Dual vocational training in trouble. About vacant training positions, unplaced applicants and a heavy mortgage for the post-boomer era

Actually, the dual vocational training in Germany is the backbone of the training system in our country - in addition to technical school and university training. It has been talked about and written about for many years now that in-company vocational training has a bent back. While the university pillar has grown significantly in recent years (which was then reflected in a debate in which this development was denigrated by skeptics and critics as "academicization mania"), one had to look at the dual vocational training with a fundamental and also demographic-related Take note of the shift from “too much” to “too little”. In the past - this is all too often forgotten today - there was "too many" young people who did not get a chance to find an apprenticeship and who, for example, could not be helped in the "transitional system" or only partially, who have immersed themselves in the world of unskilled and semi-skilled activities, often combined or periodically interrupted by the receipt of transfer payments, whether topping up or due to periods of unemployment. At this point it is important to point out that the number of unskilled workers aged 20 to 34 increased from 1.88 million in 2014 to 2.16 million in 2019.

The debate is currently dominated by "too little" - mostly narrowed down to the one dimension of "too little", i.e. too few potential and actual trainees with the result that there are considerable problems in filling the training positions offered. However, there is also a “too few” training places in relation to young people looking for training, not everywhere, but in certain regions, think of the Ruhr area or Berlin. This "too little" is also noticeable in the fact that hundreds of thousands of young people are still being cared for in the so-called "transitional system" and sometimes just (have to) be parked or go somewhere.

What are we actually talking about when we talk about "the" dual vocational training? All in all, young people and young adults can currently choose from a total of 327 recognized dual training occupations after the end of their general schooling. And this diverse vocational training system is constantly evolving: »The adaptability and changeability of dual vocational training in Germany is illustrated by … the total of 129 training regulations that the BIBB, together with the responsible federal ministries, the social partners and experts from business practice has been revised since 2012 and adapted to current economic, technological and social requirements. Other reorganization projects are already in the works,” reports the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BIBB). »Two new and twelve modernized training regulations will come into force on August 1st for the 2022 training year.«

At the same time, the President of the BIBB, Friedrich Hubert Esser, does not fail to warn: “The thinning out of our specialist base associated with demographic development and the changed educational behavior is already massively jeopardizing the achievement of the ambitious goals associated with the energy transition and digitization are connected. We must therefore ensure that we quickly reduce the list of so-called bottleneck occupations. The spectrum of specialists that is increasingly lacking is large: from roofers to software developers. Therefore, vocational training must now have our full attention. It is important to make them more attractive for companies and young people alike, because the decline in the number of training contracts that has been taking place over the years must finally be stopped. Otherwise, in the near future we will no longer have anyone who builds wind turbines or installs modern heating and solar systems.«

Pessimistic tones are also coming from the employers' camp: Apprenticeship is being sought for a trainee - the applicant situation is coming to a head, is the title of a report by the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK). “More than four out of ten IHK training companies were unable to fill all of the training positions offered last year – an all-time high. And more than one in three of these companies did not receive a single application,” reports the deputy DIHK general manager Achim Dercks of the alarming results of the survey among around 15,000 training companies nationwide. "While the proportion of companies that could not find trainees for all vacancies was 32 percent in 2018, by 2021 it was already 42 percent. That means an increase of 10 percentage points in just three years across all industries.«

Three areas in particular are highlighted: »Industry (excluding construction) even recorded growth of 17 percentage points (increase from 33 to 50 percent of all training companies), but also in the hospitality industry (56 to 67 percent) and in transport and logistics (40 to 54 percent) more and more training places remain free.«

And more and more often it is not about the fact that only a few applicants are interested in a training position: “The complete absence of applications is increasingly being given as the reason for not filling training positions: In 2021 this applied to 36 percent of the cases, in 2018 “only” for 30 percent.«

Source of the figure: Germany is running out of trainees, Tagesschau Online, August 18, 2022

Detailed information about the results of the DIHK survey can be found here:

➔ DIHK (2002): DIHK training survey 2022. Dual training faces major challenges, August 2022

Of course, there are also sectors and above all companies that, for various reasons, have no problem attracting enough people interested in training. In the reporting, a company is given as an example, which one would urgently wish for more and good staff - Deutsche Bahn:

➔ »One company cannot … complain about not having enough trainees: Deutsche Bahn. More young people than ever have applied there for the new training year starting September 1st. 115,000 applications were received, 15 percent more than two years ago, said DB HR Manager Martin Seiler: "A total of 5,200 young people are to start their training, studies or qualifications in the DB Group this year. That's a record." Seiler said that the good balance of applications was due to Deutsche Bahn's "positive employer image" and "innovative and creative personnel recruitment". DB abolished cover letters for apprenticeships in 2018 to make applications easier. Deutsche Bahn offers around 50 apprenticeships and 25 dual courses.«

Dual vocational training is important, but it is only a part of the training process - especially with a view to the obvious shortage of occupations, think of the (non-university) training of nursing staff or educators, which takes place in the technical school sector (and there, too, there are complaints about a blatant “too little”). The Federal Statistical Office's integrated training report attempts to provide a general overview of what is happening in training in a specific year. The provisional values ​​for 2021 look like this:

The integrated training reporting (iABE) uses existing data and summarizes existing surveys on sub-areas of training events. In the reporting system of the iABE, the school statistics are used in particular in order to ensure a comparatively uniform system representation of the training events. Other sources are university statistics, staff statistics, funding statistics from the Federal Employment Agency and statistics according to the Nursing Professions Training Funding Ordinance (PfleA).

Differentiated findings on training events can be found in the 2022 Vocational Training Report as well as in the data report published by the BIBB for the 2022 Vocational Training Report.