In Germany, training for many vocations is provided by means of a dual programme of training and education. Apprentices spend three to four days a week at a company providing vocational training, where they acquire the practical skills required for their field of work. The remaining one or two days are spent at a vocational school, where apprentices receive a theoretical grounding in their future job.
Depending on the vocation and the level of basic knowledge, an apprenticeship lasts between two and three-and-a-half years. During this period, apprentices receive a training allowance from their company. On average, this is around €650 a month, depending on the field of work. Those who successfully complete their training are often taken on permanently as a skilled worker by the company. Moreover, if they perform well in the workplace, there is also the opportunity to train further to become a master craftsman or a state-certified engineer, and then to rise to a managerial position in the company or to set up in business and become self-employed. Many prominent people, including former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, began their career with a course of vocational training.
EU citizens have been eligible to apply for apprenticeships in Germany for a number of years now. This is a consequence of the so-called freedom of establishment and freedom to provide services within the European Union. For young people from the EU, the chances of securing an apprenticeship in Germany have improved in recent years. This is because the German economy is currently so vibrant that there are not enough applicants to fill all the apprenticeships on offer. Indeed, youth unemployment in Germany is among the lowest in Europe. As a result, more and more German companies are now looking to other EU countries for suitable apprentices and are delighted to receive applications from there.
Given that an apprenticeship generally involves attending a vocational school, applicants are also required to be competent in the German language. However, measures to improve language skills can also be undertaken in parallel to an apprenticeship. Under certain conditions, nationals of non-EU countries can also undergo vocational training in Germany. In such cases, it is advisable to consult at an early date with the company offering the training and with the relevant government agency. Before a visa application is lodged, the prospective employer can also request clarification from the International and Specialized Services (ZAV) as to whether the offer of vocational training is practicable in the specific case.
In the dual system of vocational training and education, apprentices are appointed directly by the company providing the training. Applicants must submit the application themselves, just as if they were applying for a normal job, although the employment agencies do provide assistance here. As a rule, apprenticeships start in August or September. Many companies look to recruit their apprentices well in advance. Frequently, apprenticeships are advertised and filled up to a year before they begin. In some fields, such as nursing, geriatric nursing, and childcare, training is organized centrally at a special school, which provides both basic and more advanced instruction. In between, there are longer time blocks involving practical experience in various institutions.
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