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German dual apprenticeship system

Expatrio 2024-02-15
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In Germany, school leavers have the option of taking up a vocational apprenticeship instead of choosing full-time academic education. Known as ‘dual studies’ or referred to as the ‘dual education/apprenticeship system’, it is a highly regulated and well-regarded system whereby young people learn through a mix of ‘on-the-job’ training as well as in the classroom.

Typically, learners will spend 70% of time in the workplace and 30% at college. Most apprenticeships take around three years and almost always lead to secure employment. This article will give your more information on how the system works, its organization, and its costs and financing possibilities.

The dual education system in Germany

The dual education system in Germany is, today, firmly established

It was formally enshrined in law with the establishment of the Vocational Training Act of 1969, which was updated in 2005.

What is Germany’s dual education system?

The dual education system, or duales Ausbildungssystem, is sometimes referred to in English as the ‘German vocational education and training system’. It acts as a transition between school and the workplace, with most apprentices aged between 16 and 19, although some placements are aimed at those aged 18 and above, where the apprenticeship can form part of a degree course.

This vocational education system involves students splitting their learning time between the classroom and on-the-job training. It sees small to medium-sized companies and publicly funded colleges coming together to provide an excellent, mutually beneficial, vocational education for high-school graduates.

Dual educational training typically lasts around two to three years, after which time students will often gain an industry recognized qualification which is awarded by a Chamber of Commerce or guild.

The German Vocational Training System

Find out more about the German dual education program with this informative video.


Organization of Apprenticeship

Learn more about the organization of German Vocational Training

The dual studies system is regulated by the government’s vocational policies as well as by German law. It is overseen by GOVET (the German Office of Vocational and Educational Training). The high standards are upheld by a number of organizations working together including the government, public colleges, universities, states (Länder), trade unions, chambers, and the companies themselves.

The system is standardized throughout Germany so that a young person completing a placement in one state can ensure that its qualification will be recognized in another. In fact, the German dual studies system is so well perceived that many young people can easily find employment in other countries afterwards as well.

There are currently 330 occupations in German that require formal training, and with its standardized training and qualifications, this system allows many students to gain the correct training before they embark on their chosen career. Around half of all school leavers go into the dual education system, which in turn means that Germany enjoys a low youth unemployment rate.

There are 400,000 German companies which offer vocational training positions. Of those companies, around two thirds tend to offer students employment contracts at the end of the apprenticeship. Some students choose to seek employment elsewhere, and very few do not find employment.

Financing and cost of training in Germany

Students undertaking a placement in the dual education system do not pay any educational fees for their course

They are paid a small wage as part of their contract, usually equivalent to around €400 - €600 a month, similar to that of a student grant or bursary. For the most part, young Germans aged 16 to 19 who are undertaking an apprenticeship will continue to live with their parents for the duration of the course, as the wage is not enough to live on independently.

Foreign students undertaking a dual studies course in place of university education may be able to find cheap university campus accommodation and may also be able to secure a scholarship or student funding through their home country. Take the time to find out about the costs of living in Germany before you apply for any dual study university course.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Learn more about the positive and negative sides of the dual apprenticeship system in Germany

Advantages of the dual studies system

There are many advantages to choosing a dual studies route, especially for non-German natives as it gives them an excellent opportunity to enter the German labor market.

It’s also perfect for gaining real, practical work experience that simply can’t be gained in a classroom. There is a high pass rate of around 90%.

Disadvantages of the dual studies system

Those undertaking a dual studies course will be paid a small apprenticeship salary, which will be significantly less than the amount you would earn for doing the role as an employed member of staff.

The reason for this is that the company will be paying towards the teaching and training costs as well as for the final exam.

Higher potential of earnings
Due to the much higher potential of earnings after the studies, most students find that the later gains far outweigh the low pay they receive during the placement.


Applying for Vocational Training in Germany

How do I find a vocational training?

Companies advertise vocational places on a yearly basis. Those in the final years of their German school education will be provided with an opportunity to view these. Dual study university courses may be advertised by either the company or the university.

How can you apply for a dual apprenticeship in Germany?

The application process begins at least a year ahead of the start date. You will need to prove you have a competent level of German to apply.

The Goethe Institute offers an online test which you can use to demonstrate your grasp of the German language, but a more official examination certificate (also available through the same institution) will most likely be needed.

Those wishing to apply for a vocational apprenticeship should do so by applying to the company, not the college, unless it is a dual studies degree course, in which case you will need to apply to the university as well. If the application is successful, the company and the student will agree to a ‘Training Contract’ which will outline the training content, schedule, and duration as well as remuneration (salary) and holiday entitlement.

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