copy the linklink copied!3. Getting into vocational education and training in Germany

Combining school-based with workplace-based learning is one of the strengths of the German vocational education and training (VET) system. Yet, securing an apprenticeship can also present a challenge for young people, particularly when their grades are low and when their parents cannot support them during the application process. This chapter identifies the main challenges that recent arrivals and young natives with immigrant parents might face when they are trying to secure an apprenticeship, as well as the barriers employers might have in taking on a migrant apprentices. The main challenges identified include: 1) finding an apprenticeship, 2) getting employers on board, and 3) tackling discrimination in the apprenticeship market. It further discusses how Germany has responded to these challenges, provides policy recommendations on how to facilitate entry into VET and highlights good practice examples from other OECD countries and Länder in Germany.


copy the linklink copied!The issue and challenges

Migrants and natives with immigrant parents are less likely to find an apprenticeship than those without a migration background

Migrants are less likely to enrol in dual VET

Foreign nationals in general are much less likely to start apprenticeships than Germans. While more than half of young Germans enter a dual vocational training, only about a third of young people who were born outside the country do so (Figure 3.1). The strong inflow of migrants in 2015 affected the vocational education and training (VET) share substantially. The share of people enrolled in VET in the age group 16-24 has in general decreased, but until 2016 especially for migrants. Many of the migrants who arrived in 2015 and onwards are of a typical age for VET, but cannot start immediately. This delay can be seen in the increase (+6.6 percentage points) of foreign nationals starting an apprenticeship in 2017, mainly male foreign nationals. (BIBB, 2018[1]).

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Figure 3.1. Migrants participate substantially less in VET
Share of permanent population (16-24 years old) starting an apprenticeship
Figure 3.1. Migrants participate substantially less in VET

Note: The permanent population includes asylum seekers and those with temporary residence.

Source: Adapted from BIBB (2019[2]) Datenreport zum Berufsbildungsbericht 2019. Informationen und Analysen zur Entwicklung der beruflichen Bildung,


Numbers of asylum seekers and refugees in VET are still low

Data show that in 2015 and 2016, the engagement of asylum seekers, refugees and persons with a toleration status in apprenticeships was very low. In the school year 2015/16 (October 2015-September 2016), around 10 300 migrants from these backgrounds were registered at the employment agency as seeking an apprenticeship, and only around 20% were women.1 Generally, they were also older, with almost one in four being 25 or older. This was only the case for around 6% of applicants who are not refugees or asylum seekers. In 2015/16, around 3 500 found an apprenticeship (Granato and Neises, 2017[3]). At the same time, the number of refugee VET students graduating with a VET upper secondary diploma has also been low. In 2016, around 900 students from the main asylum origin countries finished VET.

During the 2016/2017 school year, the number of refugees, asylum seekers and tolerated persons registered seeking an apprenticeship (age information was not available) had more than doubled compared to the previous year to around 26 000 and further increased by 9% in 2018. As of September 2017, around one in three from this group had signed an apprenticeship contract (9 500); 20% were still in school or participating in preparatory measures offered by the PES and information was missing for a further 20% (Statistik der Bundesagentur für Arbeit, 2018[4]). In June 2018, around 27 000 persons with a nationality from the main origin countries of asylum were in a dual apprenticeship, around 14 000 more than in 2017 (Statistik der Bundesagentur für Arbeit, 2019[5]).

One explanation for the low levels to date of new humanitarian migrants entering in VET is because it takes time to build language skills that are sufficient to start VET. Many of the recent arrivals are still participating in preparatory measures, as seen in Chapter 2. Looking at the stock of the 1.3 million dual VET students in 2016, approximately 11% were foreign nationals and among these, around 10% (9 500), i.e. less 1% of the total VET student population, were nationals from one of the eight main asylum countries. For school-based VET, data on nationality is only available for VET in the health care sector, and in 2016, a higher proportion, around 5% (app. 850), were from the main asylum origin countries (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2018[6]).

Migrants have more difficulties in finding apprenticeship places

The large gap in participation rates of natives and foreign-born shows that migrants have more difficulties entering vocational upper secondary education. Indeed, various studies confirm that migrants, in general, have a lower likelihood of successfully securing an apprenticeship or an equivalent school-based qualification (Hunkler, 2016[7]), identifying various reasons for the gap (Hunkler, 2016[7]; Beicht and Walden, 2017[8]). High aspiration and a stronger preference towards general education (see Chapter 2). explain parts of the gap, especially the lower attendance of women (this holds for both, migrants and Germans). However, even after taking such preferences into account, migrants still experience considerable difficulties in finding an apprenticeship (Beicht and Walden, 2015[9]).

Migrants with lower socio-economic background are struggling the most in finding an apprenticeship placement

In contrast to general education, school-leavers interested in VET cannot choose apprenticeship places unilaterally, but rely on an employer who is willing to hire them. Since those employers usually hire the best candidate available, school-leaving qualifications play a crucial role in Germany. Indeed, a growing proportion of German apprentices enter provision after having first secured a bachelor’s degree. Students with a lower socio-economic background tend to perform worse in school and often do not obtain higher education entrance qualification, impacting on apprenticeship opportunities (Beicht and Walden, 2015[10]). This is particularly the case for migrants and especially refugees, who are overrepresented among disadvantaged youth. Even among those young people from migrant backgrounds who found an apprenticeship employer, previous experiences have shown that only half as many foreign nationals as Germans are trained in their desired occupation (Diehl, Friedrich and Hall, 2009[11]). This shows that migrants are vulnerable regarding the dynamics of demand and supply of apprenticeships. Hence, making sure that there are sufficient VET opportunities, as well as engaging employers is crucial.

Securing an apprenticeship can be difficult even for natives with immigrant parents

Research show that even natives with immigrant parents face more difficulties than applicants with German-born parents in securing an apprenticeship. Research shows that they need to search more actively for apprenticeships and send out more applications. Only one in ten of natives with immigrant parents indicate that they did not have any difficulties finding an apprenticeship compared to one in four among those with German-born parents (Beicht, 2017[12]).

Taking a closer look at how natives with immigrant parents searched and applied for apprenticeships shows somewhat different patterns compared to other applicants (Table 3.1). While similar proportions indicated that they had sent out written applications for apprenticeships, natives with immigrant parents made considerably more applications in total (40 compared to 28 among those without a migration background), being far more likely to approach companies in person whether they offer apprenticeship positions. Despite approaching more potential employers, young people from migrant backgrounds are less likely to be invited for interview. Finally, migrants require more interviews on average to secure a position than native Germans.

Even when taking contextual circumstances into account, migrants are still significantly less likely to secure an apprenticeship

Educational performance, occupational choices and local labour market conditions do explain some of these difficulties in finding apprenticeships. Yet, importantly, even when controlling for these background factors, young people with immigrant parents – here including both native- and foreign-born students – are still 14 percentage points less likely to secure an apprenticeship than their comparable peers with German-born parents (Beicht, 2017[12]).

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Table 3.1. Differences in searching for apprenticeships between native-born applicants with and native and immigrant parents, 2016


Natives with immigrant parents

Natives without migration background

Written application (%)



among these: average number of applications sent



Asked companies in person for an apprenticeship (%)



among these: average number of contacts with companies



Participated in an interview (%)



among these: average number of interviews



Note: Data from the PES/BIBB Bewerberbefragung (Survey among VET Applicants). In this survey, natives with immigrant parents are defined as young people who were born in Germany and do not possess German citizenship or indicated that German is not their first language.

Source: Adapted from Beicht (2017[12]) Ausbildungschancen von Ausbildungsstellenbewerbern und -bewerberinnen mit Migrationshintergrund. Aktuelle Situation 2016 und Entwicklung seit 2004.


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Box 3.1. Occupational preferences are strongly gendered and differ between native- and foreign-born students

In general, apprentices in Germany are concentrated in a small fraction of VET occupations. In 2016, more than half of new apprentices clustered in 20 professions (out of more than 300 VET occupations). Occupational choices are also strongly gendered, with women being over-represented in care and medical-related occupations and office management, whereas men disproportionately choose technician and craft occupations (BMBF, 2018[13]).

Data on occupational preferences currently does not distinguish whether young people with a migration background were born abroad or born in Germany, but rather distinguishes according to nationality. Foreign nationals are generally more concentrated in particularly popular professions. In 2016, 54% of German native apprentices were being trained in one of the 20 most frequently chosen VET occupations, whereas this was the case for 64% among foreign nationals. In addition, this concentration is particularly high for women with a foreign nationality and lies at 84% compared to 70% among female VET students with German nationality (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2017[14]).

Without distinguishing whether young people were born abroad or in Germany, applicants with immigrant parents are generally more concentrated in apprenticeships in the service sector than those with native-born parents (Beicht and Walden, 2015[9]). This holds both for male and female applicants, with differences more pronounced among young women. In addition, close to half of VET students from the main asylum countries who were enrolled in apprenticeships in 2016, were doing their apprenticeship in the skilled crafts sector, compared to 25% of German nationals (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2017[14]).

Source: BMBF (2018[13]), Berufsbildungsbericht 2018; Statistiches Bundesamt (2017[14]), Bildung und Kultur - Berufliche Bildung 2016. Fachserie 11 Reihe 3; Beicht, U. and G. Walden (2015[9]), “Unterschiedliche Berufsinteressen als Einflussfaktor für die Einmündungschancen in betriebliche Ausbildung? Ein Vergleich zwischen männlichen und weiblichen Jugendlichen mit und ohne Migrationshintergrund”, Journal for Labour Market Research, Vol. 48, pp. 325-346.

Barriers when searching for an apprenticeship

Survey data for the 2016 cohort show that only around 27% of natives with immigrant parents who were registered with the PES started dual VET, compared to 42% among those without migration background, see Chapter 5 data on natives with immigrant parents in the VET system. Interestingly, there is only a small difference compared to the entry of foreign-born applicants (25%).2 Chances of starting an apprenticeship among young natives with immigrant parents are also impacted by the educational background of applicants. Among this group, only 21% of lower secondary graduates (Hauptschule) entered VET compared to 33% among those with upper secondary diploma (Abitur) (Beicht, 2017[12]).

A closer look at unsuccessful applicants shows that close to one in three leave the education system and do not continue with any other form of education or training. For those with native-born parents, this is only the case for one in five. These shares have been rather stable over the past ten years (Beicht, 2017[12]). By the end of 2016, 13% of unsuccessful native applicants with immigrant parents had found employment and 12% were unemployed.

Weaker educational outcomes, lower literacy skills and older age negatively impact the likelihood for finding an apprenticeship. However, research also shows that even under same conditions, controlling, amongst other factors, for the type of degree, grades, age, regional differences in apprenticeship markets and participation in preparatory measures, young people with immigrant parents are 14 percentage points less likely to enter VET that those with native parents (Beicht, 2017[12]).3 It is unknown whether the gap between comparable new humanitarian migrants and natives is even greater.

As described above, even comparable young people from migrant and native backgrounds experience significantly different outcomes when applying for apprenticeships. Why this is the case is difficult to determine precisely; neither differences in occupational preferences nor a concentration in areas with high demand, but low supply of apprenticeships explain this discrepancy (Beicht and Walden, 2015[9]). After all, survey data show that natives with immigrant parents are generally more actively applying for positions than applicants with native-born parents. A number of possible rationales might explain the discrepancy: that young people from migrant background are less effective in presenting themselves to employers; that they lack social networks which help secure apprenticeship positions; that employers lack confidence into hiring migrants due to ambiguous legal status; and/or, that employer discrimination prevents fair access to apprenticeship opportunities (Beicht and Walden, 2015[9]).

Getting employers on board to hire recent arrivals and young people with a migrant background

Employers bear a larger financial risk when taking on “weaker” VET students and assessing their skills levels can be challenging

Taking on VET students is a considerable investment for a firm, and particularly so for small companies. The average German employer spends close to EUR 18 000 per apprentice per year. Around two-thirds of these costs are typically recovered by the work of the apprentice, leading to an average net cost of around EUR 5 400 per year.4 While these costs decrease throughout the apprenticeship, in most cases, these rather high investments are only profitable for the firm if they hire the apprentice afterwards (Jansen et al., 2015[15]; Mühlemann, 2016[16]). Thus, if employers are doubtful of the productivity of VET students, they may not be willing to take the risk of hiring “weaker” apprentices whose language skills and vocational skills may still be limited (Kis, 2016[17]). There are no formal entry requirements to start an apprenticeship. German employers decide for themselves on prerequisites for entry. As educational attainment among many refugees is low and many hold weak basic skills (read more in Chapter 1), and it can be challenging for employers to assess the actual skills level of refugee applicants, taking on such apprentices can be perceived to be more of a financial risk for employers.

Getting incentives right is difficult

Across the OECD, governments have applied different strategies to create incentives for employers to offer apprenticeships. This includes: 1) financial incentives through subsidies and tax breaks or prioritising companies with apprentices in the public procurement process; and 2) non-financial approaches, such as pre-apprenticeship programmes, additional support for supervisors and trainers as well as support for employers for instance to reduce the administrative burden and assistance to apprentices themselves, e.g. through mentoring or remedial classes during VET (Kuczera, 2017[18]).

Generally, financial incentives for taking on apprentices are rather common across many OECD countries with developed VET systems. Yet, their impact is often limited. Getting incentives right is very difficult. Too little and schemes may yield deadweight losses, i.e. they subsidise apprenticeships that would have been offered anyway. For instance, experiences with the training bonuses for disadvantaged students in Germany showed that firms often applied for receiving the bonus only after having already made the hiring decision and that overall, no additional apprenticeship placements were created through the scheme (Mühlemann, 2016[16]). Too great incentives, moreover, may distort the operation of the market by encouraging employers more interested in the financial incentive than in providing quality training. In general, the evidence available on the effectiveness of financial incentives in influencing employer behaviour is limited (Kuczera, 2017[18]).

Financial incentives are unlikely to gain traction if skills of VET applicants are too limited

If applicants are far from fulfilling employers’ skills expectations, it is unlikely that financial incentives will have a strong impact on hiring decisions. Research indicates that a focus on non-financial incentives can help improving the cost-benefit balance for employers by accelerating the pace of becoming productive, particularly when they ensure through preparatory work-based programmes that candidates develop the right skills for VET (Kis, 2016[17]). Germany introduced such preparatory programmes in 2004 as a means to support young people who had not secured an apprenticeship. Preparatory traineeships (Einstiegsqualifizierungen, EQ) are funded by the PES and trainees participate in an internship of six to twelve months duration, during which they are expected to build vocational skills, thereby increasing their opportunities to enter regular VET afterwards. (read more on preparatory programmes in Chapter 2).

Legal uncertainty creates additional disincentives for employers

Given that offering an apprenticeship is a substantial investment, employers would like to have the opportunity to hire apprentices afterwards. Yet, for asylum seekers it is unclear how long they will be allowed to remain in the country. Moreover, persons who receive a toleration status are de jure not residents but only benefit from a temporary suspension of deportation and refugees with a subsidiary protection status only receive shorter-term residence permits.

Responding to this issue, a new law – the so-called 3+2 rule – was introduced in 2016 that grants rejected asylum seekers under certain conditions a toleration status for three years if they are doing an apprenticeship. After completing the apprenticeship, they can remain in the country for an additional two years if they find employment that corresponds to their skills level. While this in principle enhances legal certainty considerably, the implementation of this rule differs across the Länder and currently, not all Länder governments are fully implementing it. Moreover, there is no data available on how many persons have received a toleration status under the 3+2 scheme, which renders it difficult to ascertain the impact of this legislative measure.

What’s more, whether the 3+2 rule is applied is decided by the local Foreigners’ Office on a case-by-case basis, which adds another level of discretion and, subsequently, uncertainty for employers. Apprenticeship contracts are often concluded well in advance and during the period between signing the contract and starting the apprenticeship, it is at the discretion of immigration authorities whether a toleration status is prolonged and again, this is handled differently across the Länder.

Tackling discrimination in the apprenticeship market

Discrimination might also contribute to the lower VET participation rate of migrants and natives with immigrant parents (Diehl, Friedrich and Hall, 2009[11]; Hunkler, 2016[7]; Beicht and Walden, 2017[8]). Combating discrimination in the labour market is difficult, not only because it brings to light a deeply rooted social problem, but also because it can be difficult to prove. In addition, recruiters can be unaware of their behaviour as they may act on their bias unconsciously.

Discrimination in the hiring process is widespread

A growing body of research, however, has documented labour market discrimination in Germany against applicants with “foreign-sounding” names when applying for jobs (OECD, 2013[19]; Weichselbaumer, 2016[20]). While there is less evidence available for VET specifically, discriminatory hiring practices have also been found in the German apprenticeship market. By sending out fictitious applications that only differed in the name of the candidate, on average young people with a Turkish name had to send seven applications before being invited to an interview for an apprenticeship placement. Candidates with a German name had to send five (Schneider, Yemane and Weinmann, 2014[21]). The study also showed that employers’ behaviour varied with the size of the company. Recruiters in smaller companies were less likely to contact applicants with Turkish names than those who worked for larger firms. This may reflect that discriminatory attitudes are intensified when employers have few staff, limited HR resources and perhaps feel that they can less afford what they perceive to be a “risky” candidate. Given the large share of SMEs in the apprenticeship market this is clearly a challenge.

Discrimination in the labour market is particularly pronounced for Muslim applicants

Results from one German survey suggests that Muslim applicants are particularly strongly affected by discrimination in the hiring process. For instance, survey-based research5 on hiring practices shows that some 35% of employers indicated that they would not hire apprentices wearing a headscarf. A further 12% stated bluntly that they simply would not hire practicing Muslim apprentices (Scherr, Janz and Müller, 2013[22]). While these results from one survey are not representative and are likely to underestimate discrimination because respondents are often reluctant to openly voice prejudice, it nevertheless gives an indication that Muslim applicants face discrimination in the application process. CV testing has also demonstrated considerable discrimination against female Muslim applicants in the German job market, particularly when they wear a headscarf (Weichselbaumer, 2016[20]). With many of the new arrivals coming from predominantly Muslim origin countries, it can be expected that discrimination will impede access to VET for this group.

Perceived discrimination is high among refugees

Survey data from 2013 show that more than half of refugees in Germany indicated that they felt that they had experienced discrimination, and among this group, the most frequently named area was searching for employment or an apprenticeship (55%) (Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes, 2016[23]). It should be noted that on the one hand, perceived discrimination may not always reflect “actual” discrimination and, on the other hand, that discrimination may also go unnoticed. While perceived discrimination is therefore an imprecise measure of the actual extent of the phenomenon, it nevertheless raises a serious challenge. If new arrivals have the impression – no matter if that experience is based on real discrimination or not – it may lead to fewer people applying for apprenticeships as the expectation may be that it is an unobtainable goal.

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In order to ease access into VET, consideration should be given to:

  • Further rolling out introductory training (Einstiegsqualifizierungen - EQ) in co-operation with employers as this has proven to be a successful stepping stone into apprenticeship training.

  • Ensuring a consistent implementation of the 3+2 scheme across Germany with access to the status granted from the moment the apprenticeship contract is signed.

  • Providing diversity training for recruiters and focus particularly on SMEs to tackle the issue of discrimination.

  • Addressing unconscious stereotyping towards, and building the social capital of, humanitarian migrants and other youth with migrant parents, by enabling more opportunities to engage with potential recruiters, e.g. through job fairs, short work placements during school and visits to companies.

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Getting employers on board

Evaluations of introductory training show that they facilitate transition into regular VET

EQ (Einstiegsqualifizierung) is one preparatory measure within the transition system (read more in Chapter 2). Research has shown that EQs are effective in facilitating the transition of young people into the labour market. Based on data from 2007 to 2010, an evaluation showed that close to 70% of EQ interns managed to find an apprenticeship within half a year after finishing their introductory training, and around 40% of them stayed with the company in which they had interned (Popp et al., 2012[24]). Around 40% of EQ trainees had immigrant parents, indicating that this group is over-represented in EQ. Refugees are even more strongly over-represented; in 2017, out of 12 000 new EQ trainees, around 8 000 came from one of the main asylum origin countries.6 These are encouraging results, however, given the large number of recent arrivals, the absolute number of participants is still low. Since EQ is a long-standing and well-known support measure already, increasing the number of participants could be useful to facilitate entry into VET for refugees. This relies, however, on the willingness from the employers to take on migrant apprentices. The Swiss are piloting a similar scheme that targets migrants specifically (INVOL) which provides an interesting model of provision. This one-year programme, developed with social partners, has a particular focus on combining language learning with VET skills, and the aim is to prepare the students for VET. The Swiss authorities will evaluate the pilot as it is being implemented (Kuczera and Jeon, 2019[25]; Jeon, 2019[26]).

There is some indication that employers value EQ as a stepping stone for recent arrivals into VET as it can help employer assess the migrants skills level

Research on asylum seekers and refugees on this particular transition programme is sparse. However, opt-in survey data based on 2 200 German employers with experiences of receiving applications from refugees or asylum seekers highlight largely positive experiences when taken on as EQ trainees (Degler and Liebig, 2017[27]).7 Close to 90% indicated that they were fully or mostly content with migrant learner performance during the EQ (40% and 48%, respectively) and around 80% had offered or were planning to offer the trainees an apprenticeship or job contract after the EQ.

While it needs to be kept in mind that the survey is not representative, it nevertheless provides further evidence that EQs do appear to offer an effective route into regular VET or employment for recent arrivals. Research has also highlighted factors which help explain the success of the EQ: it lowers the risk for employers – particularly for SMEs – by allowing for a trial period, while giving trainees an opportunity to demonstrate their practical talents and motivation; skills that may also be difficult to convey in a regular recruitment process or with weaker language skills. In this way the employers can more easily assess migrant skills, which can be challenging in an ordinary recruitment process (CEDEFOP, 2018[28]; Hoeckel and Schwartz, 2010[29]).

Employers are concerned about legal uncertainty and employer associations have expressed their need for more long-term planning

For a considerable share of recent arrivals, long-term planning for employers is limited. Among employers which had participated in the employer survey (Degler and Liebig, 2017[27]) and had hired apprentices, around one in three stated that the insecure legal status of their apprentices posed some or considerable difficulties in everyday working life.8 While the 3+2 rule seeks to address this issue, getting more employers on board will be difficult as long as there is no consistent implementation of this policy. Employers’ Associations have also expressed the need to be able to better plan ahead when making hiring decisions and have called for a more transparent and consistent implementation of the 3+2 policy.

Legal certainty could also be increased by guaranteeing a toleration status throughout the EQ. EQs appear to be an effective, relatively low-risk approach to getting employers involved in taking on recent arrivals in their companies. It does not incentivise employers artificially to take on migrants, but allows employers to judge them on their merits. However, uncertainty as to whether asylum seekers or people with a toleration status can stay throughout the traineeship, creates a considerable disincentive, particularly when employers view the EQ as an investment to prepare trainees to become apprentices in their company later on.

Tackling discrimination

Diversity training is an important starting point to raise awareness about implicit bias and can give guidance on how to avoid discrimination in the application process

One response to evidence of employer discrimination is to address the question of “implicit bias”. This describes the holding of attitudes and stereotypes towards certain groups without one’s conscious knowledge. Addressing prejudice that people are not aware of having, but that they may still act on when making hiring decisions, is thus a key challenge to open up the apprenticeship market to religious and ethnic minority candidates.

Diversity training that informs recruiters in a non-judgemental way about how implicit bias can inform decision making is therefore a starting point to address discrimination in the hiring process. In addition, practical hiring guidelines can help moving from simply being aware of this issue to more concrete actions on how to “de-bias” the application process (Bohnet, 2016[30]). These can include introducing structured interviews that ask all applicants the same questions, making the impact of personal preferences and sympathy for a candidate more visible by giving candidates a numerical “likability” score, and asking applicants for a work sample if this is applicable for the specific apprenticeship.

While a dedicated approach to diversity management is usually more likely to be undertaken by larger firms with their own HR departments, such comparatively small changes in the applications process can also be easily implemented by smaller firms. Thus, given their dominance in the VET sector, information on low-cost, easy-to-implement adjustments in the application process should be specifically targeted as SMEs.

Creating opportunities for employers and applicants to meet in person can help to decrease stereotypes

Creating occasions where employers and prospective apprentices can meet does not only offer young people the opportunity of building professional networks, but may also decrease (consciously or unconsciously held) stereotypes among employers.

Research shows that contact between different groups (e.g. differences regarding ethnicity, gender or age) generally reduces prejudice, particularly when members of different groups can identify common goals and objectives (Pettigrew et al., 2011[31]). The main mediators for these effects are largely found to be on an emotional level, with contact in a nonconflictual setting reducing anxiety and increasing empathy. Therefore, bringing employers and prospective apprentices into direct contact, for example by organising job fairs, site visits or short work placements, may facilitate the hiring process and decrease implicit bias among employers. In addition, a more informal setting may also better allow recent arrivals with limited language skills to convey their skills and motivation compared to a written application process.

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Box 3.2. Getting young people with a migration or refugee background into direct contact with employers

Matching employers who seek to hire apprentices with young people with a migration or refugee background can be a considerable challenge, often because these groups have limited networks and little direct access to potential employers. Around one out of three refugees in Germany state that they are in need of more support when getting in contact with training-companies (BIBB, 2019[2]). Different stakeholders in OECD countries, however, have developed a number of tools to bridge this gap.

Organising recruitment fairs has been a very hands-on approach to getting employers and applicants into contact. Job fairs targeted at recent arrivals have been held for instance in Austria, France and Germany. So far, however, these fairs have mostly focussed on employment rather than VET. Provided that both employers and candidates are well prepared, such direct encounters can be a useful tool to connect applicants and employers.

While job fairs are likely to attract larger firms, also smaller companies could benefit from specialised job-matching platforms. Such online platforms, often run by social enterprises or NGOs, have been created in a number of countries, including Canada, France and Germany. Usually, such platforms are particularly effective when they act as an intermediary broker, supporting both refugees and employers in the application and hiring process.

Promoting mentoring programmes can also bring young people in contact with employers, when mentors share their professional networks and act as intermediaries. While much of these programmes then depend on a good match between mentor and mentee as well as clearly defined aims and adequate training for mentors, successful schemes are currently running in a number of OECD countries, for instance in Canada, Denmark, New Zealand and Norway (Jeon, 2019[26]).


[23] Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes (2016), Diskriminierungsrisiken für Geflüchtete in Deutschland. Eine Bestandsaufnahme der Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes, Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes, Berlin.

[12] Beicht, U. (2017), Ausbildungschancen von Ausbildungsstellenbewerbern und -bewerberinnen mit Migrationshintergrund. Aktuelle Situation 2016 und Entwicklung seit 2004, Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung, Bonn.

[8] Beicht, U. and G. Walden (2017), “Transitions of young migrants to initial vocational education and training in Germany: the significance of social origin and gender”, Journal of Vocational Education & Training, Vol. 69, pp. 424-449,

[10] Beicht, U. and G. Walden (2015), “How socially selective is the German system of initial vocational education and training? Transitions into initial vocational training and the influence of social background”, Journal of Vocational Education & Training, Vol. 67/2, pp. 235-255.

[9] Beicht, U. and G. Walden (2015), “Unterschiedliche Berufsinteressen als Einflussfaktor für die Einmündungschancen in betriebliche Ausbildung? Ein Vergleich zwischen männlichen und weiblichen Jugendlichen mit und ohne Migrationshintergrund”, Journal for Labour Market Research, Vol. 48, pp. 325-346.

[2] BIBB (2019), Datenreport zum Berufsbildungsbericht 2019. Informationen und Analysen zur Entwicklung der beruflichen Bildung, Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung, Bonn,

[1] BIBB (2018), Datenreport zum Berufsbildungsbericht 2018. Informationen und Analysen zur Entwicklung der beruflichen Bildung, Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung, Bonn,

[13] BMBF (2018), Berufsbildungsbericht 2018, Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, Bonn.

[30] Bohnet, I. (2016), What Works. Gender Equality by Design, Belknap Press.

[28] CEDEFOP (2018), Introductory Training (Einstiegsqualifizierung (EQ)). VET Toolkit for Tackling Early Leaving,

[27] Degler, E. and T. Liebig (2017), Finding their Way. Labour Market Integration of Refugees in Germany, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[11] Diehl, C., M. Friedrich and A. Hall (2009), “Jugendliche ausländischer Herkunft beim Übergang in die Berufsausbildung: Vom Wollen, Können und Dürfen”, Zeitschrift für Soziologie, Vol. 38/1, pp. 48-67,

[7] Diehl, C., C. Hunkler and C. Kristen (eds.) (2016), Ethnische Unterschiede beim Zugang zu beruflicher Ausbildung., Springer VS, Wiesbaden.

[3] Granato, M. and F. Neises (2017), “C3 Beteiligung an beruflicher Bildung – amtliche Statistiken und Fördermaßnahmen”, in Datenreport zum Berufsbildungsbericht 2017.

[29] Hoeckel, K. and R. Schwartz (2010), OECD Reviews of Vocational Education and Training: A Learning for Jobs Review of Germany 2010, OECD Reviews of Vocational Education and Training, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[15] Jansen, A. et al. (2015), Ausbildung in Deutschland weiterhin investitionsorientiert – Ergebnisse der BIBB-Kosten-Nutzen-Erhebung 2012/13, Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung, Bonn.

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← 1. This group does not include all young people seeking an apprenticeship, as only those who are registered at the Employment Agency find their way into their statistics. Young people who do not want or need support by the PES are therefore excluded here. In addition, people are only registered as seeking an apprenticeship if PES counsellors think they are adequately prepared to start VET. Therefore, it is likely that particularly strong VET applicants as well as weaker pupils are under-represented among this group. Overall, it is estimated that in 2016, around 70% of young people seeking an apprenticeship were registered with the PES (Beicht, 2017[12]).

← 2. See Chapter 5 for an overview of the survey’s methodology.

← 3. This research does not make a distinction whether young people with immigrant parents were born in Germany or abroad.

← 4. Net expenses differ strongly across sectors. Net costs are highest for apprenticeships in the public sector (EUR 8 000), followed by industry and commerce (EUR 6 000) and skilled crafts (EUR 3 800). For around 30% of apprentices, firms make a net gain; apprentices’ productivity is higher than employers’ expenditures (Jansen et al., 2015[15]).

← 5. The survey is based on interviews with human resources (HR) managers from companies. Expert interviews with social workers and employees of associations, as well as participatory presentations and events of business associations.

← 6. Nationals from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, and the Syrian Arab Republic.

← 7. As part of a review on the integration of asylum seekers and refugees into the German labour market, the OECD, together with the German Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, conducted a survey among German employers. The survey was conducted on line between 16 January and 7 February 2017 and disseminated through the local chambers of commerce. Around 2 000 employers participated in the survey through this channel. In addition, the survey was also disseminated via the DIHK network Companies Integrate Refugees (Netzwerk Unternehmen integrieren Flüchtlinge), where a further 200 employers responded. Results are not representative since the survey only reached DIHK members and was predominantly taken by employers who had already received applications from asylum seekers or refugees (60% of respondents).

← 8. However, most employers who hired apprentices also hired refugees and asylum seekers as interns or employees. Therefore, it cannot be ascertained that this number applies only to apprentices. Nevertheless, it gives an indication that insecure legal status is experienced as a difficulty for employers.

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