Every year Germany’s dual system of vocational training offers around two thirds of all school-leavers the prospect of learning one of some 350 trades. Currently, just under 1.6 m trainees in nearly 500,000 businesses are taking advantage of this offer. Combining practical training at work with continued education at a vocational school, the dual system enables young people in Germany to be integrated into the workforce relatively successfully, as the low level of youth unemployment relative to other countries shows.
Yet there is no reason for us to rest on our laurels, as this transition is seldom seamless. The average age of those starting an apprenticeship is 19 years, with many school-leavers first having to complete a preparatory course. Companies are encountering increasing difficulties in finding suitable applicants.
Additionally, there is a need for improvement at the interfaces between vocational training, further training and tertiary education. Too often skills which have already been acquired are not recognised. Moreover, the traditional German belief in apprenticeships does not extend to further training. Companies are setting a good example in this respect, investing an average of over a thousand euros a year on the further training of their employees. However, the challenges of demographic change and technological progress mean that such measures will have to be expanded and vocational training systematically developed if the economy is not to run out of skilled workers.