Going abroad with Erasmus+ – which occupations are the most mobile?

Ulrike Schröder

Every year, thousands of young people take advantage of the opportunity to spend part of their vocational education and training abroad. But which occupations are well represented and which less so? Data is now available for two cohorts of the Erasmus+ EU programme. The following analysis concentrates on the area of dual training for the 2015 funding cohort. The training occupations with the highest mobility rates in Erasmus+ form the starting point.

How mobile are trainees?

A current study shows that 5.3 per cent of all trainees in Germany spent part of their training abroad in 2017. Almost one in two received financial support via the Erasmus+ programme (cf. NA at BIBB 2018). This provides an initial idea of the progress that is being made towards the target of ten per cent, which the German Bundestag (2012) aspires to achieve by the year 2020.

Thanks to the annex that German project providers attach to their Erasmus+ final reports, we are able to make statements regarding the mobility participation of individual dual training occupations (cf. Information Box). A “mobility rate” was calculated for every occupation represented in Erasmus+ by relating the number of mobile trainees from the 2015 round of funding to the number of those completing training in the respective occupations in 2016. Occupations in which ten persons or fewer completed training are not taken into account.


Since the 2014 funding cohort, German VET institutions conducting mobility projects using funding from the Erasmus+ EU programme have submitted an annex providing information on project participants together with their final report. A differentiation is drawn between the target groups of “vocational education and training staff” and “learners”. The latter group is in turn broken down into the areas of vocational training preparation, VET (dual, full-time school-based) and regulated continuing vocational training. For dual trainees taking part in mobility measures, the respective training occupations are also stated. This means that the National Agency at BIBB has access to information on 8,787 (2014) and 9,099 (2015) dual trainees who have received Erasmus+ funding for a period of time spent abroad that is relevant to their training.

A small occupation with a clear lead – investment fund specialists

As the Figure shows, investment fund specialists display an outstanding rate of mobility. 70.37 per cent of the 27 young people who qualified in this occupation in 2016 went abroad to another European country during their training. In this case, the low number of trainees is an advantage. The Erasmus+ project of the vocational school responsible offers foreign placements, specially tailored to training contents, to all its trainees. This provision is evidently being very well received by both the trainees and the companies. Further examples of “small” occupations with an above average mobility rate are goldsmith (15.59 %) and beautician (14.69 %).

Figure: Mobility rate beyond the ten per cent mark by training occupations

Electrical occupations very active internationally

A number of occupations in the electrical sector also display conspicuously high mobility rates. Although the occupations of electronics technician for building and infrastructure systems (mobility rate 23.61 %) and electrical fitter (20 %) are only completed by 177 persons and thus do not form part of the national list of the top 20 training occupations, more than one in five trainees have spent several weeks abroad during their VET. System electronics technician (mobility rate 14.67 %) is another of the 20 training occupations which exhibit the highest mobility rates in Erasmus+ despite the fact that only eleven persons undertook a placement abroad.

Essentially, it is often the vocational schools that organise foreign mobility for their pupils. If good relations are in place, with the companies providing training and particularly in the case of occupations in which trainee numbers are low in overall terms, periods of learning can be arranged for whole groups and even for entire vocational school classes. This leads in turn to high mobility rates.

The frontrunner in absolute terms – industrial clerks

In terms of absolute figures, industrial clerks are the most mobile dual occupational group by some distance. In the 2015 round of funding, 1,788 trainees took part in an Erasmus+ mobility project. Given the fact that a total of 17,352 persons completed training in this occupation, the corresponding mobility rate is 10.3 per cent. This means that the fourth most popular training occupation in Germany has already reached the ten per cent mark. One explanation for the high mobility participation which is strongly suggested by the final reports is the opportunity to acquire major international competencies such as knowledge of international markets and economic relations and of foreign company and business cultures. This is in line both with training contents and with the needs of the companies providing training, which are frequently internationally aligned. The impressive mobility rate recorded by tourism and leisure agents (21.84 %) can also be viewed in this context.

Potential for sales occupations

The comparison of numbers of young people completing training and mobility participation in Erasmus+ also shows that there are strong training occupations in which only rare use is made of the option of training abroad. This is particularly noticeably revealed in the case of the sales occupations of management assistant for retail services and sales assistant for retail services. Although these occupations are amongst the most popular and training in them was completed by 24,216 and 17,583 persons respectively in 2016, they very much bring up the rear in the Erasmus+ rankings by dint of the fact that only 178 and 80 trainees participated in a mobility project. This means that their mobility rates are 0.74 and 0.45 per cent.

Higher mobility participation would be desirable given the size of these occupations, especially because there is increasing demand in later working life within this sector for competencies which are particularly well suited to being acquired during a period spent abroad. Alongside professional skills, these mainly also include cross-curricular competencies such as intercultural openness and sensitivity, foreign language competencies and self-confidence.


It will probably be difficult for occupations in which many young people complete training to achieve the same top mobility rates as the small occupations. A greater degree of commitment on the part of the “major players” could, however, make a considerable contribution towards achieving the benchmark of ten per cent by 2020. After all, there are plenty of good reasons for training abroad.


DEUTSCHER BUNDESTAG: Das deutsche Berufsbildungssystem – Versicherung gegen Jugendarbeitslosigkeit und Fachkräftemangel, Drucksache 17/10986. Berlin 2012 – URL: http://dipbt.bundestag.de/dip21/btd/17/109/1710986.pdf  (retrieved: 17.07.2018)

NA BEIM BIBB (Hrsg.): Auslandsaufenthalte in der Berufsausbildung 2017. Bonn 2018 – URL: www.na-bibb.de/mobilitaetsstudie  (retrieved: 17.07.2018)

Research Associate at the National Agency Education for Europe at BIBB

Translation from the German original (published in BWP 4/2018): Martin Kelsey, GlobalSprachTeam, Berlin