According to the Federal Employment Agency (BA), the training market is in balance – but only theoretically.
In the last training year, 549,800 vocational education and training places were on offer to 547,800 applicants. Yet despite these figures, many places remain unfilled and many young people cannot find a training position. Schools and businesses need to act.
The 2016/2017 training year saw more training places left unfilled than ever before: no suitable candidate could be found for 48,900 positions. Companies are desperate to find skilled workers with vocational qualifications, so are offering more and more training positions: almost 100,000 more vocational training places were available in 2017 than in 2010.
Many companies, however, have trouble filling the places they offer and it is not necessarily down to them setting the bar too high in terms of applicants' qualifications. 2017 was the first year that the BA included the school leaving qualifications expected by employers in its statistics.
According to those figures, half of all businesses stipulated that candidates must have at least a lower secondary school leaving certificate, 36.8 per cent wanted at least an intermediate secondary school leaving certificate, 7.2 per cent expected a university of applied sciences entrance qualification and just 1.5 per cent demanded the general higher education entrance qualification.
At the same time, 23,700 interested applicants were left without a place. Over 90 per cent of those disappointed candidates even had a better school leaving qualification than requested; overall, 27.5 per cent of all applicants held a university of applied sciences entrance qualification or upper secondary school-leaving certificate.
However, grades, any absences and general conduct are also crucial factors for companies when they come to select candidates. Other significant reasons for the growing imbalance in the system are regional disparities – southern Germany, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Thuringia and Saarland all registered more places than applicants, whilst in Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse the applicants outnumbered the positions – and the career aspirations that young people have. Often, these desires do not correspond with the vacancies on offer.
The number of applicants also may have risen due to better information reaching pupils at schools geared towards the university of applied sciences entrance qualification or upper secondary school-leaving certificate: surveys conducted amongst upper school students show that just under 38.9 per cent of all those studying for the upper secondary school-leaving certificate feel well informed about training options. It is thus up to schools and business to play a more active role in shaping career choices – whether through work placements, school partnerships or other information services directed towards pupils, teachers or even parents.
Alongside the rising number of students studying for the upper secondary school leaving certificate and getting involved in training opportunities, there are also more and more young refugees joining the training market. However, just short of one in three companies is aware of the assistance during training or introductory training schemes, or the Career Orientation for Refugees programme run by the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training. And few are aware of other programmes aimed at socially disadvantaged young people or those with a background of migration.
The BA must work together with the responsible federal and state ministries to promote these programmes more by targeting businesses and advocates, such as associations, with information via central points of contact. At the same time, these agencies must regularly review their programmes to ensure they are being adapted to companies' needs. For example, designing the introductory training scheme to have a more flexible time frame could make this well-established initiative an attractive option for many more companies.