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Vocational training in Germany

27.08.2019 - Germany’s dual vocational training system enjoys an excellent reputation around the world. However, many companies are unable to find enough apprentices. Recruiting apprentices from abroad is therefore a good opportunity to counteract this development. It not only helps companies secure the skilled labour they need, but also provides individuals from abroad with long-term career prospects in Germany.

Germany has great demand for apprentices

Germany’s dual vocational training system is very diverse. Apprentices not only go to vocational schools where they acquire knowledge, they also start working in a company right away. This means that they earn their own money, whilst also obtaining valuable insights into the workings of a business. Many apprentices stay in the company where they have trained after gaining their qualification. The others find work at other companies. Around 1.3 million individuals are currently undergoing dual vocational training in Germany1.

However, according to a recent survey of companies conducted by the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, it is becoming ever more difficult for companies to fill all vacant training places. In 2017, more than 1 in 3 companies were unable to find enough candidates2. Some industries find it harder to recruit apprentices than others.

According to the Federal Employment Agency3, this includes in particular skilled crafts businesses such as butchers, bakers and hairdressers, tilers, masons and painters, but also industrial and trade businesses, for example in hospitality and retail. Recruiting apprentices from abroad can therefore be a good option to fill vacant training places.

The legal requirements for recruiting apprentices from abroad

Germany offers young people from abroad the opportunity to undergo training and learn a profession. In 2018, 131,397 non-German nationals started vocational training in Germany. As shown in the table, the majority of these came from Turkey (22,905 persons), followed by Afghanistan (13,371 persons), Syria (12,762 persons), Italy (7,668 persons) and Kosovo (4,890 persons).

There are no restrictions on starting vocational training in Germany for EU nationals. They need to register with the local residence registration office, but require no residence permit. The same applies for nationals of the European Free Trade Association (Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland).

The nationals of all other states (so called third countries) require a residence permit to take up vocational training in Germany. According to Section 17(1) of the Residence Act, nationals of these countries are currently required to prove that they have been offered a concrete training place and need to obtain an authorisation from the Federal Employment Agency4. In 2018, around 18,592 third country nationals held a residence permit for the purpose of taking up vocational training. This corresponded to a share of 8.6 per cent of all third country nationals residing in Germany for reasons of education (university studies, further training courses etc.)5.

In order to be able to successfully complete training in Germany, candidates require good or excellent German language skills. German is the common language used by companies, vocational schools and colleges and all examinations are also held in German. Candidates from abroad can prepare for this by starting to learn German in their home country, for example at the Goethe Institute. German language skills are particularly important for non-EU nationals as they often need to prove their proficiency in German when they apply for a visa. Employers and apprenticeship placement staff should take this into account whenever they recruit candidates from abroad and help these learn German.     

Job prospects for apprentices upon completion of training

Apprentices who have successfully completed their training in Germany have a wide range of opportunities. They can work in the profession they have learned without any restrictions being imposed on them. As they have obtained their qualification in Germany, no recognition of their professional qualifications is required. Around two thirds of all companies employ their former apprentices once these have successfully completed training. Many are given a permanent employment contract and continue to work in the company as fully qualified professionals. Apprentices who have completed their training can also further specialise by undertaking advanced training in their field of work. For example, skilled crafts professionals can take further training courses to qualify as a master craftsman. After completing the further training, many master craftsmen obtain a senior position or start their own business.

Further Information on "Make it in Germany"

Vocational training in Germany
Visa for the purpose of taking up training

Sources & notes

[1] Federal Statistical Office, Education, research and culture / Vocational training (2019):

[2] Survey on training conducted by the Association of German Chambers of Commerce in 2018, companies provide information on the training situation:

[3] Federal Employment Agency (2018): the situation on the training market:

[4] Under the current law, recruiting apprentices from third countries is subject to approval by the Federal Employment Agency. The Agency conducts a priority check and a check of the employment conditions. In order to pass the priority check, the employer has to provide good reasons for why no preferred domestic applicants are available for the concrete training.

[5] Migration monitoring: Migration to Germany for the purpose of work and education – Report for the first half year of 2018: Persons belonging to this group are also referred to as ‘educational migrants’.

As the Skilled Immigration Act enters into force, what will change for apprentices from third countries?

Possibility to come to Germany to look for a training place: Under the Skilled Immigration Act, young persons from third countries can obtain a visa to travel to Germany to look for a training place and stay there for up to six months. Apart from being able to sustain themselves financially, training candidates must

  • be no older than 25
  • hold a school leaving certificate that qualifies them to attend university in Germany or their home country, and
  • have good German language skills.

 The Skilled Immigration Act will enter into force on 1 March 2020.

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