3.5 Traineeships and apprenticeships
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Germany has a wide range of vocational training programmes, which are supplemented by the support programmes of pre-vocational training and traineeships. In vocational training, a distinction should be made between the dual system of vocational education and training and school-based vocational training.
Dual vocational training takes place in companies, and trainees are required to attend a vocational school during the training period. While the company is responsible for the practical training, the vocational school provides theoretical training and knowledge of the apprenticeship occupation. Training takes between two and three and a half years and ends with a state-recognised qualification. During the training period, the apprentice receives a contractually agreed training allowance. The amount varies according to occupation. It is typically determined by a collective agreement.
School-based training takes place in technical colleges, vocational schools, specialised academies and other vocational schools. They are for designed professions that can only be learnt at a school, e.g. nursing and education. Training covers full-time schooling and also includes traineeships. The schools at which training takes place have different legal entry requirements, depending on federal state and profession. Training takes between one and three and a half years, depending on training programme and federal state. Training at a state technical college or a vocational school or other educational institution is free of charge. Private schools usually charge a school fee.
The Vocational Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz, BBiG) regulates pre-vocational training, the dual system of training, continuing vocational training and retraining in Germany. The Vocational Training Act sets out the provisions, targets and scope of vocational training in Germany. Apprentices are entitled to a minimum wage for all training contracts concluded after 31 December 2019, as regulated in the BBiG. An exception applies to training companies bound by collective agreements, which can pay their trainees the collectively agreed training allowances applicable to them for the duration of the relevant collective agreement.
Other laws relevant to vocational training include:
- Book 3 of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB III)
- Trade and Crafts Code (Handwerksordnung, HWO)
- Young Persons (Protection of Employment) Act (Jugendarbeitsschutzgesetz, JArbSchG)
- Works Constitution Act (Betriebsverfassungsgesetz, BetrVG)
The education laws in the respective federal states (Länder) apply to the school-based part of vocational training.
For the dual system of vocational education and training, training regulations (Ausbildungsordnung) are the applicable standard for the practical element of training, while for the school-based part of training the general curriculum (Rahmenlehrplan) applies. The regulations cover the job profile, and the training and examination standards. Examples of training regulations and general curricula for apprenticed professions can be found on the website of GOVET, the German Office for International Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training.
Apprentices receive a training allowance throughout their training. The amount varies according to industry. At the beginning of 2020, the amendment of the Vocational Training Act introduced a minimum pay for apprentices for newly concluded company-based and non-company-based vocational training relationships. However, lower pay for apprentices may also be laid down by collective agreements in future. The Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) provides a nationwide overview of training allowances.
During their training, apprentices pay contributions to all branches of social insurance (health, pensions, unemployment, long-term care). Accident insurance contributions are usually paid by the employer. Whether or not apprentices pay taxes depends on their training allowance and tax bracket (Lohnsteuerklasse).
Through the budget of the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA), the federal government provides support to apprentices undergoing in-company or extra-company but not school-based vocational training in the form of a vocational training grant (Berufsausbildungsbeihilfe).
Depending on their financial situation, apprentices completing school-based training can claim financial assistance (Ausbildungsförderung) according to the Federal Training Assistance Act (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz, BAföG).
There is no binding legal definition of traineeships (Praktika). The purpose of traineeships is to give trainees an insight into professional practice, familiarise them with processes, and give them the opportunity to gain expertise. The traineeship contract sets out the goals, start date and length of the traineeship, and arrangements on working hours, holiday entitlement and traineeship allowance.
Since 2015, young trainees aged 18 or over have been entitled to the minimum wage if the traineeship lasts over three months. Trainees who earn a minimum wage must pay tax and social insurance contributions.
In many federal states, pupils in years 9 or 10 are required to do a work experience placement or traineeship (Schülerpraktika).
For students, traineeships (mandatory traineeships) are often a required part of many university courses. A traineeship or work placement often has to be completed before the start of the course, in which case it is known as a pre-study traineeship (Vorpraktikum). Mandatory traineeships during a degree count towards the actual degree programme.
Cooperation with social partners
In the Alliance for Initial and Further Training (Allianz für Aus- und Weiterbildung), the federal ministries, the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit), the federal states, trade associations and trade unions pledged to create a high-quality dual system of vocational education and training to integrate young people into in-company training. The Alliance for Initial and Further Training aims to strengthen the attractiveness, quality, effectiveness and integration capacity of the dual system of vocational training.
The partners of the Alliance for Initial and Further Training have agreed on the following key fields of action:
- to bring together more companies and young people and keep them in training.
- to further enhance the attractiveness and quality of the dual training system, and jointly promote vocational education.
- to improve professional development and promote advanced / higher vocational education.
Link with the EU Youth Guarantee
The Youth Guarantee (Jugendgarantie) is a commitment by all EU Member States to ensure that all young people under the age of 30 receive a good-quality offer of:
- an apprenticeship
- a traineeship
- further training opportunities
The Youth Guarantee aims to help young people start working life as soon as possible.
Germany has a wide range of labour market policy instruments that can be used to implement the key recommendations of the EU Youth Guarantee. According to the European Commission's assessment of the implementation of the Youth Guarantee in Germany in 2020, implementation progress is well advanced.
The measures recommended by the EU Youth Guarantee have largely been addressed and implemented in Germany. The Federal Employment Agency (BA) supports these measures with a range of instruments.
The mentoring system to facilitate the transition to the labour market (Berufseinstiegsbegleitung) can offer support to young people who:
- are at risk of leaving school without a qualification,
- are looking for an apprenticeship place,
- are in the first six months of training.
The mentoring system (Berufseinstiegsbegleitung) can also provide support if personal problems make successful training difficult.
The Federal Employment Agency's pre-vocational training scheme (Berufsvorbereitende Bildungsmaßnahme, BvB) prepares young people for vocational training and connects in-company traineeships to practical and theoretical instruction with an educational institution. This scheme is particularly suitable for young people who
- are no longer required by law to attend school and who do not yet have a training place.
- have no school-leaving qualification, which they may be able to obtain during the BvB.
- have lost their training place and are looking for a new direction.
For young people who have completed compulsory schooling but do not know how to get an apprenticeship or qualification, the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) provides training-related assistance (Aktivierungshilfen für Jüngere) that enables them to try out different occupational fields. The young participants receive supervision and help if they have problems.
Under certain conditions, young people who have not found an apprenticeship can take part in a longer BA-funded introductory training programme (Einstiegsqualifizierung) lasting between six and twelve months to prepare them for vocational training. Participants receive a monthly traineeship allowance and are covered by social insurance. The training time may count towards a subsequent apprenticeship.
The assisted training system (Assistierte Ausbildung, AsA) helps young people find and successfully complete vocational training.
For young people who cannot find an in-company training place and are disadvantaged on the training market, extra-company training (außerbetriebliche Ausbildung, BaE) is an option. This form of training takes place primarily with an educational institution rather than in a company.
During a school-based traineeship, pupils put together a traineeship portfolio where they document what they have learned and done during the traineeship. The trainees receive a traineeship certificate that is added to the portfolio.
University examination regulations normally require university students completing a mandatory traineeship to write a traineeship report, which forms the basis for their performance record.
There are no rules concerning the documentation of a voluntary traineeship. According to Section 26 of the Vocational Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz), trainees are considered employees so they, too, are entitled to a traineeship certificate.
Young people training for a recognised apprenticed profession take an exam at the end of their training. This is regulated in Section 37 of the Vocational Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz). According to Section 16 of the Vocational Training Act, they receive a traineeship certificate if they pass their exams. The training certificate serves as proof of acquired skills and competences and can be used for job applications.
The European Credit Transfer System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET), which is established in Europe, is a transparency instrument that makes it possible to compare vocational competencies acquired in international mobility projects across Europe. It offers support to anyone participating in cross-border mobilities. ECVET allows valid statements to be made about acquired skills and competencies across all national qualification systems and is used primarily in the context of international mobility. A national contact point offers advice on using and applying the ECVET system in programmes and international mobility activities.
The dual system of vocational education and training is financed both publicly – from the federal budget and the budgets of the federal states (Länder) – and privately, as training providers themselves pay training allowances and cover the costs of providing training personnel and equipment. The data report, which supplements the Vocational Education and Training Report (Datenreport zum Berufsbildungsbericht 2022), p. 236 ff, provides information on the public spending of the federal ministries, the Federal Employment Agency, the federal states (Länder) and municipalities. In-company traineeships are generally not financed with public funds, with the exception of the introductory training programmes (Einsteigsqualifizierungen) which are financed by the Federal Employment Agency. For more information about this funding instrument, see also section 2 "Promotion of traineeships and apprenticeships" in this chapter.
For more information on the funding of vocational education and training, see also the following sections of the Youth Wiki chapter on Employment & Entrepreneurship:
- Career guidance and counselling: Funding
- Integration of young people in the labour market: Funding of programmes and initiatives
In the funding period 2021-2027, the European Social Fund (ESF) will finance programmes that improve the training and labour market opportunities of people from the immigrant community, support disadvantaged young people, help small and medium-sized enterprises secure skilled workers, contribute towards the demographic, digital and green transition and support entrepreneurs.
The European Commission approved the ESF Plus Federal Programme for the 2021-2027 funding period on 5 May 2022. A total of around 4.6 billion euros is available for the implementation of the federal government's ESF Plus programme for a period of seven years, around 2.2 billion euros of which are ESF-Plus funds. Information on the planned funding priorities is available on the BMAS website.
The federal states (Länder) also make use of the European Social Fund in their own support programmes, as demonstrated here in an example from North Rhine-Westphalia.
The European Social Fund and Just Transition Fund (JTF) have made a total of around 680 million euros available to the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia for the funding period 2021-2027. In the coming years, these funds will be used to finance programmes and initiatives to combat the skilled labour shortage.
Issues relating to quality assurance in vocational education and training are relevant at both national and European level. Existing legislation, such as the Vocational Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz), Crafts and Trade Codes (Handwerksordnungen) and training regulations (Ausbildungsgordnungen) comply mainly with the recommendations of the European Council through a quality framework for traineeships and define minimum training standards. Work experience placements or traineeships for pupils (Schülerpraktika) or mandatory traineeships (Pflichtpraktika) are governed by school (Schulordnungen), training and study regulations (Studienordnungen). For more information on legal regulations governing school traineeships and vocational training, see Chapter 3.5 "Regulatory framework and officiaI guidelines for traineeships and apprenticeships".
The 16 federal states are each responsible for their own vocational schools and full-time college-based vocational education and training. The majority of the federal states work with quality management mechanisms in vocational education and training, and in many cases regional variants have been developed. The federal states also have their own education reporting systems. The contact and service point for questions relating to quality assurance and development in vocational education and training is the German Reference Point for Quality Assurance in VET (DEQA-VET) at the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung, BIBB). It also provides an overview of the different programmes, concepts and instruments in the individual federal states.