If you find yourself unemployed in Germany, you’ve probably heard of the Agentur für Arbeit—otherwise known as the job center. You may have also gotten wind of something called a Bildungsgutschein—or a training voucher.
But what exactly is this training voucher? How can you get one and, more importantly, why should you?
In short, a Bildungsgutschein allows you to take a course for free from a certified educational institution. It’s your key to learning new skills and landing a well-paid job—and could not only be your ticket out of unemployment, but also into a truly exciting new career.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about applying for a Bildungsgutschein and studying your way to a new profession. We’ll answer all your most burning questions, including:
- What is a Bildungsgutschein?
- Who is eligible for a Bildungsgutschein?
- How do I get a Bildungsgutschein?
- What can I study using my Bildungsgutschein?
- How will a Bildungsgutschein help me get a job?
- Studying with a Bildungsgutschein: What next?
By the end of this post, you’ll know exactly how to go about locating your nearest Agentur für Arbeit and applying for a Bildungsgutschein. So let’s get started.
1. What is a Bildungsgutschein?
As already mentioned, Bildungsgutschein is the German word for an educational or training voucher. Issued by the Agentur für Arbeit (aka the German job center), this voucher entitles you to learn new skills for free. Once you have obtained a Bildungsgutschein, the job center will cover the costs of your chosen course—and no, you won’t need to pay them back once you start working.
The purpose of a Bildungsgutschein is to equip jobseekers with valuable, in-demand skills that will help them find a job. It’s important to note that, while studying with a Bildungsgutschein, you will still be entitled to receive your unemployment benefits.
2. Who is eligible for a Bildungsgutschein?
In order to obtain a training voucher from the German job center, you’ll need to fulfil certain criteria. You may be eligible for a Bildungsgutschein if you belong to one of the following categories:
- You are currently employed but facing the possibility of unemployment
- You are currently unemployed and want to re-enter the job market
- You require further training or retraining in the absence of a relevant vocational qualification
Your local job center will ultimately decide if you are eligible for a Bildungsgutschein. Before you can seek advice from the job center, you need to be resident in Germany and to have completed the official registration process (Anmeldung in German).
If you’ve got both of these boxes ticked, you’re ready to start the application process! Let’s take a look at that in more detail now.
3. How to apply for a Bildungsgutschein
So you’re either unemployed or soon to be unemployed, resident in Germany and in possession of your Anmeldebescheinigung (proof that you have completed the official registration process). You can now see if you’re eligible for a Bildungsgutschein.
Schedule an appointment with your local Agentur für Arbeit
First things first, you need to make an appointment with your local Agentur für Arbeit. If you haven’t been in touch with the job center before, you can find your local center simply by searching online, e.g. “Agentur für Arbeit Berlin” or “Agentur für Arbeit near me”. Once you’ve made an appointment, you’ll be assigned an advisor. They will act as your designated contact person for all further appointments.
How to prepare for your appointment at the Agentur für Arbeit
Once you’ve got your appointment, you need to show your advisor at the job center how you could benefit from a training voucher—so it’s important to come prepared.
It helps if you already have a particular course in mind that you would like the Agentur für Arbeit to subsidize. This way, you can explain the benefits of the course in detail and present a good case for why you should receive a training voucher.
The course you have chosen should have a vocational identification number (Berufskennzahl in German, or BKZ) and a measure number (Maßnahmennummer). You can get these numbers from the educational institution providing the course. We’ll explore the kinds of courses you can take with your Bildungsgutschein a little later on.
Whichever course you’ve got your eye on, it helps if you can demonstrate some kind of continuity between your professional background and the course you intend to take. If there is no obvious link, you can focus on the benefits of the course itself, and how it will improve your career prospects. Highlight the kinds of opportunities you’ll be able to access once you’ve taken the course, and explain why you want to enter into this field. You might come prepared with job ads and statistics to show that there is plenty of demand for the skills you hope to learn using your Bildungsgutschein.
What should you bring to your job center appointment?
Aside from a well-thought-out case for your desired course, there are a few things you should bring with you to your job center appointment. In terms of documents, make sure to have an up-to-date copy of your CV to hand, together with the aforementioned proof of registration in Germany (Anmeldebescheinigung) and some form of ID, such as your passport or ID card.
There’s no guarantee that the Agentur für Arbeit advisors will speak English, so if you don’t speak German, you may want to bring a German-speaker with you to your appointment.
So, just to recap, here’s your Agentur für Arbeit / Bildungsgutschein appointment checklist:
- Personal ID (passport, ID card)
- Proof of registration in Germany (Anmeldebescheinigung)
- Up-to-date CV
- Information about the course you want to take, including job ads and employment stats
- The vocational identification number (Berufskennzahl) and measure number (Maßnahmennummer) for your chosen course
- A German-speaker / translator if necessary
The Agentur für Arbeit is not legally obliged to grant you a Bildungsgutschein; it’s decided on a case-by-case basis. However, it is their mission to get you back into the job market, so if you come well-prepared for your appointment, the odds are very much in your favour.
4. What courses are available with a Bildungsgutschein?
Now you know what a Bildungsgutschein is and how to apply for one, let’s consider what kinds of courses are available.
Kursnet is an online database of all courses that can be taken using a Bildungsgutschein—and there are approximately 400,000 courses to choose from! You can quickly search for relevant courses via the search box on the homepage as follows:
- In the Suchbegriff field, enter a search term, such as “UX design” or “German”.
- Tick the box next to Nur Angebote mit Bildungsgutschein to show all relevant courses that can be subsidized with a training voucher.
- To include online courses, make sure the box next to E-Learning berücksichtigen is also checked.
- Click Suche starten.
You can find everything from German language courses to marketing, office management, accounting, and beyond. Your Bildungsgutschein can also be used to learn cutting-edge tech skills. If you want to train for a high-paid job in a rapidly-growing industry, consider using your voucher to train yourself up and land a job in tech.
5. How will a Bildungsgutschein help you land a job?
So how will a Bildungsgutschein and your chosen course help you land a job?
The idea behind the training voucher is to enable jobseekers to learn new skills—skills that will improve their employment prospects and help them re-enter the job market. It is therefore important to choose a path that both interests you and is likely to open up some good opportunities.
Perhaps you’ve been out of work for a while and are keen to get back into your previous career. In this case, you could use your Bildungsgutschein to update your skillset.
If you are looking for a complete career change, your Bildungsgutschein can help with that, too. In the tech field especially, there is an ever-growing demand for designers and developers, so learning these skills is certainly going to make you more employable.
Here at CareerFoundry, we’ve partnered with the Agentur für Arbeit to make our UX design, UI design and web development courses available to Bildungsgutschein-holders. You’ll receive one-to-one mentorship from an industry expert, work on hands-on tasks and projects that will go towards your portfolio, and receive tailored job coaching from our in-house career specialists; essentially everything you need to forge a new career path!
6. Studying with a Bildungsgutschein: What next?
Once you’ve received your training voucher from the job center, you’ll need to take it (or send it off) to the educational institution running your chosen course. Once they have filled out the relevant information, you’ll need to bring the completed Bildungsgutschein back to your advisor at the Agentur für Arbeit. Then you’re ready to go!
So there you have it: Everything you need to know about applying for a Bildungsgutschein and studying your way to a new career. If you’d like to learn more about taking a job center-subsidized course with CareerFoundry, you can get in touch with our Bildungsgutschein career advisors here.
Want to dip your toe into UX design, UI design or web development before making your decision? Try our free 7-day short courses:
In need of a little career-change inspiration? Read how CareerFoundry graduate Jesús got his career back on track after studying UX design with his Bildungsgutschein.
What You Should Do Now
- If you’d like to learn about finding a career you love - sign up here for one of our free 7-day design or development courses.
- If you are interested in becoming a Web Developer, UX, or UI Designer check out our mentored beginners' courses (complete with job guarantee!).
- If you’d like to speak to an expert Career Advisor for free about how you can really get a new job in tech - connect with us here.
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