Apprenticeships are part of Germany's successful dual education system, and as such form an integral part of many people's working life. Young people can learn one of over three hundred and fifty apprenticeship occupations (Ausbildungsberufe), such as doctor's assistant, banker, dispensing optician, or oven builder. The dual system means that apprentices spend most of their time in companies and the rest in formal education. Usually, they work for three to four days a week in the company and then spend one or two days at a vocational school (Berufsschule). These Berufsschulen have been part of the education system since the nineteenth century. In 1969, a law (the Berufsausbildungsgesetz) was passed which regulated and unified the vocational training system and codified the shared responsibility of the state, the unions, associations and chambers of trade and industry.
The dual system was successful in both parts of divided Germany: in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), three quarters of the working population had completed apprenticeships. Although the rigid training system of the GDR, linked to the huge collective combines, did not survive reunification, the system remains popular in modern Germany: in 2001, two thirds of young people aged under twenty two began an apprenticeship, and 78 percent of them completed it, meaning that approximately 51 percent of all young people under twenty two completed an apprenticeship. One in three companies offered apprenticeships in 2003; in 2004 the government signed a pledge with industrial unions that all companies except very small ones must take on apprentices.
The precise skills and theory taught during apprenticeships are strictly regulated, meaning that everyone who has, for example, had an apprenticeship as an Industriekaufmann (someone who works in an industrial company as a personnel assistant or accountant) has learned the same skills and had the same courses in procurement and stocking up, cost and activity accounting, staffing, accounting procedures, production, profit and loss accounting, and various other subjects. The employer is responsible for the entire program; apprentices are not allowed to be employed and have only an apprenticeship contract. The time taken is also regulated; each occupation takes a different time, but the average is 35 months. People who have not taken this apprenticeship are not allowed to call themselves an Industriekaufmann; the same is true for all of the occupations.http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Apprenticeship