Vocational training market in fine shape

On 7 November 2011, the partners in the Pact on Apprenticeships released new figures on the development of the vocational training market in Germany. The latest data highlight a positive trend, showing more vocational training positions are available for young people and more establishments are offering training. However, the Confederation of German Trade Unions is unconvinced and insists that the situation for young people looking for a training position remains difficult.

Pact on apprenticeships

At the beginning of November 2011, a group of employers’ organisations presented new data on developments in vocational training in Germany. They had come together in 2004 to set up the Pact on Apprenticeships (Ausbildungspakt), designed to create more apprenticeship positions (DE0407105F).

The initial organisations in the pact were the Federal Employment Agency (BA), the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) and the Federation of German Industries ( BDI) together with the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH) and the German Association of Liberal Professions (BFB).

When the pact was renewed for a second time in 2010, two other organisations joined; the federal government’s Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration and the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Cultural Affairs of the Laender (KMK). The German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) was also invited, but finally decided against becoming involved (DE1011029I).

In 2010, the pact partners agreed, among other things, to create an average of 60,000 new apprenticeship positions annually. As their latest figures show, this target was reached in the course of the last year.

Current situation on the vocational training market

One year after the prolongation of the pact, the partners presented their first interim results. In a joint press statement (in German, 79Kb PDF) issued in November 2011, the pact partners highlight the positive trends in the German vocational training market. From 2010 to 2011 the number of available training positions registered with the Federal Employment Agency (BA) rose by 7.5% to a total of 519,600. During the same period, the number of applicants fell by 2.5%. At the end of September 2011, there were 29,700 unfilled training positions and only 11,600 applicants were still registered with the BA.

Statistics published by the pact partners show that:

  • employer and business associations fulfilled their goal of providing more than 60,000 new apprenticeship positions, with a total of 63,100 new positions being made available;
  • 38,100 new establishments were persuaded to offer a training position;
  • establishments offered 22,700 positions for entry-level qualifications, plus another 3,170 for special entry-level qualifications – intended for young people who need particular help with the transition from school to the vocational training system.

As a result, the partners claimed:

  • 340,000 new training contracts were concluded in industry and commerce (an increase of 3.9% on the previous year);
  • 152,500 new contracts were agreed in the crafts industry (0.6% fewer than the previous year);
  • 43,100 contracts were agreed for trainees in the liberal professions (up 1.1% on the previous year).

However, the clearing phase, which started on 1 October 2011, is still running. During this phase, pact partners help young people who have not yet been successful in signing a training contract. Due to the low number of applicants for training positions in some regions, special placement checks or exchanges for trainee positions were no longer necessary during the clearing phase. In such cases, interested young people receive individual counselling.

Position of social partners

On 7 November 2011, Ingrid Sehrbrock, Vice-Chair of the DGB union confederation criticised the pact partners in a press release (in German). She insisted they had not taken account of the 65,200 young people who are currently placed in internships, on job application training courses or who have special entry-level qualifications, but who still want to start vocational training.

She described as an ‘optical illusion’ the pact partners’ claim that the vocational training market was offering all young people good opportunities. However, she also said that, in her view, the latest figures signalled the end of the negative effects of the global economic and financial crisis and a more stable situation on the German vocational training market.

The pact partners are nevertheless highlighting their success in offering more training positions. They have stressed that not only have more vocational training contracts been concluded during the past year, but also that there have been positive developments for the so-called ‘old applicants’. These are the young people who were not successful in concluding a vocational training contract in previous years and are now being taken up by the German vocational training system. According to the BA statistics, fewer ‘old applicants’ were registered in 2011 as still looking for a training position, down 5.7% on the previous year.

Sandra Vogel, Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW Köln)

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