify their strengths, provides information on careers and on apprenticeship opportunities, and assists them in getting access to the career they want. The service is low-threshold, neutral, gender-sensitive, appropriate to the target groups and their needs, accounts for each case individually, and is results-oriented. The methods applied are based on the BA’s counselling concept (Beratungskonzeption).
Twice a year, the BA centre for customer and employee surveys (Zentrum für Kunden- und Mitarbeiterbefragungen der Bundesagentur für Arbeit, ZKM) carries out surveys among under-25s who have used the counselling services provided by employment agencies. The results are analysed and given to employment agencies to help them improve their services. In 2016 for the first and to date only time, schools were questioned on the subject of career guidance. The aim is to keep this quality assurance process in place.
BA also supports external quality assurance systems, such as the career choice seal of approval (Berufswahlsiegel). The scheme helps to ensure that quality in schools is improved continually. It is awarded to schools with excellent career and study guidance programmes.
Section 14 of the Framework Act for Higher Education (Hochschulrahmengesetz) requires higher education establishments to tell students and prospective students about the study courses available and the content, structure and demands of a degree. The Act also stipulates that higher education establishments must support students throughout their entire studies by offering professional advisory services. Universities must cooperate with the bodies responsible for career counselling when providing study counselling.
Quality standards exist for carrying out analyses of potential as part of the vocational orientation programme of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for pupils in years 7 and 8.
From 2009 to 2014, the German National Guidance Forum (Nationales Forum Beratung, nfb) and the research group for quality and professionalism in career guidance (Forschungsgruppe Beratungsqualität) at the Institute of Educational Science at Heidelberg University (Institut für Bildungswissenschaft der Universität Heidelberg, IBW) developed a Quality and Professionalism in Career Guidance and Counselling concept (Beratungsqualität in Bildung, Beruf und Beschäftigung, BeQu). The concept helps advisors, counselling services, politics and public administrations to keep improving quality and uphold professionalism in their own areas. It contains cross-functional and cross-institutional quality standards. No plans are in place at present to apply the concept nationwide. At the moment, individual associations, institutions and other agencies apply the standards and work in line with the BeQu system. To date there is no systematic and continuous feedback from the users of the BeQu concept. No conclusions have yet been drawn from the results of the accompanying research project or an online survey.