Germany’s practical gateway to work

The majority of Germans prepare for the job market through apprenticeships, rather than higher education. How does the nation’s acclaimed vocational system work and is it an option for expat partners?


In Germany, apprenticeships are a serious alternative to going to university. There are about 350 careers in Germany that require a dual track vocational degree. The Financial Times reports that most Germans who opt to go this route, “join three-year programmes that either mix company-based and in-school training, or consist solely of school-based training with internships. In the first version, companies pay for most of the training and the apprentice wages; in the second, state governments pay for the training in schools. Both culminate in nationally recognised qualifications.”

Gateway to the job market

“The apprenticeship route could be an interesting option for expat partners who accompany foreign local hires – staying in Germany for an indefinite time,” says Global Connection consultant Ines Ahrens, who is based in Germany. “Of course, they will have to learn German first before entering the scheme, as it is only offered in German. But after that, expat partners can apply to companies for apprenticeship placements, get a foot in the door in the German job market and start earning a small salary while in training.”

In great demand

“There are many – usually medium-sized – companies desperate for apprentices. And it is not unusual for apprentices to stay with the company after they finish their training. In any case, employers will value the work experience gained through an apprenticeship,” states Ahrens. She adds that the apprenticeships aren’t just for young people: “Especially in areas where there is a real shortage of employees, such as elderly care, they will be happy to take on mature students, either through an apprenticeship or through Umschulung, the school-based retraining scheme with internships that will earn you the same diploma.”

Photo: InstituteForApprenticeships – Flickr

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