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.

According to the vocational training statistics, around 1,34 million young people were in the dual system of vocational education in 2015, mostly in the western part of Germany.

In 2017 around 523.300 newly-concluded apprenticeship contracts have been registered, which is a small rise compared to 2016 (+0.6%). The rise is due to more young men starting an apprenticeship – the number of young women has been decreasing for the last 9 years. The number of vacant training positions as of 30th September 2017 was the highest since 1994.

The numbers of persons in the transition system raised in 2015 and 2016 (+12,2%), mainly due to integration measures for refugees. The increasing interest of refugees in a dual apprenticeship is also responsible for the fact that for the first time since 2011 there was also a positive trend in the demand for training places.

The matching of supply and demand is still an urgent topic.

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 (2017):

These are:

  • Improvement of the transition into the dual apprenticeship system
  • Modernisation of VET and of the revision procedure for training regulations
  • Enhancement of the attractiveness of VET
  • Enhancement of the participation in TVET, also on higher levels
  • Initiatives to integrate youngsters with a migration background and refugees into vocational education and training
  • Internationalisation of VET  
  • Adapting vocational training and the qualifications it offers to technologies that are changing

Examples for concrete measures of the federal Government are:

  • the evaluation of the Vocational Training Act in 2016
  • the improvement of financing further vocational training measures (Meister-Bafög)
  • the launch of the „VET 4.0“ initiative in 2016 to orient initial and further vocational training towards the digitalisation of the economy

In spring 2018 the new German federal government concluded its coalition paper, setting the frame for VET policy for the next years.


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

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

BMBF: Germany – Report on Vocational Education and Training 2017.