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The dual system in the German VET system

The dual system, the central element of the German VET system, is called “dual” because training takes place at two learning venues; in the company and at the vocational school. Apprentices are employed during the apprenticeship by the company.

Young people study in the company and at school

The dual system looks back to a history of more than 100 years. It is embedded in German society and characterized by a strong commitment of many groups of German society as there are the state and the federal states, the industry, the companies and the social partners.

What does dual training mean?

Each year, around half of Germany’s school leavers opt for this type of vocational education and training. Learning takes place at two venues – the company and the vocational school. This means that trainees/apprentices are employees and pupils/students at the same time. They conclude a training contract with a company, where they undergo training in one of more than 300 training occupations (skills areas) recognised in accordance with the Vocational Training Act (BBiG) or the Crafts and Trades Regulation Code (HwO).

Depending on the occupation, duration of training is between two and three and a half years. Training may also be completed on a part-time basis. Apart from the provison that mandatory full-time schooling must have been concluded, no further prior school learning requirements apply in respect of entry to dual training. Apprentices receive a training allowance from the employer, i.e. they get paid for their apprenticeship.

A final exam which is performed by the chambers completes the apprenticeship. Upon passing the final examination, apprentices receive a chamber certificate (or a journeyman certificate in the case of a craft trades occupation) to document that training has been successfully completed. This certifies that they are in possession of employability skills in one of the state-recognised occupations.

The expertise of teaching staff at the vocational school and of qualified and certified company-based trainers plays a major role in securing the quality of dual training.The combination of practice and theory which forms the basis of the dual system of vocational education and training in Germany is held in high international regard.

This part of the VET system in Germany is based on a cooperation between state, private sector and social partners (Link to stakeholders)

What role does BIBB play in the German VET System?

The Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) does research on vocational education and training and plays a major role in the further development of the German (dual) VET system. 

The BIBB...

VET Glossary


Refers to the ability to apply knowledge, use know-how to complete tasks and solve problems and carry out the tasks that comprise a particular job.

As an overarching/multidimensional concept/term, “skill” can be also used as a proxy measure on occupation, qualification, educational attainment (these measures have the benefit of being readily available in a range of quantitative datasets).

Other abilities, used at daily work, such as teamwork and problem-solving, are also considered as skills (however it is not always easy to be measured due to their subjective nature).

Source: EU Commission (Skills Panorama) 2015, Europe

VET Glossary

In-company trainer

In-company trainers are defined as internal trainers (employed by the company) who provide internal training (training organised and carried out in and/or by the company for their staff) and support learning of adults (CVET) in non-formal and informal learning environments within the company.

Source: CEDEFOP (SME) 2015, Europe


Company-based trainers (cf. also in-company trainers) are responsible for the time and content planning and implementation of company-based vocational education and training. Only those who are personally and professionally suitable are permitted to act as trainers. In specific terms, this means that

  • everyone is initially viewed as being personally suitable, provided that their unsuitability has not been established. Persons are deemed to be lacking in suitability if they have been shown to have come into conflict with the law as a result of certain offences or have committed a serious breach of the Vocational Training Act or of its subsequent provisions.
  • In addition, trainers are required to be professionally suited to their role. This means that they themselves must have mastery of the occupational skills they are seeking to impart to the young people. Professional suitability is normally deemed to be given if trainers are in possession of a relevant recognised vocational qualification or hold a degree from a university of applied sciences or institute of higher education. Professional suitability may also be acquired if no vocational qualification is held. This normally necessitates demonstrating relevant professional experience of at least six years.
  • Trainers are also required to have some understanding of the planning and execution of a training programme and of how to manage young people. This area is referred to as vocational teaching aptitude. The occupational and vocational teaching knowledge that trainers are required to display is set out in the Ordinance on Trainer Aptitude. Such knowledge may be acquired at a trainer seminar.

All those wishing to act as trainers in a craft trades occupation listed in Annex A of the Crafts and Trades Regulation Code are subject to a special condition in that they normally need to hold a master craftsman qualification. The Trainer Aptitude Examination is included within the master craftsman examination. Those who are in possession of a master craftsman qualification may, therefore, act as trainers without any requirement to sit a further examination.

Major companies frequently employ full-time trainers whose sole task is the provision of company-based training. These trainers look after large groups of trainees. At smaller companies, employees take on training tasks alongside their main work duties. Such staff are referred to as part-time trainers. Regardless of the occupational tasks they perform, trainers always act as the point of contact for trainees. This means that trainees refer any professional questions or major and minor problems to trainers.

Many training contents are imparted by other skilled workers within the company. These employees are referred to as training instructors. Training instructors also need to have the necessary professional knowledge and the ability to teach young people. Despite the co-responsibility of many parties within the training process, overall responsibility is borne by trainers.

Every company-based training programme has a competent body. For most occupations, this is either the chambers of commerce and industry or the chambers of crafts and trades. These bodies ensure that training is only carried out by persons who are suitable, i.e. are in possession of the skills stated above.

Source: Jobstarter

VET Glossary


A person whose function is to impart knowledge, know-how or skills to learners in an education or training institution.

Source: CEDEFOP 2014, Europe

VET Glossary

State-recognised occupation

VET Glossary

Chamber certificate

A final exam which is performed by the chambers completes the apprenticeship. Upon passing the final examination, apprentices receive a chamber certificate (or a journeyman certificate in the case of a craft trades occupation) to document that training has been successfully completed. This certifies that they are in possession of employability skills in one of the state-recognised occupations.

Trainees can request that the result of their vocational school achievements will be listed on the chamber certificate. At the student's request, the certificate must also be accompanied by a translation into English and French by the competent authority/chamber. Cross-border applications and mobility are to be promoted by this. The final examination is free of charge for the trainees.

In-company trainers shall also issue a certificate to their apprentices at the end of the training relationship, indicating the nature, duration and objective of the vocational training and the vocational skills, knowledge and abilities acquired by the apprentice.

Source: BIBB and BMBF

VET Glossary

Training allowance

Stipend or other payment made by an employer or from public funds to an employee undergoing training for a certain period, usually outside the normal place of work.

Source: UNEVOC/NCVER 2009, Global

VET Glossary


An occupation is defined as a set of jobs whose main tasks and duties are characterised by a high degree of similarity. A person may be associated with an occupation through the main job currently held, a second job or a job previously held.

Source: ILO 2007, Global

VET Glossary

Crafts and Trades Regulation Code

Membership to the skilled craft sector in Germany is not regulated via the company size or turnover, but by law. The Trade and Crafts Code determines which occupations are part of the crafts sector. Annex A lists all the occupations, for which a master craftsperson’s examination is a prerequisite for self-employment. Legislator demands a master craftsperson’s examination or comparable qualification for occupations that are particularly hazardous and/or require special training. Annex B1 lists all other skilled craft occupations for which a master craftsperson’s examination can be taken voluntarily. So-called ‘craft-like trades’ are listed in Annex B2.

Source: ZDH

Learn more about the term German use of the term occupation

VET Glossary

Vocational Training Act

The German Vocational Training Act (BBiG) regulates vocational training preparation, vocational education and training (the dual system), advanced vocational training and vocational retraining. It thus forms the basis for company-based training.

The BBiG entitles companies to take responsibility for conducting vocational education and training, i.e. they are permitted to recruit and train trainees. The law stipulates the prerequisites and conditions for training within the companies. The BBiG applies to training in trade and industry, in the public sector and in the liberal professions. It covers only a few aspects of training in the craft trades sector, which is largely governed by the Crafts and Trades Regulation Code. Nevertheless, the provisions contained within the Crafts and Trades Regulations Code largely equate to those of the BBiG. All areas of training that come under the auspices of the company providing training are governed via the BBiG.

Vocational school teaching is regulated by the educational laws of the federal states. Harmonisation between the Federal Government and federal states takes place in various committees in order to avoid conflicts in training caused by different laws.
The most important regulations contained within the Vocational Training Act relate to the following aspects.

  • Contents of the training contract
  • Requirements regarding the suitability of companies and Trainers
  • The duty of a company to pay a training allowance
  • The rights and responsibilities of parties providing training and of Trainees
  • The necessity of training regulations to enable training to take place as planned
  • The conducting of examinations
  • The right of the trainee to receive a company reference at the end of Training
  • The organisation and monitoring of company-based training by the Chambers
  • Each training occupation has training regulations which set out the contents of the respective training in detail.

Source: Jobstarter

VET Glossary

Training occupation

„Ausbildungsberuf“ is a German term which usually is translated by the term "training occupation". It means a scientific, social and labour market-based construct and a category of order agreed by consensus between the social partners and the state. With the help of "Ausbildungsberufe" the selection and bundling of activities and the associated necessary qualifications is carried out. Mastery of the work tasks combined in a "Ausbildungsberuf" is the objective of the respective vocational training ("professional competence to act")

Source: IAB

VET Glossary

Training contract

A legally binding agreement between an apprentice or trainee and an employer which defines the rights and responsibilities of each party. These include the employer guaranteeing to train the apprentice or trainee in the agreed occupation or training area, and to allow time off work to attend any required off-the-job training; and the apprentice or trainee agreeing to learn all aspects of the occupation or training area, and to work for the employer for a specified period. It supersedes the indenture system.

Source: NCVER 2013, Australia

Training contract in the context of the German VET System:
Prior to commencement of training, the parties providing training and the future trainees conclude a contract. If a trainee is aged under 18, the consent of the parents must be obtained in order to conclude the contract. The company training contract is concluded for a fixed term. It ends following completion of the contractually agreed duration of training or when the final examination is passed.
The contract states

  • the precise title of the training occupation,
  • the name and address of the company and of the trainee, the name of the trainer,
  • the point in time when training begins,
  • the duration of training,
  • how many hours the trainee will work,
  • the length of the probationary period (maximum permissible period of four months),
    the leave entitlement of the Trainee
  • and the amount of the training allowance, i.e. how much the trainee will receive per month.

The amount of remuneration paid must be appropriate. The primary point of reference is the collective wage agreement that applies to the occupation and region. Training advisors at the chambers frequently have so-called tariff lists for this purpose. The employers’ associations and specialist trade unions are also able to provide information on collective wage agreements.
The training allowance must be increased for each new year of training.

In addition to the training contract, companies are required to draw up a company training plan. This records what trainees should learn during which periods of time. It enables company owners, trainers and trainees to plan which stages of learning need to be integrated into the company work process at which times.

The company submits the training plan to the relevant chamber of commerce and industry or chamber of crafts and trades together with the training contract. The chamber supports and monitors training to ensure that conditions are fulfilled. It also conducts examinations.

Source: Jobstarter

VET Glossary

Apprentice (trainee)

Apprentices/Trainees (Auszubildende) are persons who are undergoing training in a training occupation. In Germany in the past, young people in training were generally referred to as “Lehrlinge”, and this term continues to be used in the craft trades sector. Young people normally apply to enter training during their final year of general schooling, mostly from the beginning of the school year. At this point in time, applicants are predominantly aged between 16 and 19. 

Source: Jobstarter

A person undergoing training for an approved enterprise-based training occupation within an established period covered by an enterprise-based training agreement.

Source: TESDA 2010, Philippines

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