Vocational training forms the basis of a successful career: During the training, the apprentice learns all the necessary and fundamental skills that form the foundation for the further career.

This is why it is particularly important to ensure the quality of the training – in addition to the vocational school, where the apprentice acquires theoretical knowledge, the training company is also involved. However, the growing shortage of skilled workers on the labour market and the increasing number of unfilled training places in companies also make it necessary to check the quality of training in order to convince junior staff to join your company.

Table of contents
What is vocational training?
What are the consequences of unfilled training places?
Why do so many training places remain unfilled?
Why does vocational training deserve more appreciation?
6 tips for improving the quality and attractiveness of your training institution
Where can you find motivated trainees?
What are the advantages of vocational training?
How do you select suitable apprentices?
What is vocational training?
Vocational training is purely school-based or dual training in a state-recognised training occupation. Within the framework of vocational training, the trainee acquires the professional ability to act, which is indispensable for practising this occupation. The training institution is thus responsible for imparting the skills, competences and knowledge required for the occupation. During the training, the trainee has to pass intermediate examinations and, at the end of the vocational training, a final examination.

Vocational training usually takes place in a dual system. The apprentice attends a vocational school a few days a week and works the remaining days in a selected company with which a training contract has been concluded. On the other hand, an apprentice can also opt for a purely school-based full-time training at a vocational school.

The most popular apprenticeship occupations include:

Office administrator
Motor vehicle mechatronics technician
Industrial clerk
IT specialist
Commercial clerk
Electronics technician
What are the consequences of unfilled training places?
For the past ten years or so, a clear trend has been emerging on the training market: More and more school leavers prefer to study instead of taking up a training occupation. If this trend intensifies in the next few years, experts predict a serious shortage of workers in many training occupations. Consequences that could accompany this development trend are:

Longer waiting times for customers of craft enterprises.
Closure of smaller enterprises due to lack of labour
Decline in the quality of university teaching due to overcrowded lecture halls
An oversupply of graduates and the resulting unemployment.
These consequences show that it makes sense to take a critical look at the issue of the lack of appreciation of vocational training. The issue is not only highly relevant for school leavers, but also for companies. Especially for human resources departments, which will face numerous challenges in the coming years – keyword: war for talents or shortage of skilled workers.

For many companies, apprentices are the future skilled workers and are often recruited while they are still at school. But more and more apprenticeship positions remain unfilled. Author: fizkes | Adobe Stock
Why do so many apprenticeship positions remain unfilled?
Whether cooks, painters or in retail – many sectors are facing a shortage of trainees and workers these days. But why do so many positions remain unfilled?

Lack of social recognition of vocational training
Those who pursue a profession also strive for self-fulfilment. The job should correspond to one’s own interests and give pleasure. But an important aspect of self-fulfilment is also to generate a positive self-concept. This is closely linked to the social prestige a professional activity enjoys.

This fact is one of the most important reasons why an education that is perceived as typical for lower secondary school leavers enjoys less and less prestige. A striking example: the social esteem enjoyed by a rubbish collector is significantly lower than that of a business administrator. And this despite the fact that the former actively contributes to keeping cities clean.

It is precisely from this point of view that each individual has a responsibility to rethink such stereotypes. Only if a collective rethinking takes place will vocational training receive more recognition again.

Lack of recognition in the training company
However, many apprentices report not only a lack of social recognition, but also criticism of their own superiors or the employer itself. A study conducted on behalf of ver.di found that 14% of female apprentices also lack praise and respect from management.

It becomes clear that the training institutions also contribute to raising the reputation of the practical professions. Simply by the fact that the employer himself appreciates his own apprentices more.

Even a brief comment on the trainee’s performance can be a step in the right direction. Constructive feedback also helps young adults feel valued. A detailed appraisal interview with the apprentice signals that the manager has taken a comprehensive look at the apprentice’s performance and is taking the time to evaluate it.

Insufficient financial compensation
Financial remuneration is closely connected to the general appreciation of a job. It is the material measure of how prestigious a profession is. Often, school leavers who decide to train as hairdressers and hearing aid acousticians, for example, are confronted with precarious circumstances. The salary is so low that it is difficult to live independently during the training period.

A new draft law to modernise and strengthen vocational education and training is intended to remedy this situation. This bill proposes a minimum training allowance. Exactly how high this will be has yet to be clarified. What is certain, however, is that better financial remuneration would significantly increase the attractiveness of training.

Dissatisfaction in the training company
Another factor contributing to increasing academisation is the situation in many training companies. Many trainees rate their overall training situation and tasks as critical.

This opinion is generated on the one hand by dissatisfaction with the overtime that has to be worked. On the other hand, non-training-related activities and tasks that have to be carried out contribute to the negative balance. Regardless of whether it is fetching coffee or sending letters: such tasks are called non-training tasks and should be avoided by training companies as far as possible.

Non-training tasks are all tasks that are delegated to trainees at work but have no connection with the occupational profile. According to the Vocational Training Act, tasks unrelated to training are prohibited. Only tasks that “serve the purpose of training” may be delegated to trainees.

In addition, many trainees do not know whether they will be taken on by their company after completing their training. This creates uncertainty and possibly also causes school leavers to decide against vocational training right from the start.

Disorientation of school leavers
The last point that contributes to academisation is the lack of orientation of many school leavers. This is not necessarily self-inflicted. Above all, grammar schools, in the course of explaining vocational education and training, point mainly to university studies. But a university degree is not the only option open to high school graduates.

Many companies are happy to receive applicants who have an Abitur. In some cases, there is even the option of shortening the training period because of the qualification already acquired. Both those responsible in schools and the companies have a responsibility here. Such opportunities should be openly communicated to the pupils. For example, trade fairs at which different apprenticeship occupations and the respective opportunities for advancement can be presented are suitable for this purpose. Only those who know all the options can ultimately choose the right one.

Why does vocational training deserve more appreciation?
The dual vocational training system as it exists in Germany is unique in its form. The fact that apprenticeships have suffered a loss of image in recent years cannot be denied. For a long time, bosses could choose their apprentices.

Even at the beginning of the 2000s, many school leavers were still without a training place. The abundance of potential trainees also had an impact on the companies’ personnel policies. Inadequate training allowances, huge amounts of overtime, the assignment of non-training activities, a lack of communication and a lack of reforms in dealing with trainees are now leading to many companies being confronted with the tangible consequences of the lack of young people and numerous training drop-outs.

Companies and employers need to realise that you have to readjust the quality of your training facility in order to offer apprentices an attractive workplace.

At the same time, the quality of a training institution is crucial for the quality of vocational training. Only if your junior employees acquire comprehensive technical know-how in the corresponding occupational profile and social skills on the job will they be a success factor for your company. The consequences of inadequate vocational training are obvious: If the training is inadequate, so is the performance of the trainees. Likewise, there is then a lack of specific professional competences and necessary knowledge that are required to perform the job. This point is a real disadvantage, especially after the apprenticeship – when a profession has already been learned – because the junior employee can only be used in the own company to a limited extent. In the worst case, the competences are so insufficient that a skilled worker does not survive the probationary period in your company.

6 tips for improving the quality and attractiveness of your training centre
In order to optimise the quality of vocational training and thus attract new trainees to your company, there are some criteria to consider. In any case, it is important to be open to feedback and to involve the trainees in the daily work and the training process. However, the chance of being taken on, the corporate culture, the guidance and supervision of the apprentices as well as regular feedback meetings and exciting tasks are also important criteria that determine the quality and attractiveness of your training institution.

The imposition of overtime, the assignment of tasks unrelated to training or a lack of appreciation of the apprentice lead to apprentices reorienting themselves and possibly even seeking to drop out of training.

In order to attract motivated young people to your company, you as an employer must optimise the quality of training in your company. Even simple measures can make a big difference and make your company appear attractive to the new generation. Author: fizkes |Adobe Stock
With the following tips, you can optimise the quality of training in your company, promote trainee recruitment and improve the performance of your trainees. 1:

  1. analyse the quality of your training company.
    Have you ever asked yourself what reputation your training company has? As already mentioned, many trainees are not satisfied with the training quality of the respective company. For this reason, you should be honest with yourself and answer the following questions:

Have there already been some training drop-outs in your company?
Are the trained skilled workers interested in being taken on?
Do you often assign non-training tasks to your trainees?
How do you yourself rate the quality of training in your company?
By answering these questions, you will gain an initial insight into the quality of your training facility and at the same time uncover potential for optimisation that you can use to adjust your training quality step by step.

  1. ask former trainees about the quality of their vocational training.
    Another way to determine the current status of your training quality is to survey former trainees. They can tell you openly and honestly how much they liked the training centre, how high the quality of the learning content was and whether there are any suggestions for potential improvement. However, interviewing trainees who are still in training is not advisable. In this case, the trainee might give dishonest answers due to the fear of consequences.
  2. promote communication, transparency and company culture
    Communication is the key to excellent training quality. Only if your trainees can turn to you or other staff members with problems at any time will they feel comfortable in your training centre and be able to continuously improve their performance throughout the training years. Open communication between the trainees and the trainers promotes transparency in the training centre. In this way, disputes between trainees can be resolved, misunderstandings can be cleared up and trainees can be successfully integrated into the team.

Especially during the settling-in phase, it is important to have a contact person in the form of a staff member in whom the trainees can confide. Talk openly with your trainees about what you expect from them and work out a training plan together with them. Open and transparent communication is the basis for respectful cooperation in the company.

In this context, the corporate culture of your company also plays a major role. Trainees should be regarded as fully-fledged employees in your company – by every skilled worker in your company. Involve your apprentices not only in internal work processes, but also invite them to internal company celebrations. Treat your apprentices with appreciation and recognition. 4.

  1. set up a quality circle
    Hold a quality circle several times a year, inviting trainers, those responsible for training and the relevant managers as well as the trainees, regardless of the year of training.

In an open round, all employees can give feedback and make suggestions for improvement. It is important that the trainees can speak freely – without the threat of sanctions from their superiors. By introducing a quality circle, you can regularly assess and continuously optimise the quality and attractiveness of your training company. 5.

  1. introduce joint exam preparation
    The final exams in the last year of training represent the apprentice’s success and are an important certificate for future career development. For this reason, mid-term and final exams should be taken seriously. Offer your apprentices help with questions. This will build confidence and support your apprentices. Seminars and further training build up advanced knowledge for the final exam and are therefore also recommended.

See it as an investment for the future of your company: If an employee has additional professional competences through further training, he or she can be assigned more tasks. This increases the employee’s career level and the skilled worker makes an important contribution to the company’s success.

6 Create the right framework conditions
It goes without saying that the company must provide all the necessary framework conditions so that the quality of training can be maintained at a high level. These framework conditions can be found in the classic requirements for training companies. This is because training facilities must fulfil the technical as well as the mechanical and organisational requirements in order to be allowed to provide training. In order to maintain the quality of training at a high level, you should therefore create the following conditions:

Trainers with great technical competence, social skills, organisational knowledge and fun in teaching young people. The trainer is also included in the training contract and thus serves as a direct contact person for the trainees.
Fully equipped workplaces that meet current standards. Only in this way can the trainees acquire skills and knowledge that are in tune with the times.
Motivated team and empathetic employees who perceive the trainees as junior employees, regardless of the year of training, who are not only to take on simple tasks, but are to acquire professional competence.
Where do you find motivated apprentices?
Motivated and capable apprentices are easy to find with the right strategy. Successful apprenticeship marketing starts at school: It is advisable to offer internships or holiday jobs to raise the profile of your own company and at the same time get into first contact with young candidates. It is also the perfect opportunity to make both trades and STEM professions palatable to young people.

In addition, you should keep in mind that parents are still considered the most important contact person when it comes to choosing an apprenticeship. Therefore, it is important to convince not only the young apprentices but also their parents of the concept of the company and of an apprenticeship as opposed to a degree course.

This is how you reach future apprentices:

Start recruiting in schools
Offer internships and holiday jobs for young people
Visit training fairs
Social media channels, especially Facebook
What are the advantages of vocational training?
In order to convince young recruits of your training company, you need to present convincing arguments and make it clear what advantages vocational training has over university studies. We provide you with the most convincing advantages of vocational training:

Apprentices receive direct support and encouragement from their trainers.
Trainees always have a contact person in the form of the trainer in the company – right from the first day of training. This personal relationship is missing in a degree programme. The trainer can directly clarify unanswered questions about tasks and activities and give useful advice about the work process. Trainees benefit from learning on the model. They can orient themselves on the actions of the trainer and other skilled workers. In this way, they learn job-relevant content not only in vocational school, but also directly in their dealings with colleagues.

Trainees are always accompanied and individually supported at the training centre by the trainer or another person responsible for training. Author: goodluz | Adobe Stock
Vocational training programmes have a strong practical orientation
In contrast to a practice-oriented apprenticeship, a degree programme at a university focuses on teaching theoretical content. This is ideal for young adults who like to do their own research and read up on topics. However, a degree programme does not allow students to try out what they have learned in practice.

For this reason, vocational training is ideal for young adults who like to work in a practical way. The knowledge acquired in vocational school can be put into practice immediately in the training company. This may also increase motivation for learning, as the knowledge is not only useful for exams, but also for professional activities carried out at the same time.

Vocational training offers structure and orientation
Many school leavers feel that the self-organisation required for a course of study is too much. This is another reason why an apprenticeship may be the better choice. The vocational schools and the training centres provide a clear structure to which trainees can orient themselves. This is done by handing out the company training plan. This shows all the information about the assignment and working hours, the objectives and training content, as well as the way and place in which this training content is taught. The training plan thus provides trainees with a good orientation.

The training plan is based on the regulations of the Vocational Training Act, the training regulations and the training framework plan.

Excellent opportunities for advancement with dual vocational training
It is often argued that vocational training restricts career advancement opportunities. But this can also be refuted. After completing their apprenticeship, former apprentices have many further vocational training opportunities open to them, for example:

Master craftsman
Business economist
Certificate courses
Acquiring further additional qualifications can also advance professional success. Self-employment can also be at the end of the career ladder in an apprenticeship. In many occupations, the chances of advancement can be compared to those of university graduates.

How do you select suitable apprentices?
If certain candidates catch your eye during an internship, for example, take the initiative and invite them for an interview. This active approach to a potential trainee has two advantages: The future apprentice feels valued and at the same time the effort of recruiting apprentices is reduced for your company.

To get a better picture of your applicants, you can also hold workshops and interactive training sessions or role plays. This will show you how seriously applicants take their training, what skills they have and what social competences they bring with them. Because in the end, the applicant has to fit in with the respective area of the company.

For example, an apprentice who can articulate well and has a comprehensive general knowledge is well suited for a customer-related position. On the other hand, a trainee who is rather shy and avoids direct contact with people is less suitable for such a position.

Nevertheless, do not forget that young people in particular have a lot of potential for development. The most important thing is that young people are motivated and enjoy their work.

Once the right applicant has been selected, the training contract must be signed. This contains the training framework plan, the training content and the obligations and rights of the employer and the trainee. While the training framework plan provides the basis for the temporal and factual distribution of the training contents, the training contents show which skills and knowledge the trainee should be taught during the training in order to be able to perform the corresponding occupational profile.

From the first day of work, it is important to support the new trainee in a targeted manner. Communication at eye level is very important in order to be able to respond to the trainee’s ideas and at the same time to be able to formulate one’s own demands. The probationary period can only be successfully completed if the trainee quickly integrates into the company.

What is vocational training?

Within the framework of vocational training, the trainee is taught the skills, competences and knowledge that are necessary to carry out the corresponding occupational profile. The trainee thus acquires the ability to act professionally through an orderly vocational education and training. Vocational education and training takes place, for example, as dual vocational education and training or as full-time education and training at a vocational school. The legal regulations on vocational training are found in the Vocational Training Act.

What are the advantages of vocational training?

In contrast to university studies, vocational training is very practice-oriented. The apprentice can apply the learning content acquired at the vocational school directly at the training facility. This enables the trainee to gain work experience already during the training. But the remuneration is also an advantage compared to studying. From the first day, the apprentice receives a training salary. The training companies also cover all costs: from the costs of staffing trainers to the costs of work equipment to the costs of special examinations. At the same time, a vocational training programme offers a probationary period in the respective company to ensure that the requirements and needs of the trainee match those of the company. During the probationary period, a trainee can also be dismissed without notice.

How is the quality of vocational training ensured?

The quality of vocational training is determined within the framework of the Vocational Training Act and the training regulations. In order for a company to be allowed to act as a training centre at all, the company must fulfil certain requirements, such as employing a qualified trainer. The requirements relate to the suitability of the company in terms of mechanical, technical and organisational requirements as well as the suitability of the skilled workers providing the training.

What are the criteria for recognising good training facilities?

Good training companies with a high quality of training are characterised above all by an open and positive corporate culture, the involvement of trainees in activities and tasks relevant to the occupational profile as well as an appropriate salary and the chance of being taken on after completion of training. But regular feedback meetings and communication between the trainer and the trainees are also particularly important.

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