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Continuing education and training in the German VET system

Continuing vocational education and training takes lifelong learning into account and is the classical field for courses to deepen and supplement vocational knowledge, competencies and skills. In practice, a distinction is made between retraining, advanced training and adaptation training.

Continuing training is playing an increasingly important role in improving employability. It is
characterised by a wide variety of providers (a training market) and a comparatively low degree of regulation by the state. Only a small part of provisions lead to formal qualifications regulated by the Vocational Training Act, such as master craftsman/foreman/ certified supervisor, technical engineer, and certified senior clerk qualifications (Meister, Techniker, Fachwirt). Courses to prepare for these advanced level qualifications are offered by chambers or schools (Fachschulen, master craftsmen schools). Access to the respective assessment usually requires several years of practice in the related occupation.

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

Training provider

Any organisation or individual providing education or training services.

Source: CEDEFOP 2014, Europe

VET Glossary

Master craftsmen school

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

Senior clerk

VET Glossary

Master craftsman

A master craftsman is a higher professional qualification in craft, artistic, technical-commercial, agricultural and other professions.

Source: Wikipedia (German)

VET Glossary

Training market

Individuals, enterprises and governments interacting with public and private providers for the delivery of training services and products leading to a diverse and flexible national skills pool.

Source: NCVER 2013, Australia

VET Glossary

Continuing vocational education and training

Education or training after initial education or entry into working life aimed at helping individuals to improve or update their knowledge and/or skills, acquire new skills for a career move or retraining, or continue their personal and professional development.

Source: NCVER 2013, Australia

The German system of continuing vocational education and training can be defined as follows: Vocational further training generally requires a completed apprenticeship and/or appropriate relevant professional experience. The vocational training should open up the possibility for people to maintain their professional capacity in their current position/occupation (further training) (Anpassungsfortbildung) or to expand their professional capacity for professional advancement (advanced training) (Austiegsfortbildung).
There are thus two forms of continuing vocational training in the German system: further continuing training (receiving and adapting) and advanced continuing training (expanding and career advancement).

Source: BIBB (German)

Continuing education plays an important role in lifelong learning

Workers who are well-qualified within their occupation can make considerable progression as an expert within their particular specialist field, especially if they undergo relevant advanced training. In Germany, many senior jobs are held by persons with vocational qualifications.

In other countries, such positions would be filled by higher education graduates. Foremen manage construction sites, and master craftsmen can acquire or start up their own business. Almost 200,000 craft trade companies in Germany are seeking a successor to take over by the year 2020.

Dual training offers a wide range of development opportunities, both during the period of initial VET and in particular upon completion of the training programme.

These include the following.

  • Additional qualifications supplement initial VET by including extra contents and may be acquired during or after training, e.g. certificates in the commercial sector, IT qualifications, knowledge of foreign languages.
  • Updating training enables employability skills to be retrained and adapts them to meet new requirements in the workplace.
  • Upgrading training extends employability skills into new task areas and offers the chance to climb the career ladder by acquiring qualifications such as certified senior clerk, technician or master craftsman.
  • Retraining for a new work activity comes into effect when the occupation in which training has initially taken place can no longer be exercised.

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