Pact on apprenticeships prolonged until 2014

In October 2010, the German federal government and umbrella business organisations extended the pact on apprenticeships for another four years. The pact, set up in 2004, was designed to help more young people gain apprenticeships and to ensure the future supply of skilled labour. It was first renewed in 2007, and this latest agreement aims at creating 60,000 new apprenticeships every year until 2014, provided that there are enough applicants.

Background

The pact on apprenticeships (Ausbildungspakt) was introduced in 2004 by the federal government and representatives of German employers and business organisations to avoid the introduction of a training levy which was being discussed by the governing coalition at that time (DE0407105F). The pact was extended for the first time in 2007 (DE0802029I). It was extended again, on 26 October 2010, until 2014.

The new pact

The pact was renewed by the federal government and its founding partners, the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA), the Federation of German Industries (BDI), the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH), the German Association of Liberal Professions (BFB) and the Federal Employment Agency (BA). However, two new pact partners have also been enlisted: the federal government’s Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration, and the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Cultural Affairs of the Länder (KMK).

The pact partners have issued a paper (63.9Kb PDF) on the main current challenges and their strategies for dealing with these. The new pact is clearly influenced by the pressures of demographic change and the need to ensure availability of skilled labour in the future (DE1009019I, DE0707039I). The situation in Germany is characterised by a declining number of secondary school leavers. For example, the pact partners’ paper shows that only 850,000 pupils left school in 2010, 80,000 (9%) less than in 2003. At the same time, the number of university entrants rose from 378,000 in 2003 to 423,000 in 2009.

Declining numbers of school leavers and the growing number of university entrants adds to employers’ problems in finding adequately trained workers to fill medium-skilled positions. In addition, the pact partners highlight the fact that many school leavers do not successfully manage the transition from school to professional training due to a lack of elementary skills. The renewed pact is therefore providing targeted support to secondary school graduates who have not performed well at school. However, the partners will also try to encourage more capable pupils to take up apprenticeships. In detail, they agreed that, annually, they would:

  • create, on average, 60,000 new vocational training positions;
  • create 30,000 places for students with entry-level qualifications;
  • offer 10,000 places with special entry-level qualifications to young people needing particular help with transition from school;
  • add 30,000 new companies to the list of those training young people.

The partners stressed that realising these goals depends on demographic developments and on enough applications from suitable school leavers. Apart from these targets, they continue to advocate a shorter training period of two years for some occupations. Vocational training usually takes three years in Germany and the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) has been unwilling to accept employers’ demands for shorter training.

Position of social partners

On the day the pact was extended, DGB said, in a press release (in German), that the employers, with their demands for two-year training and for the liberalisation of youth employment protection, had precluded DGB’s involvement in the pact. The Vice-President of DGB, Ingrid Sehrbrock, criticised the employers for asking for looser regulations on youth employment, for example, by demanding that underage young people should be allowed to work before 06.00 and after 22.00. The hotels and restaurants trade, which had, in her view, been vociferous in demanding these changes, was especially badly affected by a lack of vocational trainees. She said trainees should not be considered as inexpensive kitchen helpers and that establishments would be able to attract greater numbers of trainees only by offering them thorough training and good career opportunities. Ms Sehrbrock stressed that the unions would continue to support young people and their training, by:

  • concluding relevant collective agreements;
  • developing mentoring programmes;
  • promoting vocational preparation in schools.

Presidents of BDA, BFB, DIHK and ZDH emphasised, in their joint press statement (in German), that the pact had been a great success since its inception in 2004. Many young people had been given a chance to do vocational training. The partners’ successful cooperation would therefore continue for the next few years. However, the presidents also pointed out their main challenges, including fewer applicants (up to a 50% decline in some regions) but a greater need for them. Apart from vocational training, companies and self-employed workers were also involved in a variety of other projects, such as school partnerships or entry-level qualifications. The employers feel the unions’ rejection of shorter training periods does not help in the search for ways of allowing young people to enter the labour market, and they expressed their regret that no agreement had been reached with the unions.

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

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