By Tz-Chian Ding, Florian Koch, Hannes Reitberger, Hanna Schweitzer

Why Dual Vocational Training (Apprenticeship training, ‘Lehre’)?

    • Dual vocational training (DVT) is internationally recognized as a good practice in tackling youth-unemployment and in integrating vulnerable adolescents into society.
    • Out of around 50 refugees enrolled in higher vocational schools, only one managed to graduate”, whereas for DVT the number of successful graduates is higher (Albl (lobby. 16): January 13, 2017).
    • DVT offers a practical orientation through learning by doing.
      • There is a high interest from refugees in the practical orientation of DVT.
    • DVT builds upon existing public services and programs (eg. Jugend College and Kompetenz Check).
    • DVT enables refugees to gradually adjust to the realities of working within an Austrian company.
    • DVT allows refugees to burst the ‘social bubble’1 in a way that potentially facilitates a smoother transition into the labor market through a multi-level learning process (personal, social, cultural, and professional).

Which Labor Market Integration Barriers Can Be Addressed with Dual Vocational Training?

Barriers How can DVT address the barrier?


  • By spending time in a company and public vocational school, refugees are forced to speak in and continuously hear German (also different dialects) in their new social surroundings.
Cultural barriers
  • Through continuous interaction with school peers and work colleagues, DVT can be a promising way to support refugees and company employees in understanding each other’s beliefs, values, ways of thinking, social norms etc.
Weak social networks
  • DVT empowers refugees to enter previously hard to reach social spaces, which allows them to establish new contacts (both of private and professional nature).

(Unrecognized/ Lacking)

  • DVT can equip refugees with skills currently sought by employers.
  • The flexibility of DVT allows refugees with minor educational background and refugees with more competences to find suitable DVT programs.
Legal and bureaucratic barriers
  • With increasing interactions between employers and administrative authorities (as well as boundary organizations), previously unknown barriers may be uncovered and consequently addressed.

Challenges and Limitations of Dual Vocational Training

    • Overall shortage of available apprenticeships
    • Lack of societal appreciation for DVT
    • Need for mutual adaptation
    • DVT should not be mistaken as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution

Policy Recommendations

    • More financial, human and institutional resources need to be dedicated to facilitating labor market integration of refugees to allow existing institutions to adapt to the needs of refugees.
    • Further enlargement of mentoring support for refugees and companies is required:
      • This function is currently outsourced to organizations like lobby.16, RefugeesWork, Caritas and volunteers which lack the capacity to fulfill these tasks on the required larger scale.
      • Out-of-the-box thinking may be required. For instance, creating a complementary currency2 to satisfy unmet needs (e.g. guidance of refugees) and use available resources (i.e. people’s time) may encourage more people to contribute.
    • A focus on DVT as a promising approach should be a policy concern.
    • Policy responses need to be developed that go beyond ‘mainstreaming’ and consider the specific needs of refugees, as well as companies.
    • Companies (especially SMEs) cannot be left alone in dealing with the obstacles associated with hiring refugees. Support and more (understandable) information3 is needed for reducing additional burdens (e.g. legal, language, cultural issues or unexpected notary costs).

There are simply many people here who are without social and economic perspective. And that is less a policing matter than it is an issue of integration.” (Paul Eidenberger, Police spokesman: January 20, 20174)

DVT not only increases refugees’ chances in the labor market but also enables them to get in direct contact with Austrians, their culture, and the German language – thereby finding new paths towards becoming part of the Austrian society.” (Conclusion of the research paper)

This summary as well as the full version of the research paper can be downloaded from:

If you have any questions, please contact Hannes Reitberger (

1 This includes the immediate social surroundings of refugees (family, friends, peers with similar migration background) and the institutional exclusivity refugees experience in programs targeted at them (e.g. supervisors speak slower, in standard German, and generally are more attentive to the needs of refugees).

2 For example, if people support mentoring programs, they receive tokens for the time invested, which could be exchanged for the (complimentary) usage of attractive services, e.g. with theaters, restaurants or the public transport service.

3 As Ms. Almukhtar (Refugeeswork) noted, there is much (or even too much) information all over the place. However, companies and refugees often have difficulties getting all the right information they need and understanding the information correctly.

4 Retrieved from: