The Austrian VET system

In Austria initial vocational education and training (IVET) is mainly carried by VET-schools and by a strong apprenticeship-system. In the field of Continuous Vocational Education and Training (CVET), there are no explicitly defined legal or educational policy supervisory functions for the whole sector.

VET schools and colleges provide programmes of differing duration and at various levels in addition to broad general education from the ninth school year. They include for example part-time vocational schools or schools and colleges with different focus (engineering, arts and crafts, business administration, tourism, social occupations, agriculture and forestry, nursery teaching, social pedagogy etc.). With the exception of part-time school-based training within the dual system, they can be organised in different forms with courses of differing length (1 – 5 years):

  • VET school
    3 or 4 years: full-time school from the 9th school year; IVET qualification
    1 or 2 years: full-time school from the 9th school year; vocational training basis
  • VET college
    5 years: full-time school from the 9th school year; IVET qualification
  • Add-on course:
    3 years: full-time school from the 9th school year following completion of VET school
  • Post-secondary VET course
    2 years: full-time school following completion of "Reifeprüfung"
  • Schools and colleges for people in employment
    2 – 4 years: above mentioned school types in the form of an evening school

It is possible to change between the individual types of VET schools and colleges with the same curriculum. Should the curriculum differ, examinations (in certain subjects) are required. Direct entry into a profession or different forms of CVET opportunities are an asset to their graduates.

VET schools and colleges have been experiencing continuous growth in the number of students for two decades, not least because of the balanced provision of broad general education, occupation-related theory and occupation-related practice (f.e. work-placements) and because of a variety of specific training opportunities and training focuses. Since the early 1990s, VET colleges have been in particular demand, as they offer a "Reifeprüfung" certificate and VET diploma.

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". Apprenticeship training lasts two to four years, in most cases, however, three years. 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]. 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 colleges, universities, "Fachhochschulen", post-secondary courses and post-secondary colleges.

ECVET providers in non-school and non-higher educational CVET institutions are largely autonomous within the framework of legal specifications and mainly subject to the market conditions of supply and demand. As far as quality and quality assurance in the CVET sector are concerned, the recent Ö-Cert initiative is an Austrian-wide quality framework regarding the mutual recognition of quality in Austrian adult education institutions.