Vocational and further training in Germany


When leaving secondary schools, 70% of German students take a course of vocational training, mostly within the “dual system”. This combines practical, on-the-job training with theoretical instruction at a part-time vocational school. Through their close cooperation private business, industry and the public sector are sharing responsibility: Training regulations are drawn at federal level, while the states oversee the vocational schools. The popularity of these occupations varies, however, according to the job market.

Vocational schools (Berufsschulen)

In the dual system, the vocational schools complement the training received in a company. Trainees attend a part-time vocational school one or two days a week for three years. The schools teach general subjects and theories which are easier understood in the classroom than at work. Usually about 40% of the school work is in basic academic subjects such as languages, mathematics and sciences and about 60% in subjects directly related to the chosen profession. Performance is assessed in an exam and documented by a certificate issued mostly by the chamber of industry and commerce.

Aside from apprenticeship and part-time vocational school, there are a number of other training options for young people. Two examples:

The full-time vocational school (Berufsfachschule) offers courses lasting one to three years. These can be part of an apprenticeship or even replace an apprenticeship entirely.

The vocationally oriented upper secondary school (Fachoberschule) admits students with an intermediate school certificate. Courses cover theoretical instruction as well as training workshops and on-the job training. They generally last two years and qualify participants for the specialized college (Fachhochschule). Comparable to polytechnics, this institution offers applied studies in subjects like telecommunication engineering or industry information science.

On-the-job training, usually called an apprenticeship, lasts between two and three and a half years, depending on the complexity of the occupation and. the apprentice earns a training allowance. The professional requirements which have to be learned during the vocational training are spelled out in training regulations. Based on proposals from the business associations and trade unions, these are regularly revised and updated. The training concludes with an examination conducted by a board of examiners, generally organized by the local chamber of industry and commerce. On the board of examiners are representatives of employers and employees as well as vocational school teachers.

Although no company is obliged to provide training, over 500.000 firms in all branches of the economy, including the independent professions and the public service, provide vocational training. Larger enterprises have their own training workshops, but smaller firms train their apprentices right on the job. Very specialized firms pool their resources and send their apprentices to inter-company training centers in order to broaden their vocational skills.

The dual system has proved its worth

For demographic reasons, demand for training places was very heavy during the 1980s. In recent years, however, supply has exceeded demand in the old federal states. This has been made possible by massive efforts on the part of all concerned - business and industry, the federal and state governments, and the Federal Institute for Employment. In addition, special programs are being provided for those who require pre-vocational training after leaving school, before they are able to undergo vocational training successfully.

The dual system has proved its worth, as is shown by its ability to react quickly and effectively to the many changes occurring in the economy and in society. A number of other countries have consequently expressed their interest to incorporate elements of it into their own programs.


iMOVE is an initiative by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research to internationalize German vocational education and training services. iMOVE offers German providers of vocational education and training a wide range of services to help them penetrate international markets.

“Training - Made in Germany”: this the slogan iMOVE uses abroad to advertise German expertise in vocational education and training.

To find out more, go to the iMOVE Website.

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