Further training step by step

Further training frequently opens up all kinds of opportunities. To make sure you make the most of what you have learned, sound planning, execution and follow-up are important. Here, you can read step-by-step recommendations for successful further training.

What are my objectives?

Do you want to learn a new language, extend your computer knowledge or optimise your personal time management skills? You can pursue a wide variety of career objectives by undertaking further training. You can catch up on the occupation-specific knowledge you lack, take a vocational further training course, or train privately while continuing to work. Whatever kind of further training you opt for, it is important that you should first of all think carefully about the career objectives you wish to pursue with that commitment. This kind of reflection will not only help you to find the right offer for you, it is also important to have a precise objective so that your employer is able to provide the best possible support for you.

 Getting help

If you have concrete questions of an organisational nature when starting to make plans, you can seek help from professional further training counsellors, for example at labour agencies, the respective chambers of trade and industry, professional associations or adult education centres, or from counsellors in the municipal and district educational guidance centres. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research also runs a telephone service providing information on further training. There, on work days from 10am to 5pm, you can get nationwide guidance on all issues of further training. In many companies, you can also get help from the staff of the human resources department.

Tip: clarify what objective you aim to pursue with further training and involve your employer too!

Admission requirements

The admission requirements differ hugely depending on the type of further training and can range from school-leaving qualifications or language proficiency to prior completion of a foundation course. For example, many courses require specific academic diplomas, such as secondary school-leaving diplomas or university degrees. The corresponding level of knowledge is a key basis for numerous further training courses and proof can be provided simply by submitting a certificate. 

Certificates are important

With many providers, it is usual to submit qualification certificates in German, which means that you must first have your certificate translated if you do not have a German version. For courses taught in German, it is not, in general, explicitly stated that sufficient knowledge of German (at least a B2 level, usually) is required. For courses taught in another language, this is mentioned in most cases. For example, a specialised computer course may be offered not in German, but in English. You can get information about the required language skills from the provider. 

Modular courses

In addition, "modular" courses also exist in many domains; these consist of several courses which build upon one another. This is often the case of language courses, for example. You start at a specific level and when you have successfully completed the course, you can at-tend a higher level. For a communications course in Spanish, for example, you will be re-quired to have a basic command of Spanish. But don’t worry, with most courses this is self-explanatory. Regardless of what admission requirements are set out by the course provider, they are generally binding. The best thing is to enquire in plenty of time to be able to acquire any skills you lack before the course begins

Tip: find out about the admission requirements early and check whether you meet all the crite-ria or whether you need further qualifications!

Further training providers

There are numerous providers on the further training market. Besides training by external providers, in-company further training is also widespread practice in Germany. The best thing to do is first of all to clarify with your manager whether you are entitled to further training in the company.

If your company does not offer in-company further training, or if it does include a suitable course, you have the possibility of consulting an external provider. There is a large selection of further training institutes in Germany both for in-company and external training: (private) universities, trade corporations and chambers of trade and industry, (private) training institutes and also adult education centres (Volkshochschulen). Note that training courses by external providers can be costly. Compare course content and the prices of the different providers before deciding.

Tip: before engaging an external provider, enquire about further training offers in your company.

Checking for quality

Finding the right further training provider is no simple matter. Importantly, you must be able to be confident of their quality and that the course content coincides with your learning objectives. The certification of the provider is also important. Particularly in the case of external providers, you should make sure that they are continuously inspected and are state-approved. Recognised quality certification includes, for example:

  • AZAV – “Recognition and Authorisation Ordinance for the Promotion of Employment
  • DIN EN ISO 9000ff – Guideline of the German Institute for Standardisation
  • DIN ISO 29990 – Guideline of the International Standards Organisation
  • LQW – “Learner-focused Quality Testing in Further Training”
  • EFQM – European Foundation for Quality Management

Quality labels granted by approval bodies or associations, such as Weiterbildung Hamburg e. V., Weiterbildung Hessen e. V. or Wuppertaler Kreis, are also widely found. You can find out more on the website of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

You can also find out from colleagues or the Internet about a given provider and judge in advance whether the further training course is worthwhile for you. It is often worth talking with the human resources department. In many companies, the human resources managers are in charge of managing further training and can provide helpful tips. Answering the following questions may facilitate your choice:

  • Does certification of the provider guarantee quality?
  • Is the learning material up-to-date, and what kind of impression do the premises make?
  • What qualifications do the teaching staff have?
  • Are the participants instructed in how to record their progress and put what they have learned into practice?
  • Is the provider certified?

If you answer these questions with “yes”, you have probably found the right provider for you.

Tip: take time to check exactly whether the provider's services fit in with your objectives and wishes.

Duration, time and place

The duration and amount of time required for further training vary widely. They can vary from a two-hour course in your own company to a course lasting several years outside the company. Internal training courses are often adapted to fit in with routine work and are held close to your place of work. External training courses will usually require greater organisation on your part, as you often have to travel and stay overnight. As far as the scheduling is concerned, what you should look out for most is whether the training takes place in a block (concentrated in a short period) or over a longer period. Both ways have advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself which kind suits you and your employer best. It is therefore also important to find out in advance how flexible the training course is: will you be able to miss a couple of hours here and there without any problem, and are there alternative dates for exams or other important dates for which attendance is compulsory. Moreover, many courses are designed as E-learning courses and you can do at least a part of it on your own at home.

Involve your employer

Throughout the planning phase, you should always include your employer. Because you might have to agree on travelling, the time taken for the course itself, the exam dates and possible accommodation costs during the further training period you should be in close collaboration with your manager, while at the same time keeping one eye on your own workload. Moreover, it will help you to think about what kind of a learner you are. Do you get greater benefit from E-learning courses, or are courses with physical attendance more suitable for you?

Tip: draw up a detailed timetable for long-term further training courses which also take into account your family and professional obligations. That will enable you to make a better assessment of whether you have enough time to devote to the course over a long period.

Costs and funding

You have decided on a course. There is now nothing to stop you from signing up for it. The only thing left to clarify is the costs and whether they might be covered fully or in part. Here again, there are differences between in-company and external further training. In-company training courses are frequently part-funded by the employer and in some cases in full. If this is not the case, employees have the possibility of obtaining a Bildungsprämie (training bonus) or applying for Bildungsurlaub (educational leave) to get at least a part of the costs refunded. On the following pages you will find all the information about the different concepts:

  • Bildungsprämie (“training bonus”): In place since December 2008, the Bundesprogramm Bildungsprämie, or national training bonus programme, offers people in gainful employment with low income financial aid for individual, work-related further training. You can choose between the Prämiengutschein, a voucher entitling you to a one-off payment and the Spargutschein, a voucher related to savings in an employee savings plan. The two vouchers can also be combined with one another. You can find out more on the website of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
  • Bildungsurlaub (“educational leave”): You may also be entitled to apply for Bildungsurlaub, or educational leave. This concept, under which you are legally entitled to be given up to five days off per year, is now applied in the majority of the federal states. You will find further information about educational leave on the website of the Conference of Culture Ministers. You will find a list of free, regional counselling centres here.
  • Aufstiegs-BAföG: The Aufstiegs-BAföG is aid which can be granted for a wide variety of advanced vocational diplomas. Examples include advanced diplomas in a business context (e.g. Geprüfter Fachkaufmann), healthcare (e.g. Geprüfter Fachkrankenpfleger), computer programming or business information systems. There is no age limit for this grant. The aid can be used to cover the cost of courses, examinations, materials and also childcare costs. You can find further information and an online eligibility calculator here.
  • Aufstiegsstipendium (grant for university studies): With an Aufstiegsstipendium you can add a university qualification to your professional experience. Working people of all ages are eligible if they have at least two years’ professional experience. You can find out more here.

And also some funding programmes at the Länder level. You will find further information on the Federal Employment Agency website.

Tip: enquire in plenty of time to find out whether your further training is eligible for funding or if your company can cover the costs.

Signing up

You're nearly there, you can now sign up for the training course of your choice. Here again, there are some important points to look out for. What are the formalities for signing up? Should you send the documents by post or email, or is there an online contact form? Do you have to submit any proof of proficiency, such as language skills or educational qualifications when you sign up? If so, is a simple photocopy required, or an officially certified version? For all important certificates and documents, one rule applies: never send the originals of your documents. They could get lost during the registration process.

If you are not sure which documents you need to submit, just ask the respective provider. In all cases, find out in advance about any possible submission deadlines too. Just as when signing up for the training course, you may also have to respect a deadline for applying for the financial aid.

Tip: with many providers, you can now sign up by email or by completing a digital contact form. That saves time and costs.

You’ve made it

Great value is placed on diplomas and certificates in Germany. After successfully completing a further training course, you should in all cases be issued with proof of participation, a certificate or a diploma. You can submit this proof of proficiency to your employer, enclose it with future job applications, or hand it in to the funding organisation from which you received financial aid. It might allow you to assume new tasks at work. In the case of external training courses, you will usually also receive a document stating the amount of time you spent there. You can also submit this to your employer. If your further training was funded by your company, this is often required by your employer as a tally with your absences. Whatever you do, you should include the training in your CV. Because you can be proud of your success!

Tip: keep your diplomas and include further training in your CV. That way, you will score points when you next apply for a post.

After completing further training – don’t rest on your laurels!

After completing further training, the watchword is – don’t rest on your laurels! To make sure you draw lasting benefit from what you have learned and are able to use it in your line of work, you should take a little time to think back over your course. Think about what went well, and whether the course came up to your expectations. The important thing is to find a way to put what you learned into actual practice. If your line manager or work colleagues see that you are now capable of doing other tasks, that can have a positive impact on your salary and career opportunities. If you were satisfied with your training, evaluating it may help you opt for further more  training in the future. Lastly, do not forget to submit all the required documents, such as diplomas and certificates to your employer or funding body. And: do you remember when you were right at the start of the process, looking for information? So help your colleagues and pass on your knowledge.

Tip: share your experiences so that your colleagues can benefit from your knowledge and you can show what you have learned.

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