The governance of the dual apprenticeship system in Germany is a common task of the state, social partners and business and trade organisations. The Federal Government is responsible for the in-company part of the training, and the Federal States run the vocational schools. The involvement of social partners in decision-making processes at all levels is regulated in the Vocational Training Act.

Federal Government

The Federal Government defines the legal framework for the in-company part of initial vocational education and training through laws and regulations. Within the government the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is responsible for the general policy for vocational education and training, e.g. the Vocational Training Act, training regulations and the implementation of programmes to foster vocational training. The single federal ministries are responsible for the recognition of the training occupations in their competence areas. For most training occupations the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) carries responsibility. In order to recognise a training occupation an approval of the BMBF is necessary.

Federal States

The Federal States run the part-time vocational schools (Berufsschulen). The 16 Federal States have responsibility for legislation and administration in the areas education, science and culture (cultural sovereignty). The distribution of legislative competence between the Federal Government and the Federal States is defined in the Basic Law. Training provided in vocational schools is ruled by education acts at the level of the Federal States. The responsible federal state ministers coordinate their policies in the “Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK)”.

Social Partners

According to the principle of consensus the social partners are involved in the governance of German VET at all levels. Under the Works Constitution Act and the Employee Representation Act the trade unions also participate in the implementation of vocational education and training. The associations of employers represent the interests of the training companies – mostly private law entities – in which the training takes place.


It is a fundamental feature of the system that companies assume the responsibility to train young people. They offer training places on a voluntary basis, but in-company training itself is regulated through the Vocational Training Act and the training regulations for single training occupations. Companies assume legal responsibility towards the apprentices on the basis of the apprenticeship training contracts in the frame of existing work legislations. They are supported and quality controlled in their tasks by the relevant chambers.

Cooperation over committees and boards

The cooperation of the different stakeholders mainly takes place over committees and boards (see also Involvement of social partners).

The coordination between the Federal Government and the Federal States is not legally regulated and depends on mutual agreement. The “Federal/State Coordinating Committee for Vocational Education and Training” deals with the coordination of in-company vocational education and training and vocational training in the part-time vocational schools in recognised training occupations. It is involved in the renewal of training occupations and the harmonisation of training regulations and framework curricula for training in companies and at school. Its members are representatives of the Federal Government and the 16 Federal States.

The involvement of the social partners is regulated in the Vocational Training Act. Their representatives are members of the Board of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), the Federal State Boards and the Vocational Education and Training Committees of the chambers.

Cooperation by negotiated agreements

The Federal Government, employers’ associations and professional associations concluded in 2004 the “National Pact for Career Training and Skilled Manpower Development in Germany”. It contained a self-commitment of the employers to provide more training places and additional support measures from the public sector. The National Pact aimed among others at securing the provision of apprenticeship placements and improving guidance to students in companies. The pact is meanwhile continued for the second time as “Alliance for Initial and Further Training” until 2021. It includes different VET stakeholders (federal ministries, Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs, Federal Employment Agency, Employers’ associations, Trade Unions). The 2019 concluded alliance aims at:

  • bringing more companies and young people together and keeping them in training,
  • further strengthening of attractiveness and quality of dual training as well as jointly promoting VET and
  • strengthening further vocational training and pushing higher vocational training forward.

The current alliance sets a high priority on digitalisation in VET, which includes the development of specific additional qualifications, further training of training and teaching staff as well as digitalisation of education and training venues. The former Pact and Alliance had their priorities on for instance the introductory training for young people (Einstiegsqualifizierung) or a bundle of measures to support access of learners with migration background to vocational education and training.