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Why companies need to rethink trainee recruitment?

In-company training starts with trainee recruitment. It is a matter of course for companies with training programs and is often associated with a number of routines. And yet for several years the field has been changing and become more challenging. Trainee recruitment today is not what it used to be, a simple matter of selecting the most qualified young people from a pile of applications.

Recruitment challenges are the results of the changing trainingarket. The demographic shift and the trend towards more academic education have resulted in an ever-shrinking number of applicants in the vocational training system. Young people interested in vocational training are becoming a scarce commodity. And more and more frequently, the qualifications of applicants do not meet companies’ training requirements. This trend is unlikely to change any time soon – if anything, it will become even more pronounced.

Graphic: Social conditions and effects on in-company training

Graph1

If companies do not take action to counter this development, more and more training positions will remain unfilled in the future posing a fundamental problem for companies that rely on trainees as a means of securing skilled workers. Today a quarter of businesses offering in-company training in Germany are affected by unfilled training vacancies.

To ensure success at attracting trainees today and in the future, companies need to be more active, think more strategically, and invest more than they did a few years ago. In trainee recruitment, they will have to do much more than they used to.

At the same time, trainee recruitment is an important tuning dial because it is a area that companies actively influence. The way companies attract training candidates, the selection process, and ultimately the way the trainees are integrated into the company has a strong impact on how successful they are in filling training vacancies.

Optimizing recruitment practices is therefore a key task for businesses. Contemporary trainee recruitment must provide real solutions for challenges in the training market. The distinguishing features of this “problem-solving” form of trainee recruitment are a more strategic approach, new priorities and innovative approaches that adapt to changing circumstances.

Companies can be proactive in the struggle to counter shortage of applicants

Experience has shown that company actually can have a significant impact on the success of attracting trainees. Studies have demonstrated that companies able to fill all of their training positions act differently during the recruitment phase – better than those who failed to fill all of their vacancies.Here are some of the things they do differently:

  • They plan their training programs farther in advance.
  • They use a range of different methods to attract young people.
  • They make direct contact with young people by offering internships, for instance.
  • They are open to applicants at every level of education.
  • They put more emphasis on social skills and personal qualities than on school grades or test scores.
  • They are willing fill traineeships with young people who do not necessarily conform to all their wishes.

SMEs, a particular challenge

SMEs are disproportionately affected by unfilled training positions. In this segment there is a particular dearth of qualified candidates. This is due in part to the recruitment practices of SMEs. Often they do not follow the above-mentioned success strategies.

Many of their recruitment practices are shaped by their limited financial and human resources and the limited predictability in SMEs. Nevertheless, it is a fact that SMEs use only a small fraction of the recruitment instruments available to them. This applies in particular to new areas of action and perceive all useful options.


Project “StartApp – Starting with Apprenticeship” supports small and medium sized businesses (SME) in intensifying their commitment to in-company training. To that end, this project provides solutions for the recruitment of young people interested in on the job training. Here the focus is on methods of acquisition, selection and integration of trainees during the first phase of their staff membership in the company.

The handbook “Finding and retaining trainees” is a guide for companies that want to make their trainee recruitment capable of addressing the current challenges in the training market. It guides the reader step by step through the individual phases of recruitment. Numerous tips and instructions ensure successful implemen tation of the recruitment measures in a practical business environment. It reveals new ways to inspire young people for a career and win them over as trainees.


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