Executive summary

In a changing world of work, job profiles constantly develop and the demand for skills and qualifications with them. Particularly, jobs that mainly involve simple and repetitive tasks are threatened by technology, which fosters demand for high-level cognitive skills and complex social interaction skills. Reskilling and upskilling initiatives, through continuing education and training (CET), could foster transitions to emerging sectors and occupations, but participation by low-qualified workers is low.

This study looks at the career guidance programmes available for low-qualified workers in Germany to help them navigate the ongoing changes and identify the most appropriate training and employment opportunities for them. In Germany, these services exist at national level and in the federal states and help adults overcome barriers to participating in CET or invest in their professional development. The report gives an overview of career guidance provision at the federal level and then describes career guidance needs and provision in the states of Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW).

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the labour market outcomes of low-qualified workers were good in Germany thanks to strong demand for these workers in several manufacturing and low-skilled service sectors. However, the need for social distancing, a temporary drop in consumer demand and disruptions in global markets and supply chains due to the pandemic have disproportionally affected low-qualified workers. While most economic indicators are close to their pre-pandemic level on average, the recovery is expected to be slower for this group. In addition, the labour market prospects of low-qualified workers are affected by structural changes.

Low-qualified workers are less likely to receive career guidance than those with higher qualifications, as employers focus their efforts in guidance and training on the high qualified. They are also less likely to receive training than those who are unemployed, as the public employment service systematically provides counselling to the unemployed. A range of multi-layered and interconnected barriers complicates the use among low-qualified workers, including finding time to attend counselling sessions, given their work and family responsibilities and scepticism or anxiety towards re-entering learning. Tackling these barriers requires individualised support, which is why the quality of career guidance plays an important role.

The career guidance offers differ significantly from one federal state to another in Germany. The Federal Employment Agency’s (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA) new Lifelong Vocational Guidance in Working Life (Lebensbegleitende Berufsberatung im Erwerbsleben, LBBiE) aims at closing provision gaps. In addition, regional and sectoral networks intend to connect career guidance and CET providers with employers to plan and organise CET for employees better.


This work is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD. The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Member countries of the OECD.

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area.

Photo credits: Cover Cell phone: © Creative Commons/Alfredo Hernandez; clock: © Creative Commons/Hakan Yalcin; cloud upload: © Creative Commons/Warslab; join: © Creative Commons/Tom Ingebretsen; doctor: © Creative Commons/Joseph Wilson; chef: © Creative Commons/Alfonso Melolontha; person with telescope © Shutterstock.com/Viktoria Kurpas.

Corrigenda to publications may be found on line at: www.oecd.org/about/publishing/corrigenda.htm.

© OECD 2022

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at https://www.oecd.org/termsandconditions.