Recent Developments

Several long-term trends affect German VET and the apprenticeship system in particular. Among those the decrease in school graduates, the increased interest of school graduates to enrol in higher education and mismatches in supply and demand can be considered as most important ones. The digitalisation of world of work is increasingly affecting training processes and is a continuous topic when it comes to modernising training regulations. The debates and R&D work lead to a renewed consideration of the competences bundle needed to be acquired during apprenticeship, as for instance the role of inter-occupational competencies.

Statistically speaking, over a half of an age cohort begins with an apprenticeship (52,9% in 2017). Since 2008 we could observe for the first time a slight increase in the number of apprentices (1,32 million young people by the end of 2017, mostly in the western part of Germany. The apprenticeship market is further showing mismatches especially in terms of vocational profession of interest by apprentices and offers of apprenticeship placements by companies. Geographical and sectoral imbalances remain.

Securing a basis of skilled workers represents a major challenge in Germany. The prognosis of supply and demand for 2017 assumed that there will be a small fall in training provision accompanied by an increase in potential demand. Against such a background, it will be important to exploit all areas of potential for dual vocational education and training. Possible approaches include continuing to foster interest in dual VET from young people with higher education entrance qualification. Currently, the proportion of those training entrants is 27.7%. The same applies with regard to attracting interest from young women. Compared to 2015, the number of training contracts concluded with females fell by 3,500 (- 1.7%) to 204,100. By way of contrast, the number training contracts entered into with young men rose by 1,700 (+ 0.5%) to reach 316,200. Persons from a migrant background are disproportionately likely to remain without a vocational qualification. According to BIBB calculations conducted on the basis of the micro census, the ratio of migrants aged between 20 and 34 and with their own personal experience of immigration who are without a formal qualification is 29.8% (for the purpose of comparison, the corresponding figure for Germans not from a migrant background is 8.8 %). The integration and employment of refugees constitute a further challenge.

Consequently the VET policy decision-makers have committed themselves to the alliance for initial and continuing VET at the beginning of 2015 and most of them are developing awareness-raising campaigns and initiatives to support apprenticeship. For all VET actors the challenges imply that the modernisation of the apprenticeship system is a continuous task. One specific target is to establish VET qualifications and programmes as equivalent alternative to higher education qualifications in view of access to the labour market and as part of lifelong learning strategies. Further thematic priorities are listed in the VET Federal report (2019):

  1. Further increase of the attractiveness of initial and continuing VET. This objective has been agreed by the Federal authorities, the Federal Employment Agency, economic actors, the trade unions and the Länder authorities as mentioned within the National Pact for Education and Training. Furthermore 2019 has been declared the year of vocational education and training to boost the awareness for VET among the population. Attractiveness also concerns the health vocational professions with the reform of education and training in that sector. The new corresponding law should be passed in January 2020.
  2. Modernisation of initial and continuing VET.The major initiative „Berufsbildung 4.0“ (VET 4.0) has provided the VET stakeholders with evidence on the need for changes in vocational training professions. Apprenticeship companies (especially SMEs), VET schools and inter-company centres are receiving public financial support to adapt their facilities to digitalisation.
  3. Mobilise all potentials.This objective includes the further development and involvement of the Federal Employment Agency in developing guidance and counselling for apprenticeship applicants. It also includes the initiative ‚educational chain‘ as presented in the Apprenticeship Toolbox
  4. Supporting SMEs in apprenticeship.The Federal Government finances the further training of 6.000 courses for companies‘ owners to take the examination of in-company trainer. Furthermore programmes like ‚JOBSTARTER PLUS“ is being reinforced to support SMEs in any matter related to apprenticeship (especially digitalisation, recruitment of university drop-outs as apprentices). In the field of handcraft a specific initiative aims as supporting inter-company training and its quality.
  5. Initiative and continous VET attractive for high potentials.This activity aims at establishing equivalence between vocational and academic education and training. In this context the Federal initiative for innovation in VET is expected to provide new concepts.

The current VET situation and challenges should lead according to the opinion of VET stakeholders to the modernisation of the Federal VET law. Currently under discussion, the proposal includes the introduction of a minimum apprenticeship allowance, the introduction of new VET diploma titles (Bachelor Professional; Master Professional) or the introduction of part-time VET programmes.

A further policy activity takes place with the Federal Parlament. The so-called Enquete-Kommission „Berufliche Bildung in der digitalen Welt“ (Commission ‚Vocational education and training in a digital world) was set up in June 2018 and develops proposals on how VET should adapt to digitalisation while ensuring the provision of skilled workforce and access to apprenticeship for all.


BIBB press release 48/2017: Positive developments in the training market, but significant regional differences remain: (english)

BIBB press release 40/2017: Vocational education and training – the key to integration: (english)

BMBF: Germany – Report on Vocational Education and Training 2017: (english)

BIBB (2019). VET trends 2019. BWP special edition. (english)

Federal Ministry for Education and Research – Modernisation of Federal VET law (german)

Enquete-Kommission „Berufliche Bildung in der digitalen Welt“. The hearings of the Enquete Commission are available online: