If you find yourself unemployed in Germany, you’ve probably heard of the Agentur für Arbeit—otherwise known as the Jobcenter. 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 Jobcenter), this voucher entitles you to learn new skills for free. Once you have obtained a Bildungsgutschein, the Jobcenter 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 Jobcenter, 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 Jobcenter will ultimately decide if you are eligible for a Bildungsgutschein. Before you can seek advice from the Jobcenter, 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 Jobcenter 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 Jobcenter 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 programs you can take with your Bildungsgutschein a little later on.
Whichever program you’ve got your eye on, it helps if you can demonstrate some kind of continuity between your professional background and the program you intend to take. If there is no obvious link, you can focus on the benefits of the program 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 program, 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 Jobcenter appointment?
Aside from a well-thought-out case for your desired program, there are a few things you should bring with you to your Jobcenter 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 program you want to take, including job ads and employment stats
- The vocational identification number (Berufskennzahl) and measure number (Maßnahmennummer) for your chosen program
- 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 favor.
Note: Depending on restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it may not be possible to attend an in-person appointment. Your local Jobcenter advisors will inform you how to proceed if this is the case.
4. What programs are available with a Bildungsgutschein?
Now you know what a Bildungsgutschein is and how to apply for one, let’s consider what kinds of programs 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, 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, full-stack web development, data analytics, digital marketing, and product management programs 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 Jobcenter, you’ll need to take it (or send it off) to the educational institution running your chosen program. 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 Jobcenter-subsidized programs with CareerFoundry, you can get in touch with our Bildungsgutschein program advisors here.
Want to dip your toe into UX or UI design, web development, data analytics, digital marketing, or product management before making your decision? Try our free short courses:
- UX design short course
- UI design short course
- Web development short course
- Data analytics short course
- Digital marketing short course
- Product management short course
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.