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Germany has a broad variety of labour market policy instruments that can be used to implement the key recommendations of the EU Youth Guarantee.
The Vocational Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz) sets out the provisions, targets and scope of vocational training in Germany, including the requirement to conclude a training contract, the type, structure and aim of the training, and the entitlement to a training allowance.
Further important laws relating to vocational training:
- Book 3 of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch (SGB) Drittes Buch (III))
- Trade and Crafts Code (Handwerksordnung, HwO)
- Trainer aptitude regulations (Ausbilder-Eignungsverordnung, AEVO)
- Young Persons (Protection of Employment) Act (Jugendarbeitsschutzgesetz, JArbSchG)
- Works Constitution Act (Betriebsverfassungsgesetz, BetrVG)
- Upgrading Training Assistance Act (Aufstiegsfortbildungsförderungsgesetz, AFBG,
- Distance Learning Protection Act (Fernunterrichtsschutzgesetz, FernUSG) .
The education laws in the respective federal states (Länder) also apply apply to the school-based part of the vocational training.
For the dual system of vocational education and training, training regulations (Ausbildungsordnungen) are the applicable standard for the practical element of training, while for the college-based part of the training the so-called general curriculum (Rahmenlehrplan) applies. The regulations combine the job profile, training and examination standards. They contain a description of the apprenticed profession, the duration of the training, the skills acquired, the training framework and the examination requirements. General curricula provide the basis for teaching at vocational colleges. These are aligned with the training regulations for in-company vocational training. To see some example training regulations and general curricula for apprenticed professions (in English), go to the website of GOVET, the German office for international VET cooperation.
There is no binding legal definition for traineeships (Praktika). Trainees as defined in Section 26 of the Vocational Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz) are considered employees (Arbeitnehmer). Traineeships should give trainees an insight into professional practice, familiarise them with processes, and give them the opportunity to gain expertise. In most cases, a traineeship contract will set out the goals, the start date and length of the traineeship, and rules 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. Section 22 of the Minimum Wage Act (Mindestlohngesetz) defines the scope of application, which also includes trainees. Trainees who earn minimum wage must pay tax and social insurance contributions.
Year 9 and 10 students can take part in a work experience placement (Schülerpraktikum) which is not remunerated.
Many university courses require students to complete a traineeship (Pflichtpraktikum). These must often be completed before the student can start their studies, in which case it is known as a pre-study traineeship (Vorpraktikum). Students may also choose to complete a voluntary traineeship (freiwilliges Praktikum). A mandatory traineeship during one’s degree is counted as part of the actual degree course. As such, no social insurance contributions must be paid. Students on mandatory traineeships are not entitled to remuneration.
Apprentices receive a training allowance (Ausbildungsvergütung) throughout their training. The amount varies according to industry. Examples:
- Pay scale for apprentices in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania,
- Pay scale for apprentices in North Rhine-Westphalia,
- Pay scale for apprentices in selected industries in Saxony-Anhalt.
During their training, apprentices pay contributions to all branches of social insurance (health, pensions, unemployment, long-term care). Accident insurance contributions are paid by the employer. This does not apply if the monthly wages are less than 325 euros. In this case, the employer pays all social insurance contributions. Whether or not apprentices must 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 extracurricular vocational training in the form of a vocational training grant (Berufsausbildungsbeihilfe). Actual spending in 2019: 272.82 million euros.
Depending on their financial situation, apprentices completing school-based training can claim financial assistance (Ausbildungsförderung) according to the Federal Training Assistance Act (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz, BAföG).
Further information on the rights and obligations of individuals undergoing vocational training is contained in a brochure (Rechte und Pflichten während der Berufsausbildung) published by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (in German).
Cooperation with social partners
The National Pact for Training and Skilled Recruits (Nationaler Pakt für Ausbildung und Fachkräftenachwuchs; Ausbildungspakt for short) (2004-2014) continued as the Alliance for Initial and Further Training (Allianz für Aus- und Weiterbildung). Until 2018, the Alliance was backed by the federal government, the Federal Employment Agency, the federal states, industry and trade unions in a move to build a high-quality dual system of vocational education and training aiming to integrate all individuals, from top-performing young individuals and disadvantaged young people to young people from the immigrant community and young people with disabilities into the practical element of vocational training. The new agreement for 2019-2021 was signed on 26 August 2019, amongst other things to roll out assisted apprenticeships (assistierte Ausbildung) nationwide and strengthen apprentice support schemes.
Specific 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), and young people with a disability or special educational needs.
Link with the EU Youth Guarantee
In the course of the implementation of the Youth Guarantee (Jugendgarantie), schemes including assisted apprenticeships (assistierte Ausbildung) (2015) and training-related assistance (ausbildungsbegleitende Hilfen) (2015) were introduced while others, such as cooperation between the youth employment agencies (Jugendberufsagenturen), were strengthened. The recommendations of the EU Youth Guarantee have largely been taken up and implemented in Germany. Placement services provided under the law (Vermittlungsdienste) have been amended several times. See also the detailed assessment of Youth Guarantee implementation in Germany (January 2020).
Young people can find information about career opportunities available to them using the career counselling services (Berufsberatung) provided by thee employment agencies (Agenturen für Arbeit). In addition, they can attend talks, fairs and information events on vocational training, make first contact with companies providing apprenticeships, for example via the planet-beruf.de website run by the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit).
See also the Youth Wiki chapter on Employment & Entrepreneurship, Career guidance and counselling services section, for more information on online career counselling.
Several measures, campaigns and initiatives at federal (Bund) and regional (Länder) level exist to promote traineeships and apprenticeships.
Federal level (Bund)
The federal government's campaign for skilled workers (Fachkräfteoffensive der Bundesregierung) aims to attract and train young university graduates by providing student trainee contracts, grants and trainee programmes. The Alliance for Initial and Further Training (Allianz für Aus- und Weiterbildung) is committed to creating more -in-company training opportunities and offering suitable schemes that help small and micro-businesses in particular to provide vocational training.
Selection of federal programmes:
- Future Starters (Zukunftsstarter) programme as the next phase of the Training is Worth It – Late Starters Wanted campaign (Ausbildung wird was – Spätstarter gesucht). Joint initiative of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales, BMAS), the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA) and the BA Executive Board (Verwaltungsrat) with the aim of getting 120,000 young people into initial and continuing vocational training by the end of 2020 to gain a professional qualification.
- JOBSTARTER plus support programme of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF). The initiative strengthens the dual system of vocational education and training in Germany. It funds projects focusing on the transition from school to vocational training. Funding for 2014-2022: 109 million euros.
- The VerA initiative (reducing the apprenticeship drop-out risk / Verhinderung von Ausbildungsabbrüchen) of BMBF and leading industry associations in Germany aims to stop young people from dropping out of vocational training. Volunteer senior experts are given special training to support young people throughout their vocational training. Actual spending: 3.8 million euros/year.
- The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, Bau und Reaktorsicherheit) runs the ESF programme entitled Promoting vocational education for sustainable development. Enabling green skills for climate-friendly, resource-efficient action at work (Berufsbildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung befördern. Über grüne Schlüsselkompetenzen zu klima- und ressourcenschonendem Handeln im Beruf). Aim: To integrate sustainability strategies into vocational education. Funding in 2019-2022: around 9.5 million euros in ESF funds and around 7.7 million euros in federal funds.
- A mechanism known as the four-wave model (4-Wellen-Modell) was adopted to find training places for young people who were not offered a place initially and was introduced in 2015. Specifically, it is to ensure that all young applicants who are not assigned a training place by 30 September are offered three in-company vocational training placements.
- In formal education, a pre-vocational training year (Berufsvorbereitungsjahr), a basic vocational training year (Berufsgrundbildungsjahr) and schemes to ensure employment readiness (berufsvorbereitende Maßnahmen) are available to young people without a school-leaving qualification. In 2015, as part of implementing the Youth Guarantee (Jugendgarantie), the concept of assisted training was anchored in Section 130 of Book 3 of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch III). It is aimed mainly at young people who have no or only a poor school-leaving qualification and young members of the immigrant community. The young people and the training providers are supported throughout the training by an educational institution. Actualspending on assisted training in 2019: 59.84 million euros (Books 3 and 2 of the Social Code/SGB III und SGB II).
Support provided to institutions and companies by the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit):
- Assumption of the cost of measures that promote participation and career integration: employment agency covers the cost for participants who take part in an in-company programme to determine their professional skills.
- Providing training-related assistance (Ausbildungsbegleitende Hilfen), including as a scheme under the implementation of the Youth Guarantee: the employment agency (Agentur für Arbeit) covers the costs of developing and implementing schemes under which companies train disadvantaged young people with language and education gaps and need customised packages of measures for this purpose. Actual spending in 2019 (Books 3 and 2 of the Social Code/SGB III & II): 105.62 million euros.
- Assumption of the costs for assisted training (assistierte Ausbildung): Companies are given help with managing, organising and implementing training and receive assistance by a dedicated educational institution to ensure a stable training relationship. The costs are covered by employment agencies (Agenturen für Arbeit) or job centres (Jobcenter).
Regional level (Länder) - examples
- The training makes for proud parents campaign (Ausbildung macht Elternstolz) by the Bavarian Ministry of Economics (Bayerisches Wirtschaftsministerium), the Association of Bavarian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Industrie- und Handelskammern in Bayern, BIHK) and the Bavarian Chambers of Trade and Crafts (Bayerische Handwerkskammern, HWK) showcases the wide range of apprenticed professions available in Germany.
- Saxony-Anhalt runs a state-wide programme called Developing future prospects with assisted training (Zukunftschance Assistierte Ausbildung) which assists young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and with special requirements by preparing them to enter regular vocational training and providing intensive ongoing socio-educational support throughout their training. The legal basis is Section 130 of Book 3 of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch III).
- The campaign Brandenburg wants you! Vocational training is the future (Brandenburg will Dich! Hier hat Ausbildung Zukunft) by the state of Brandenburg (Ministry for Labour, Social Affairs, Health, Women and Family/Ministerium für Arbeit, Soziales, Gesundheit, Frauen und Familie) and partners of the Brandenburg Training Consensus (Brandenburger Ausbildungskonsens) http://www.ausbildungskonsens-brandenburg.de/index.php?id=53 took place early in the new training year 2017/2018 to motivate young people who had not found yet a training place to opt for vocational training in Brandenburg.
Initiatives by other stakeholders
- German Confederation of Chambers of Skilled Crafts (Deutscher Handwerkskammertag e.V., DHKT) launched a poster campaign called I have better plans (Ich hab was Besseres vor) to advertise vocational training in the skilled crafts sector.
- The Saarland chamber of commerce and industry (Industrie- und Handelskammer/IHK Saarland) runs a campaign called Vocational training – the best training of your life! (Berufliche Ausbildung: Das beste Training Deines Lebens!), under which apprentices report on their experiences of vocational training with IHK and their personal benefits.
- The chambers of commerce and industry in Rhineland-Palatinate (Industrie- und Handelskammern in Rheinland-Pfalz) runs a training campaign called Get going (Durchstarter) offering information about different professions as well as career and further training opportunities.
For more information on initiatives, campaigns and events, see also the following sections of the Youth Wiki chapter on Employment & Entrepreneurship:
- Skills forecasting: Skills development,
- Promotion of entrepreneurship culture: Special events and activities
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 (Prüfungsordnung) normally require university students who 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 voluntary traineeship. According to Section 26 of the Vocational Training Act, 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 apprentices receive a certificate upon successfully passing the final exam. An English or French translation of the certificate can be provided on request. The law also requires that "additional vocational skills, knowledge and qualifications [...] shall be tested and certified separately". The certificate must be presented when applying for jobs.
Section 14 of the Vocational Training Act stipulates that apprentices must keep their training records (Ausbildungsnachweis) up to date if such records are required as part of their training. They must be submitted before the apprentice can proceed to the final apprenticeship examinations. The apprentice uses these training records to document the activities performed during their apprenticeship. Apprentices can reflect on the competencies and skills they have acquired and judge for themselves which level of training they have achieved.
For more information on certificates in vocational education and training, see this introductory publication by E. Severing.
For more information on the validation of competencies and skills acquired in non-formal and informal settings, see also the country report for Germany in the European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning, p. 6 f.
ECVET is mainly used in the context of international mobility. A national contact point advises on the use and application of the ECVET system in international mobility programmes and schemes.
The dual system of vocational education and training system is funded both publicly – from the federal budget and the Länder (state) budgets – and privately, as training providers themselves pay training allowances and cover the costs of providing training personnel and equipment. Information on public spending (2001-2019) for vocational education can be found in the data report annexed to the report on vocational education and training 2020 (Datenreport zum Berufsbildungsbericht 2020), p. 233 et seq.
For more information on funding in 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 existing schemes/initiatives
With the help of the European Social Fund (Europäischer Sozialfonds), in the funding period 2014 to 2020 supported programmes include those that help to safeguard the supply of skilled workers, promote independence, entrepreneurship and start-ups, and improve work-life balance and education levels.
Following the EU Council's recommendation regarding a quality framework for traineeships, Germany has not adopted any specific legislation. Existing pieces of legislation such as the Vocational Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz), trade and crafts codes (Handwerksordnungen) and training regulations (Ausbildungsordnungen) https://www.bibb.de/de/642.php comply mainly with the recommendation and define minimum training standards. In addition, internal company regulations apply to the implementation and supervision of quality assurance processes as part of vocational training and traineeships. Work experience placements for pupils (Schülerpraktika) or mandatory traineeships (Pflichtpraktika) are governed by school (Schulordnungen), training and study regulations (Studienordnungen). The German minimum wage act (Gesetz über den Mindestlohn), which took effect in 2015, also covers trainees. For more information, see also “Official guidelines on traineeships and apprenticeships” in the Traineeships and apprenticeships section of the Youth Wiki chapter on Employment & Entrepreneurship.
Because the federal states (Länder) are each responsible for their own vocational colleges and full-time school-based vocational training, the level of quality assurance varies from state to state. There are a multitude of quality assurance mechanisms (e.g., school-specific schemes, model projects, competitions etc.) and independent quality assurance bodies and frameworks. Quality assurance is mentioned in all federal states’ school legislation. Existing quality assurance systems are mostly based on Q2E, EFQM or ISO. In some cases, internal/external evaluations are performed. The federal states also have their own individual education reporting systems.
The contact and service point for questions on quality assurance and development in vocational training is the German Reference Point for Quality Assurance in VET (Deutsche Referenzstelle für Qualitätssicherung in der beruflichen Bildung, DEQA-VET) at the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung, BIBB).