Apprenticeship Training in Austria – The Dual System

In Austria apprenticeship training takes places at two different sites: company-based training of apprentices is complemented by compulsory attendance of a part-time vocational school for apprentices [Berufsschule]. Thus, apprenticeship training is also referred to as "dual vocational training system" or as "dual system".

Currently about 40 per cent of all Austrian teenagers enter apprenticeship training upon completion of compulsory education. But although the overall number of apprentices just as the number of those entering apprenticeship training has been going back since 1981, 1997 saw the discontinuation of this trend, for the number of new apprentices increased again.

Upon completion of apprenticeship training about 40 to 44 per cent of all apprentices continue to work for the company where they were trained.

All in all about 40,000 companies train approximately 120,000 apprentices, which corresponds to an average of 3 apprentices per company.

The percentage of female apprentices increased slightly between 1975 and 1989, but has been decreasing ever since 1990 falling to a mere 31 per cent in 1996. The most popular apprenticeship trades among girls are retail-trade merchant, followed by hairdresser and office clerk. Among male apprentices the most popular occupations are motor-vehicle mechanic, followed by electrician. More than 50 per cent of all apprentices are trained for the craftsmen's trades, other important sectors are commerce (16 %), the industry (11 %) and tourism and the leisure industry (10%).

Company-based training is regulated by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Labour while pedagogical matters fall into the province of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture.

Apprentices may only be trained in the legally recognized apprenticeship trades. These skilled trades (presently approximately 240) are included in the list of apprenticeship trades [Lehrberufsliste] published by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Labour in co-operation with the Federal Ministry of Social Security and Generations. Moreover, there are 14 legally recognized apprenticeship trades in the agriculture and forestry sector which are not included in the list.

The list contains the various occupations and informs about the duration of apprenticeship training as well as related apprenticeship trades including training time credits for already acquired vocational training.

Apprenticeship training lasts two to four years, in most cases, however, three years. In case of accreditation of other educational pathways (e.g. vocational schools, vocational training abroad) the period of apprenticeship may be reduced.

Moreover, the period of apprenticeship training may also be reduced for students holding certain qualifications. This especially benefits holders of the "Reifeprüfung"-Certificate for it increases their choice and makes it easier for them to find employment. Training for several occupations at the same time is possible provided certain requirements are met.

Company-based Training

Companies which train apprentices are obliged to provide apprentices with the skills and know-how stipulated in the occupational profile; this ensures a uniform minimum standard of training. Companies which are not able to provide training which covers the whole occupational profile may avail of the possibility of complementary training within a training network. Thus, even small companies may contribute their share to apprenticeship training.

Protection and Social Security

Company-based training constitutes the major part of apprenticeship training. Apprenticeship training agreements stating the conditions of training within the framework of a contract of employment are signed between the company and the apprentice.

Thus, an apprentice has got full social insurance including health, accident, retirement and unemployment insurance. The duties of a company which is entitled to train apprentices do go beyond the usual duties of an employer to quite some extent.

Apprenticeship training agreements are subject to the regulations of the industrial and social law and to protective labour legislation for teenage employees. Furthermore, the apprentice is entitled to a remuneration, which is fixed in collective labour agreements and varies according to the different apprenticeship trades.

Training in the Real World of Work

Apprentices spend most of the time of their apprenticeship training in the real environment of a manufacturing plant or a services enterprise. This does not only mean that they are fully integrated into the world of work but may also have a positive effect on their social skills, on their skills to cope with problems and on their ego.

One of the major advantages of this system, both for the apprentice as well as the company, is that apprentices may be employed as fully qualified skilled workers right upon completion of apprenticeship training.

Part-time Vocational Schools for Apprentices

Attendance of a part-time vocational school for apprentices [Berufsschule] is compulsory for apprentices who have signed an apprenticeship training agreement with a company.

Attendance of a part-time vocational school for apprentices starts with the beginning of the apprenticeship training agreement or another training agreement in compliance with § 30 of the Vocational Training Act and lasts until its end or the successful completion of the relevant part-time vocational school for apprentices.

The aim of part-time vocational schools for apprentices is to provide apprentices with the theoretical basics of the respective occupation, to promote and complement company-based training and to deepen their general knowledge.

Moreover, it has to provide interested apprentices with adequate preparation for the TVE-Examination by means of differentiated measures and voluntary subjects.

Thus, regulations for practical training, which are stipulated in the vocational profiles, are complemented by a special curriculum defining both the key issues of the technical theory and practical training for the respective apprenticeship trade, the latter taking place in workshops and laboratories.

Structure and Organization of Part-time Vocational Schools for Apprentices:

Education in part-time vocational schools for apprentices may take on the following organizational forms:

  • day-release system with courses running for a complete academic year, apprentices attend school for a minimum of one full or two half days a week.
  • block-release system with courses lasting for a minimum of eight or four weeks per year
  • seasonal-release system, depending on the occupational sector classes may be held during a certain season only

Skeleton Curricula

The curricula of part-time vocational schools for apprentices are skeleton curricula which define educational objectives, contents and the procedures for the planning and realization of study processes. Some examples:

German and Communication Skills

The educational objective is to improve the students' communication and social skills and to broaden their vocabulary in order to provide them with the skills necessary to adequately voice and defend personal and business interests. Students who prepare for the TVE-Exam do receive additional support according to the qualification requirements.

The main criteria when it comes to defining the subject matter is its contribution to the improvement of the students' communication and co-operative skills. In order to meet this aim, the subject matter contains elements of verbal, non-verbal and written communication as well as spelling.

Career-related Foreign Language

The educational aim is to provide students with the qualifications necessary to cope with the demands of working as well as private life in a foreign language. Moreover, this subject aims at imparting knowledge which fosters the students' respect towards people of other cultures and their way of life.

The main criteria for the definition of the subject matter is its usefulness for the students' private and occupational life, especially when it comes to apprenticeship matters.

Civics

The educational aim is to provide the student with the qualifications necessary to play an active, critical and responsible part in society.

The main criteria when it comes to defining the subject matter is its contribution to the improvement of the students' understanding of the real world and of the gap between legitimate claims and reality as well as the representation of Austria's political, cultural, economic and humanitarian achievements.

The Subject Matter

The apprentice within his school and company environment. The apprentice's occupational and social environment. Contemporary history – Austria in the international community. The Austrian legal system. Austria's political system.

Business Education

Economics including business correspondence: The educational aim is to impart knowledge in the following subject areas: information and communication methods, papers, documents, contracts and payment systems, the basics of national economy and applied economics and some issues of economic policies.

Furthermore, students are to be provided with knowledge on income, financing, purchase and accounting as well as on the improvement of enterprises which might be of importance for his private and occupational life. The main criteria when it comes to defining the subject matter is the mathematical understanding of business matters.

Streaming

For pedagogical reasons and in order to provide special support to interested students, streaming (2 streams) takes places in one, two or three compulsory business and technical subjects.

The decision whether classes are sub-divided into student groups for language and practical training rests with the relevant executive school authorities. Moreover, the relevant executive school authorities may decide upon additional subjects for which teaching has to take place in student groups. In this context, special attention has to be paid to lessons which prepare for the TVE-Exam.

The Apprenticeship Leave Exam

The contract between the employer and the apprentice ends automatically after the stipulated period of time. At the end of apprenticeship training each apprentice may decide whether or not to take the Apprenticeship Leave Exam [Lehrabschlußprüfung]. This exam tests whether the apprentice has acquired the practical skills and qualifications relevant to his occupation and whether he is able to properly perform the tasks characteristic to the apprenticeship trade.

The Apprenticeship Leave Exam is divided into a practical and a theoretical part and consists of a written and an oral exam.

Provided that the apprentice has met the educational objectives of the last year of the respective part-time vocational school he is only required to do the practical part of the exam.

An Apprenticeship Leave Certificate often is of legal importance as well.

Further Education and Training

The Apprenticeship Leave Certificate provides the apprentice with access to two different vocational careers. On the one hand it is a prerequisite for the admission to the Master Craftsman Exam and for qualification tests, and on the other hand it gives access to higher education via the TVE-Exam or the Higher Education Entrance Exam which are prerequisites for taking up studies at colleges, universities, "Fachhochschulen", post-secondary courses and post-secondary colleges.

Outlook

The Austrian apprenticeship training system is highly practice-oriented and esteemed all over the country. In recent years, however, apprenticeship training has experienced a loss in attractiveness due to the poor permeability of educational pathways, the concentration of apprentices on a few occupations and the permanently decreasing willingness of Austrian enterprises to provide training facilities.

Thus, there is a strong demand for a reformation of the apprenticeship system in order to make apprenticeship trades more attractive. Reform measures are already carried out in co-operation with all parties involved.

The most important reform measures are:

  • the creation of new apprenticeship trades in future-oriented fields,
  • broadly defined training objectives – more comprehensive basic training and later specialization make it easier to find out about individual skills and interests and to act accordingly (reduction of drop-outs and the rate of those who change for another occupation),
  • easier access to further education and facilitating transfer from the dual system to the full-time technical and vocational education system. The introduction of the TVE-Examination in 1997 has contributed enormously to the permeability of education systems,
  • more flexible training schemes for practical training in companies just as for education in part-time vocational schools,
  • permanent adaptation of the curricula to the ever-changing requirements of the labour market and development of appropriate means to guarantee high quality of training,
  • financial support for companies which train apprentices,
  • removal of bureaucratic impediments,
  • more information about less popular and non-gender-specific occupations.

After successful completion of grade 8 (secondary level I) of compulsory education students may apply for admission to a technical and vocational school or college (secondary level II).

Geändert am: 26.05.2014

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