[BERLIN] An increasing number of apprenticeships in Germany, one of the cornerstones in on-the-job training, remain unfilled, the country's federation of chambers of commerce said on Tuesday, adding that refugees were not yet making up for the shortfall.
"The situation on the traineeship market is becoming increasingly acute," the head of the DIHK federation, Eric Schweitzer, told a news conference.
DIHK, which oversees the country's apprenticeship system, estimated that one third of positions would not be filled this year, and as many as half in the east of the country.
Some 14,000 companies would find themselves without any new apprentices, a poll conducted by DIHK found.
Given Germany's ageing population, the number of school-leavers was expected to be down by 5,000 this year.
Young people prefer to go to university rather than take part in a three-year apprenticeship, which comprises both theoretical study as well as on-the-job training.
The apprenticeships are mostly offered in sectors such as engineering, healthcare and services.
"We have the lowest unemployment among young people in Europe, thanks to the apprenticeship system," said Mr Schweitzer.
But the difficulty in recruiting apprentices will exacerbate the shortage of skilled workers in the future, an increasing headache for German companies.
The massive influx of refugees and asylum-seekers "won't reverse that trend in the short term," he added.
Not only is the application process for asylum long, but the refugees' previous education and language skills were also key to them being able to work as apprentices, Mr Schweitzer pointed out.
At present, the number of refugees who have an apprenticeship is estimated at 10,000, equivalent to no more than three percent of companies who hire apprentices.