Over the last couple of months, I've noted various English and American news publications trying to hype up and explain Germany's current dilemma...fewer young people to take apprenticeship situations. The general story will be....lessening population and business fronts are realizing problems for the future because of this.
Well....let me introduce you to the system.
Around age thirteen, you as a German kid are 'invited' (directed by the school authorities) to start looking around at local companies for an apprenticeship. The first year this comes up....you basically funnel out a couple of opportunities that the school will have, and show up for a week at some establishment to "play" at being an apprentice.
What most kids figure out.....is that there's not much fun in this work environment, and you actually have to think, react, and behave. So, this is mostly a waste of time on the first visit. The next year....same thing comes up...except now you are getting closer to the point where you need to send out resumes and apply for a real apprenticeship.
At some point, you will get picked up. Now, I admit....it might occur off the the first five resumes yo send out. It might be closer to twenty to forty resumes. And it's possible that you might have to submit near a hundred resumes....to get one single offer. A lot depends on the urban or rural area that you live in, and your great or lousy grades of the past year.
As you are accepted.....there are a couple of interesting aspects. First, you actually get paid. It's your first real job in life, and you get a monthly check.....with limited deductions (you are still under Dad's health deal). The monthly payment from your company? It amounts to something between 300 and 600 Euro ($400 and $750 roughly)....before taxes.
The hours? Well....you spend roughly three days a week at the company, and two days a week at the local school-house. You can figure you work a minimum of twenty-four hours a week for the company. They might ask you to work on Saturdays.
The length of this deal? It differs from profession to profession. The least is a two-year plan. The most could go up to three-and-a-half years. At the conclusion, there is a test with the local chamber of commerce.....you get certified, and in most cases, you get offered a regular job with the company you did the apprenticeship with. In some cases, they don't offer you a job, and you need to get motivated rather quickly to find real work, or hang out with the Bundeswehr (the German Army).
So, here is the problem which the news people chat about. Germany is currently short by 120,000 for apprenticeship students. That's fourteen thousand more than last year (2013).
The shortage leads to two odd issues (not population as you'd sit and think). First, companies got smart and started to establish tests for their candidates....discovered that a fair number of the applicants had no idea what fifty-percent of one hour really was. No, I'm not kidding. I sat and watched a baker apply his simple twelve question test to a couple of kids. Simple math-related problems, and then he asked them who the Chancellor was. Most of the kids failed the exam.
The schools are producing kids, with certificates....but the kids are not all that bright. Would you want to waste three years on teaching some kid a trade.....then realize week after week.....he has marginal math skills?
So the companies are smart.....don't accept marginal apprenticeship candidates.
The second issue? Certain areas have lots of openings, and certain regions have few if any openings. You can't pack up and go drive two hours away by train or bus to some apprenticeship offer.
Large urban areas like Berlin, Frankfurt, and Mainz offer lots of apprenticeship situations. Rural areas an hour, or two hours away.....offer few if any apprenticeship deals. The kids are stuck.....they can't make enough to move away to some new location, and most are around fifteen years old anyway.
Fixing this? Most schools don't want to admit they are marginally educating students, and there's almost nothing that you can do about urban/rural apprenticeship offers.
I'll admit....the population problem is an issue....but it's simply one of the three. To be truthful.....there's not much you can do about this either.
So it is....with the great German apprenticeship shortage.