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Support for continuing vocational education and training

April 1, 2012

A key instrument in improving employment opportunities through upskilling and skills development measures

Elderly people receiving vocational education and training

Support for continuing vocational education and training

Continuing vocational education and training (CVET) under Book III of the Social Code (SGB III) is a key instrument in improving employment opportunities through upskilling and skills development measures. Funding for CVET programmes is not only open to the unemployed or those facing redundancy, but also to employed workers under certain circumstances (i.e. if they do not have a vocational qualification or if they work in an SME). The employment agency or jobcentre decides whether CVET support is possible on the basis of funding conditions relating to the individual and the labour market. Getting advice from the employment agency or jobcentre is a prerequisite for funding. Together with the applicant, the advisor will identify the optimum objective of the training measures and the necessary duration of CVET support and funding. Comprehensive information on support for CVET measures can be found on the website of the Federal Employment Agency.

I. General eligibility criteria

Participation in continuing vocational education and training must be necessary for the occupational integration of workers who have become unemployed, for averting pending unemployment.The need for advanced training and education is recognised as the candidate does not have a vocational qualification. When identifying the need for CVET measures, conditions on the labour market are always taken into account as well.

This means that the employment agency or jobcentre has to assess, for example: whether the candidate could find employment without continuing training and education; whether other instruments of labour market policy are likely to be more successful; and whether the candidate can, in all likelihood, return to the labour market as a result of the training.

II. Education vouchers

Workers meeting the general conditions of eligibility are granted an education voucher by the employment agency or jobcentre. This voucher indicates the educational objective, the time required to reach this objective, and information as to where the voucher is valid in the region concerned. The voucher holder can redeem the educational voucher at any educational institution of his/her choice which is certified for continuing training and education funding under the conditions specified in the education voucher, though the course must be CVET-approved. In exceptional cases the employment agency or jobcentre can refuse to issue an education voucher (e.g. because there is no appropriate CVET activity available locally or participants cannot manage with the education voucher). The jobcentre can instead commission education providers to run CVET courses.

The educational institution then charges the cost of the course to the employment agency on the basis of the education voucher. Information on approved measures is also provided in the KURSNET vocational training and continuing education database of the Federal Employment Agency.

III. Key services

By issuing an education voucher, the employment agency or jobcentre confirms which of the following CVET expenses will be covered:

  • Course costs
  • Travel expenses
  • Costs for external board and lodging
  • Childcare expenses

Unemployment benefit will also (continue to) be paid if specific requirements are met.

IV. Supporting the vocational qualification and skills development of employed workers

1. Workers not in possession of a vocational qualification

To enable low-skilled workers to return to and complete vocational training, such workers can receive financial support to cover CVET expenses. This also applies to those who have completed vocational training but have been in an unskilled or semi-skilled job for at least four years and can no longer practice the profession they originally learned. These 4 years do not relate solely to periods of employment in unskilled and semi-skilled work but can also include time spent caring for a family member or bringing up children as well as periods of unemployment.

Employers who continue to pay their low-skilled workers during periods of continuing education can receive a pay subsidy from the Federal Employment Agency to cover the training period.

2. Funding for employees over 45 years of age in small and medium-sized enterprises

The costs involved in continuing training and education can be covered partly or completely for employed workers if:

  • they are 45 or older when they commence the CVET course
  • they continue to be entitled to a salary - within the framework of an existing employment relationship - while taking part in the CVET course
  • the company they work for has fewer than 250 employees
  • the training programme takes place outside the company they work for
  • the educational institution and the training programme are eligible for funding

This support initiative was originally due to run until 31.12.2011 but has been extended indefinitely.

3. Funding for employees under 45 years of age in small and medium-sized enterprises

In line with the law to improve integration in the labour market, support for workers in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has temporarily been extended to workers under 45 years of age, but with the additional condition that the employer contributes at least 50% of course costs. The new regulation came into effect in April 2012, will stay in force until the end of 2014 and offers incentives for greater CVET participation in small and medium-sized businesses.

4. Funding opportunities outside the framework of employment promotion

Please note that in addition to the funding schemes operated by the Federal Employment Agency, Germany also enjoys a range of other funding programmes to support continuing vocational training and education. The Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology provides a comprehensive overview at .

You can find information on upgrading training measures (e.g. master craftsman and technician training courses) that can be funded under the Upgrading Training Assistance Act (Aufstiegsfortbildungsförderungsgesetz – also called Meister-BAföG) on the Federal Ministry of Education and Research website at

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research also helps working people continue vocational training via what is known as the "Continuing Education Grant" ( This is where you will find an interesting flyer “Where can I find the further training that is right for me?” which can be downloaded free of charge.