Dual training in Germany is still in crisis in the third year of the pandemic. At the end of September 2021, the number of newly concluded training contracts was 473,064, only slightly higher than in the previous training year, and thus still significantly lower than before the pandemic. After a sharp decline during the crisis, the number of training places is currently recovering, but companies are reporting a severe lack of applications. This further intensifies the problem of securing skilled workers. In addition to the high number of unfilled training places, there are also many unplaced applicants and an increasing number of unplaced applicants.
The federal government’s coalition agreement provides for a training guarantee that is intended to give all young people access to fully qualifying vocational training. Vocational training should primarily take place in companies, but in regions with a significant undersupply of training places, external training opportunities are also planned. In addition, the question arises as to whether a training guarantee makes sense in a situation characterized by a lack of applicants.
In the discussion about the training guarantee, it is worth looking at its implementation in Austria. Vocational training in Austria is based on three pillars: in-company apprenticeship training, inter-company apprenticeship training and school-based vocational training at an intermediate and higher level.
The training guarantee was introduced in Austria when there was a shortage of training places. It guarantees young people under the age of 25 an apprenticeship if they register with the Austrian employment office and do not have any training beyond compulsory schooling. This apprenticeship can be school, company or inter-company.
Around eight percent of apprentices in Austria are trained in inter-company training, which is subordinate to in-company training. Half of the inter-company training courses are in Vienna, where the number of company-based training places is significantly lower than demand. Around 90 percent of the training guarantee is financed by contributions to unemployment insurance.
If you look at the labor market integration of young people three years after successfully completing their training, in-company training appears to be more successful at first glance, but the following figures do not allow a fair comparison. While more than 80 percent of graduates of in-company training are in employment three years after successful completion, the figure is only around 65 percent for the inter-company variant.
The inter-company training contracts are only concluded for one year. The training takes place close to the company, be it through company internships or through a permanent cooperation company. Around 42 percent of the participants switch to in-company training in the first year of their apprenticeship, although the transition can also take place during the year.
There are therefore great similarities with external training in Germany. Here, too, there are variants with company internships or cooperation companies, around 40 percent start in company training after six to twelve months and around 63 percent of the participants who successfully complete their training find employment afterwards. In Germany, however, there is no corresponding legal entitlement.
Participation in Germany in 2021 was around two percent of all people who started training, significantly lower than in Austria. In 2021, admissions were also almost ten percent below the previous year’s values.
Since access in Germany is largely within the framework of the promotion of disadvantaged people, stigmatization effects must be taken into account when entering employment. The participants in Germany have already completed pre-employment offers much more frequently than in Austria. Accordingly, with an average age of 20.5 years, they are already significantly older when they join.
Against this background, a training guarantee could increase the chances of vocational training for young people whose applications for in-company training were initially unsuccessful and who, as unplaced applicants from previous years, will again have problems finding access to in-company training in the next training year. This would also reduce the stigmatizing effect of participation.
In addition, the regional mismatch could decrease. In Germany, too, there are regions such as Berlin or parts of North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse where the demand for training places significantly exceeds the number of training places available. The pandemic has made many young people even more unsure about their career choice. One advantage of the training guarantee would be that it can signal to them that training is definitely possible.
This would make young people more receptive to career orientation, ie motivate them to develop realistic career aspirations and start the application process. This would be particularly important for young people with a migration background, since they rarely complete in-company training. A training guarantee can help to introduce more young people to vocational training without entitlement to training in the desired job being justified.
If they are designed close to the company, measures with a legal entitlement to vocational training can also indirectly increase entry into company-based training. Such transitions can be supported by one-year contracts based on the Austrian model and ongoing placement in company training during the measure.
Likewise, the vocational schools must be involved organizationally in such a way that a transition from the measure to in-company training is easily possible during off-the-job training. And the training guarantee must include offers for low-threshold training occupations that make it easier for less well-educated young people to get started.
At the same time, it should be noted that the training guarantee is not a panacea for the current problems of dual training. It will not reverse the long-term decline in interest in dual training among young people with a secondary school diploma or Abitur. Company training occupations are often perceived by these young people as uncompetitive or less attractive in terms of working conditions, seem to be too narrow in content and offer too few development prospects. This is both an image and an attractiveness issue that has become even more apparent during the pandemic. In-company training must become more attractive again compared to technical school or academic training and must also be perceived as such by young people.