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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.3 Preventing early leaving from education and training (ELET)

Last update: 25 April 2024
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  1. National strategy
  2. Formal education: main policy measures on ELET
  3. Addressing ELET through non-formal and informal learning and quality youth work
  4. Cross-sector coordination and monitoring of ELET interventions

National strategy

According to the findings of the Education Report 2022 (Bildungsbericht 2022) and the Vocational Training Report 2023 (Berufsbildungsbericht 2023), the number of school leavers without qualifications has fallen recently, but remains relatively high at just under six per cent. In addition, the proportion of early contract terminations in vocational training increased during the coronavirus pandemic; most recently, almost 27 per cent of all training contracts were terminated prematurely. Another major challenge is the high number of adolescents and young adults who remain unsupported in their search for a traineeship and who often fail to obtain a vocational qualification even in later years (cf. also the section 6.1 on ‘Current findings on youth participation in education’).

When one looks at the political framework, Germany has no comprehensive strategy to prevent dropout from school or training programmes. However, there are measures by various actors at different levels to help young people successfully complete school or vocational training.

The basic framework – in particularly for reducing the number of early school leavers – is outlined by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK). As early as 2007, the KMK adopted a framework to reduce the number of students without a school leaving certificate, secure connections and reduce the number of those who discontinue training programmes (Handlungsrahmen zur Reduzierung der Zahl der Schülerinnen und Schüler ohne Schulabschluss, Sicherung der Anschlüsse und Verringerung der Zahl der Ausbildungsabbrecher). This framework defines strategic goals and fields of action to combat early school leaving. 

In 2010, the KMK then agreed the Support Strategy for Low-Achieving Students (Förderstrategie für leistungsschwächere Schülerinnen und Schüler), which is still in operation today. The basic objective of this strategy is to reduce the proportion of students who do not achieve a minimum level of skills development at the end of their education and to halve the number of pupils without a school-leaving certificate. The strategy also ensures that the federal states provide regular reports on achievement of these targets. The most recent report on implementation of the funding strategy (Bericht über die Umsetzung der Förderstrategie) dates from 2020.

Promulgated by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) in July 2023, the Act to Strengthen the Promotion of Initial and Continuing Training (Initial and Continuing Training Act) (Gesetz zur Stärkung der Aus- und Weiterbildungsförderung (Aus- und Weiterbildungsgesetz)) focuses on the large number of young people who fail to make the transition from school to training, or do not do so directly, and who often do not acquire a formal vocational qualification later in life. The aim of introducing new measures such as the training guarantee and vocational orientation internship is to open up access to vocational training for such young people.

Reducing the number of young adults without a vocational qualification is also considered a relevant goal by the Alliance for Initial and Continuing Training (Allianz für Aus- und Weiterbildung), which includes representatives of the German Government, the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA), the federal states, leading organisations of industry and trade unions. In its joint declaration for the period 2023-2026 (Gemeinsamen Erklärung für die Periode 2023 – 2026), the Alliance identifies various measures to prevent dropouts. These include support services during training and more intensive career guidance.

Strengthening career guidance, particularly at high schools, is also a measure addressed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in its Excellence Initiative in VET (Exzellenzinitiative Berufliche Bildung) launched in December 2022.  The initiative’s aim is to ensure that by providing better individual support to young people, they are able to develop their potential in the best possible way during vocational training and after entering the labour market. 

Formal education: main policy measures on ELET

Germany has various measures that seek to reduce school and training dropouts and the number of young people without a vocational qualification. An important role here is played by career guidance, transitional measures and support measures during school and vocational training. These measures are to some extent combined with federal initiatives and coordinated between the ministries. 

Measures to prevent dropout from school

Since the federal states have responsibility for general schools in Germany, they are also responsible for activities to prevent pupils from leaving school early. The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) regularly reports on measures taken by the federal states to implement the support strategy for lower-achieving pupils. The most recently published report on implementation of the funding strategy (Bericht über die Umsetzung der Förderstrategie) of 2020 describes measures taken by the federal states in the following fields of action, although individual measures vary to some extent between the federal states:

  • promote individual development in the classroom and ensure educational standards;
  • enable more learning time and provide targeted support;
  • design lessons that are practice-oriented;
  • provide stronger support to pupils with a migration background, leverage the opportunities created by diversity;
  • enable pupils with special educational needs to achieve secondary school leaving certificates;
  • develop suitable all-day programmes and strengthen educational partnerships;
  • professionalise career guidance, shape and secure transitions;
  • further develop the quality of teacher training;
  • evaluate findings and share best practice models.


Career guidance

The purpose of career guidance is to enable young people to recognise their strengths as early as possible and to gain insights into the world of work. This can also help to create a better match between the training occupation aspired to and the one actually chosen and thus help to prevent training dropouts. The Federal Government has introduced various measures to provide career guidance support to young people.

The Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA) is a key actor in the field of career guidance and advice. Employment agencies offer students advisory services not just during school years, but also after they have left. The Agency’s brochure (Die lebensbegleitende Berufsberatung der BA) gives an overview of the various activities of the employment agencies. In addition to group offers for school classes and one-to-one counselling, young people can also obtain information at Career Information Centres (Berufsinformationszentren). CheckU also gives young people access to a digital self-discovery tool for training and studies.

In addition to the services offered by the Federal Employment Agency, the German Government’s Vocational Orientation Programme (Berufsorientierungsprogramm, BOP) also plays a key role. Aimed at pupils from grade 7 onwards, the programme provides them with an opportunity to familiarise themselves with various vocational fields through internships or workshop days and in so doing try out an occupation. The BOP is also specifically focused on strengthening career guidance at Gymnasien (in the context of the Excellence Initiative in VET) and on targeted communication with refugees. The programme also includes digital career guidance measures such as the online portal or the career guidance app berufswahlapp. In addition, federal state programmes also offer pupils systematic career guidance. 

The enormous importance of career guidance is also highlighted by the Continuing Education Act (Aus- und Weiterbildungsgesetz), which will be adopted in 2023. This provides for the introduction of career orientation internships to support young people in their transition to vocational training and to prevent dropouts by improving the match between training company and trainee. The costs for the internship are covered by the employment agencies.

For more information on career guidance and counselling, see also the Youth Wiki chapter Employment & Entrepreneurship: Career guidance and counselling.

Measures for the transition from school to training and employment 

The so-called transition area prepares young people who have not yet found a training place for in-company training. Key measures in the transition area are introductory training and vocational preparation programmes offered by the Federal Employment Agency. Introductory training (EQ) is an internship which is subject to social insurance contributions and can support young people with choosing their professional orientation. EQ can also help to create a better match between company and trainee and thus help to prevent training dropouts. A pre-vocational training measure (Berufsvorbereitende Bildungsmaßnahme, BvB) gives young people an insight into different careers and also enables them to catch up on their secondary school leaving certificate. Pre-vocational training measures generally last nine to ten months.

The Continuing Education Act (Aus- und Weiterbildungsgesetz) also provides for the introduction of a training guarantee for 2024, which is intended to give all young people without a vocational qualification access to fully qualifying vocational education and training within a company where possible. To this end, existing support programmes offered by employment agencies such as introductory training are being expanded and combined with new approaches such as vocational orientation internships. According to the new law, young people who are unable to find an in-company training place despite their best efforts will be entitled to external vocational training.

Youth Employment Agencies (Jugendberufsagenturen) also play an important role in the transition from school to training and employment. Their aim is to improve integration opportunities for young people and young adults into society and the world of work. The objective is to interlink more closely the competences of the relevant institutions, so that young people can receive support from a single source. Youth employment agencies are employment alliances involving employment agencies, local authorities, schools, youth migration services, employer organisations and juvenile legal support agencies, among others. The Service Centre for Youth Employment Agencies (Servicestelle Jugendberufsagenturen), which was setup by BMAS and is based at the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), supports and advises local youth employment agencies throughout Germany.

Support measures during training

The Assisted Flexible Training programme (Assistierte Ausbildung flexibel, AsAflex) was introduced in 2021 to help young people take up and successfully complete their training. AsAflex combines the former Assisted Training (Assistierte Ausbildung, AsA) and Training Support (Ausbildungsbegleitende Hilfen, abH) instruments; the employment agencies are responsible for implementation. The support service is geared towards the individual needs of young people; a training supervisor is appointed who acts both as mentor for trainees and a contact for the training company.

The VerA Initiative to prevent training dropouts is supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and provides training support with individual coaching services by volunteers. Retired professionals serving as training mentors support young people with the successful completion of their training. 

Some of the aforementioned measures also form part of the Initiative on Educational Chains (Initiative Bildungsketten), which was launched in 2010 as a cooperation project of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF), the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales, BMAS), the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA) and the federal states. The initiative is currently in Phase II, which runs from 2021 to 2026. The stakeholders involved pursue a holistic funding philosophy based on the motto ‘prevention not repair’.

Addressing ELET through non-formal and informal learning and quality youth work

Various federal initiatives are aimed at strengthening local youth work and thus preventing young people from dropping out of school and training.

Since 2009, the Strengthening Youth (JUGEND STÄRKEN) initiative of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) has provided an umbrella for all youth social work programmes. The aim is to support young people with individual approaches during the transition from school to work and to improve cooperation between the various local institutions. The focus here is on testing needs-based, systematic management and coordination of youth social work measures in cooperation with schools and local stakeholders in the labour market. The measures are intended to be individual, low-threshold and local where possible.

The JUGEND STÄRKEN initiative includes the following programmes:

  • JUGEND STÄRKEN in the Neighbourhood (support for disadvantaged young people during transition from school to work in disadvantaged regions)
  • JUGEND STÄRKEN: 1000 Opportunities (support for disadvantaged young people by providing practical, low-threshold support services and insights into the world of work in cooperation with the private sector)
  • JUGEND STÄRKEN: Bridges to Independence (support for young people on the threshold of independence)
  • Youth migration services (advice, support and education for young people with a migration background)
  • Respect coaches (preventative services designed to promote respect and tolerance and tackle prejudice in schools)

The ElternChanceN programme (ElternChanceN – mit Elternbegleitung Familien stärken), which is also supported by BMFSFJ, aims to strengthen local parent support structures. It is hoped that by integrating parental support into a municipal network of family education and family counselling, measures can be implemented on a needs-driven basis. Other municipal family education institutions are involved in addition to the youth welfare offices. One particular focus is on educational path guidance. The aim is to implement low-threshold educational programmes that offer parents support in raising and supporting their children along their educational path.

Finally, the Schulewirtschaft initiative is a network of schools and companies that support and partner each other. Career guidance also plays a key role here. Cooperation takes place locally; in addition to representatives from schools and companies, the initiative also involves employers’ associations, chambers and local authorities. The voluntary commitment of individual participants is supplemented by people in full-time office.

Cross-sector coordination and monitoring of ELET interventions

Multi-agency partnerships
Various initiatives involve cooperation between different ministries and departments. The Alliance for Initial and Further Training (Allianz für Aus- und Weiterbildung), which was adopted in 2014, includes representatives of the Federal Government, the Federal Employment Agency, the federal states and leading business and trade union organisations. The Alliance is committed to promoting the attractiveness, quality, performance and integrative power of vocational education and training. In its joint declaration for the period 2023-2026 (Gemeinsamen Erklärung für die Periode 2023 – 2026), the alliance identifies various measures to prevent dropout. The declaration stipulates, among other things, that schools should work closely with employment agencies in the context of career guidance and that cooperation between schools and youth work, youth welfare and youth social work must be strengthened. 

The aforementioned Initiative on Educational Chains (Initiative Bildungsketten) also involves interministerial and cross-departmental cooperation. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and the Federal Employment Agency (BA) coordinate their activities and programmes with the federal states, municipalities and schools. Together they adopt a holistic support philosophy and take responsibility for accompanying and supporting young people in the transition from school to work. 

In addition, the ElternChanceN, JUGEND STÄRKEN and SchuleWirtschaft initiatives described above, as well as the youth employment agencies, are also aimed at inter-agency cooperation between relevant local institutions.

For more information, see also the report from Eurydice and Cedefop on early leaving from education and training.


The Education Report, Vocational Training Report and integrated Data Report provide data on school and training dropouts.

With the Vocational Training Report (Berufsbildungsbericht), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) fulfils its statutory mandate to continuously monitor developments in vocational education and training and report to the Federal Government annually on 1 April. It also presents findings on training dropouts and unplaced training place applicants and sets out the Federal Government’s new and ongoing measures on vocational training policy. These also include programmes such as the Educational Chains and JUGEND STÄRKEN initiatives, which aim to prevent early leaving from school or training and provide support for career guidance in various forms. The Vocational Training Report is supplemented with additional findings and in-depth analyses by the associated Data Report (Datenreport), which is published annually by the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung, BIBB).

The Education Report (Bildungsbericht) is part of the overall strategy for education monitoring in Germany declared by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) in 2006 and revised in 2015. It is published every two years, most recently in 2022. The Education Report looks at various areas of education and also addresses school and training dropouts.

The Report on the Status of Implementation of the Support Strategy (Bericht über die Umsetzung der Förderstrategie) by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (KMK) also provides an overview, broken down by federal state, of the development of school leavers without qualifications.

Link to the Youth Guarantee

The National Plan to Establish the EU Youth Guarantee in Germany (Nationaler Implementierungsplan zur Umsetzung der Jugendgarantie in Deutschland) lists various of the measures described above. The importance of programmes such as introductory training (EQ), career guidance and advice or training-related assistance (which has now been merged into assisted flexible training (AsAflex)) for achieving the goals formulated in the Youth Guarantee is one of the topics addressed there. The implementation report also pays particular attention to youth employment agencies and the JUGEND STÄRKEN programme. The latter is considered to be a suitable measure to provide hard-to-reach young people with better access to support services linked to the labour and training market.