10 funding programs for your professional development in Germany that you should know about in 2023

Many people don't know that they can get free training in Germany. We have summarized the 10 most important funding programs for professional training in Germany in this article and simply explained how you can benefit from them.

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There is one thing we can all agree on: Professional training is becoming increasingly important. For many, however, the desire for a career change, a career change or a promotion is thwarted by their own ability to finance further training. Quite wrongly!

In Germany, there are numerous programs to promote further education. We have listed the 10 most promising ones in the following article. Our overview of the funding programs in Germany explains clearly whether you are eligible, what requirements you have to meet and whether the effort is worth it for you.

Banner for free download of the checklist "How does the education voucher application work".

What are grants for continuing education and why do they exist?

By now, it really has arrived everywhere, the digital transformation. Little by little, our products, processes and jobs are becoming more digital, and lifelong learning is finding its way into the middle of society. Without a doubt, this is a positive development, but it requires us to adapt to it. One could even argue that there will be no end to this transformation and that we will have to learn to adapt to change all over again.

So our working world is gradually becoming an environment in which lifelong learning is part of the game and is rewarded. If there's one thing companies need, it's employees with brains who are ready for it. Around 25 percent of current job profiles are being transformed by digitalization and the use of new technologies. While this is frightening, it also contains great opportunities.

To future-proof your job, you don't have to wait for a new technology to saw by your chair. Adapting early not only keeps you in your job, it actually makes your job more fulfilling.

Funding for continuing education: Who gets what and how much?

Germany has recognized this development and is also increasingly adapting to the fact that employees want to continue their education. For a long time, Germany's qualification policy was criticized. It was too short-sighted and too limited for a long time. This is set to change with the new traffic light coalition. It is opening up to a perspective of continuing education for the entire labor market and is addressing the new demands of the urgent need for qualifications. In the long term, an educational (part)time/educational leave based on the Austrian model is also to be created in Germany.

On page 67 of the coalition agreement, you will find the following following excerpt: "In times of digital and demographic change, a targeted National Continuing Education Strategy is essential to achieving our economic and social goals. We are improving opportunities for professional reorientation, training and continuing education - including part-time. We are coordinating the instruments of education policy and active labor market policy."

Graphic "Funding for continuing education at work in Germany that you should know about in 2022" shows an overview of financial support for continuing education at work, various qualification options and funding programs in Germany.

As a general rule, the federal and state governments will partially or even fully reimburse your continuing education if you take it with a certified educational institution. Most funding opportunities and programs are currently aimed at job seekers, employees in small and medium-sized companies, graduates and older citizens.

The first step towards financial support for your continuing education is often a visit to the employment office or job center. Get advice from your case worker and then approach your contact person in the HR department or simply get free advice from a training provider of your choice. You should always make sure that the provider is certified so that it is eligible for funding.

If you have your sights set on certified further education, you can have your costs for the measure reimbursed. Depending on the program, the following benefits are available:

  • Cost absorption for your professional training
  • Continuation of pay
  • Reimbursement of travel expenses
  • Childcare costs
  • Accommodation and boarding costs
  • Assumption of the costs for the suitability assessment.

In the following, we will go into detail about the individual programs for funding further education. If you are interested in further education, be sure to find out about your funding options with these programs, because there is great potential for savings here.

Before we get started, one last note: StackFuel also offers fundable training in data science and programming, equipping you with the tech skills of the future for free. If you'd like to learn more about how StackFuel can support your career plans, just head over to this page over.

Top 10: Funding programs in Germany

1 Qualification Opportunities Act

The Qualification Opportunities Act is a subsidy for employers and employees that has been in existence since January 2019. In short, the law establishes subsidies that can be used primarily by companies to qualify their employees. It reduces the cost of training and wage continuation depending on the size of the company in a fixed amount. The most important basic requirement to take advantage of the Qualification Opportunities Act is that you must have a current employment relationship.

The Qualification Opportunities Act is particularly suited to you if you are in an existing employment relationship and:

  • You want to reorient or develop yourself within your company
  • If you are affected by structural change
  • You are threatened with a job loss in the future
  • You work in a bottleneck occupation where there is an acute shortage of skilled workers
  • Or if you are on short-time work

Depending on the size of the company, up to 100 percent of further training costs and up to 75 percent of wages can be reimbursed. Since October 2020, there has been an additional transformation subsidy, which increases the subsidy for further training costs and wage subsidies for all company sizes by five to 20 percent under certain conditions. Find out more here.

Additional requirement: So that you can get the funding for further education:

  • If the measure must comprise more than 120 lessons of more than 45 minutes
  • The funding measure must represent a future-oriented qualification
  • Your last continuing education or original training must have been more than four years ago.

2 Education voucher

The education voucher is a written confirmation that the employment agency or the job center will credit you for a specific continuing education program. The best thing about the education voucher is that you do not incur any costs; the entire training measure and special costs are covered 100 percent financially.

The education voucher applies primarily to job seekers, but also to people who are acutely threatened by unemployment. This means employees who, as a result of the training measure:

  • want to keep their job
  • want to get ahead in their job and this fails because of the qualification
  • would like to change their profession because the future prospects in their learned profession are miserable

As with the Qualification Opportunity Act, you will also receive wage continuation payments with an education voucher.

There are three requirements you need to know about the education voucher:

  • Your training may only take place at an AZAV-certified training provider such as StackFuel.
  • For local, non-digital offers, the regional scope is decisive. The employment office or job center determines the city or region in which you can redeem the voucher.
  • The education voucher must be redeemed by you within 3 months, otherwise it expires and you have to apply for it again.

Many people are understandably put off by the idea of visiting the employment agency or job center to apply for an education voucher. In the following article, we have therefore collected tangible tips for you that will maximize your chances of receiving an education voucher and make the appointment easier for you: To the article "Getting an education voucher made easy - this is how you get your free continuing education".

Banner for free download of the checklist "How does the education voucher application work".

3 Activation and placement voucher

The Activation and Placement Voucher, or AVGS for short, is a subsidy for further training to support your (re)entry into the job market. This includes three different funding options:

  • Taking advantage of a continuing education program offered by an accredited provider to get you
    • to make them fit for the training or labor market
    • To identify, reduce, and eliminate barriers to placement.
    • To prepare you for self-employment (AVGS MAT)
  • Company measure or trial work of up to six weeks (AVGS MAG)
  • Placement in employment subject to insurance by a private employment agency (AVGS MPAV).

The AVGS can be used for training seekers and for people threatened by unemployment in accordance with SGB III §45. This can also include university graduates, people returning to work, the self-employed and employees in transfer companies.

The activation and placement voucher is also a written confirmation of financial support for further education. The prerequisite here is also that the qualification takes place with an approved provider that you can choose yourself. The training is free of charge for you, as the training provider can offset 100 percent of the costs directly with the employment agency or the job center. So there are no costs for you. Under certain conditions, it is even possible that your travel and childcare costs will be covered.

There is one more thing you should know: The written notice of approval must be issued to you before you can participate in the respective measure. To do this, make an appointment with your personal advisor at the employment agency or job center.

Similar to the education voucher, the AVGS can also be limited in time and region. On the one hand, this is to ensure that you acquire your new knowledge in a timely manner and that you do not have to travel long distances or incur additional costs.

4 Future starters

The Zukunftsstarter program is a joint project of the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS) and the Federal Employment Agency. Funding is provided for measures that help you prepare for a recognized vocational qualification if you have relevant work experience but no official vocational qualification. These include courses to prepare for the external examination or to acquire partial qualifications or basic skills.

The program is designed for young adults 25 years of age and older. More precisely described as:

  • Low-skilled job seekers or employed persons without vocational school diploma
  • Low-skilled persons who have not worked in an unskilled or semi-skilled occupation or in their learned occupation for at least four years.
  • Returning to work and re-entering the workforce

The funding opportunities for you are numerous and exceed a free training. Travel and childcare costs, accommodation and subsistence costs can also be covered. If your training is part-time, your company can also receive a wage subsidy for training-related downtime and a lump sum for social security contributions incurred during this time.

5 Upgrading BAföG

The Aufstiegs-BAföG, formerly called Meister-BAföG, is jointly funded by the federal and state governments. In accordance with the Upgrading Training Assistance Act (Aufstiegsfortbildungsförderungsgesetz, AFBG), Aufstiegs-BAföG is a combination of grant and loan.

The program supports advanced vocational training in the non-academic sector. This includes master craftsman courses, advanced training for specialists or technicians, or other preparatory courses leading to a comparable qualification.

You will receive funding if you take part in a course that prepares you for an advanced vocational training examination on a full-time or part-time basis. This course can also take place directly at a university of applied sciences.

Good to know: There is no age limit for the funding of professional development. Even if you have dropped out of your studies or are a high school graduate without completing initial training, you can still receive further training through the AFBG if you can demonstrate enough professional experience.

If you already have a Bachelor's degree or a comparable university degree, you can also apply for AFBG funding. In addition, you are also eligible for funding as a foreign citizen if you have your permanent residence in Germany, hold certain residence titles or a permanent residence permit, and have been living legally in Germany for at least 15 months and are gainfully employed. This also includes vocational training.

Regardless of your income or assets, you can receive full financial support of up to 15,000 euros to finance your course and examination fees. You will receive 40 percent as a grant and the remaining amount as a low-interest bank loan from the KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau).

Tip: You can apply for a refund of 40 percent of the loan amount if you pass the exam. If your sponsorship is a full-time measure, you can also receive a contribution to living expenses.

6 Continuing education premium

Would you like to do further training that will help you to successfully complete your training? Then you are predestined for a retraining or continuing education bonus!

Participants in an apprenticeship that started after 01.08.2016 and is set for an apprenticeship period of at least two years can receive funding for further training if it leads to the completion of the apprenticeship.

If you have successfully taken or passed the intermediate or final examination before a chamber, for example the Chamber of Industry and Commerce or Chamber of Crafts, as part of your retraining or training, you can receive a bonus of 1,000 or 1,500 euros in addition to the training voucher. To do this, you have to prove that you have successfully passed the exam to the Federal Employment Agency or your job center, for example with a copy of your certificate.

Important: Examinations at alternative educational institutions can unfortunately not be awarded.

7 Continuing education scholarship

If you would like to obtain a professional or interdisciplinary qualification after successfully completing your vocational training, you can apply for a scholarship for further education from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The continuing education scholarship supports professional, in-service qualifications and advanced training. Even part-time studies can be supported under certain circumstances. The requirements for a scholarship are completed vocational training and a maximum age of 24.

You must also meet the following requirements at the time you apply for the scholarship:

  • A vocational diploma with an overall score of at least 87 points or an average grade of 1.9 or better
  • Or 1st to 3rd place in a supraregional professional performance competition
  • Or a reasoned proposal from the employer or the vocational school.

In addition to the continuing education scholarship, grants can also be paid for your travel expenses, accommodation costs, working materials or examination costs.

8 Rehabilitation funding

Do you have an occupational disability or are you planning to return to work after a long illness? Then your further training for your re-entry may be subsidized by the rehabilitation funding.

If you can no longer practice your learned profession, for example due to occupational disability or illness, your integration into the labor market is supported by the following institutions:

  • Pension insurance institutions (e.g. Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund as well as regional institutions)
  • Federal Employment Agency by means of an education voucher
  • Statutory accident insurance institutions (e.g. employers' liability insurance association)
  • Social compensation agencies (e.g. state pension offices, pension offices, main welfare offices)

In most cases, the costs for further education and retraining are covered in full. The prerequisite for receiving such funding is qualified counseling at your competent institution, which will evaluate your case individually and coordinate further steps with you.

9 Digital now - investment support for SMEs

Know-how in digital technologies determines the competitiveness and future viability of companies. To enable SMEs to successfully exploit the potential of digitization, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) is supporting small and medium-sized enterprises in trade and commerce with the "Digital Now - Investment Support for SMEs" program, including the training of their employees.

Before the start of your company's training measure, your company must submit an application for subsidies to the BMWi or the project management organization commissioned by it. Your application must describe your digitization project and explain the type and number of qualification measures. As an individual company, you can then receive funding of a maximum of EUR 55,000, and as an applicant within a value chain, a maximum of EUR 100,000.

Important: Your company must be able to prove that it has a permanent establishment in Germany in order to receive the subsidy.

10 Funding through state and federal programs

In order to improve employability or build jobs, further training measures for skills development in the company can be funded by other state or federal programs. But measures for individual professional development, for example to improve the skills profile or secure the job, can also be subsidized by such programs.

The nature and structure of these programs vary from state to state. However, the prerequisite for taking advantage of the funding is a primary residence in the respective federal state in each case.

Tax advantages

You haven't found the right funding opportunity for you yet? Independently of conventional further education subsidies via the employment agency or initiatives of ministries, all employees have the possibility to deduct further education costs from their taxes.

Further education and retraining are considered an important investment in your professional future. If these measures are necessary to secure your job against unemployment, the costs can be additionally deducted as income-related expenses. But even apart from such compelling reasons for further training, all training costs can be claimed at least proportionally.

Participation fees, learning materials and travel expenses are recognized. If the measures are directly related to your profession, the costs are usually taken into account in full. Otherwise, a proportional deduction of income-related expenses is possible.

Get free advice

We hope that in this article you've discovered a continuing education funding program that fits your situation. We offer free education vouchers in data science and programming, as well as numerous skill tracks, career paths, and online courses and micro-lessons included in our StackFuel membership. Inform yourself here about your training options and find the right skill for you.

We will be happy to advise you free of charge and without obligation about your options for financing and financial support for your professional development. StackFuel is certified according to AZAV and has a number of offers for you to expand your skills in the areas of digitalization, data science and artificial intelligence. Seize your chance now and arrange a consultation with us.

As a true Berliner, Laura quickly joined the creative and start-up scene. After studying Media and Communications Management at Mediadesign - University of Applied Sciences, Laura was already working as an editor at IQPC, where she was responsible for the Finance, Tech, Data and AI sections and interviewed well-known industry pioneers at conventions. At StackFuel, Laura is steadily expanding the Content Lab - our diverse offering of free content, webinars, and publications.

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