After graduation, the question lingers for many on whether to join the job market through a direct entry or via a trainee position. This will usually depend on what your goal is. If you wish to join management in the future, a trainee program is a great way there. If you prefer instead to work directly on your job with as little responsibilities for other employees, then a direct entry is a great option.
Although many companies are currently advertising for trainee positions, it’s imperative for the applicant to take time and review them to ensure they understand what they are getting into. German law doesn’t specify how a trainee program should be set up, thus it is to the discretion of companies to determine what to stipulate in the training program and who to bring on board.
It is advisable for applicants to critically review the program before embarking on it, looking at what it offers and if it meets expectations. A good trainee program should not be too long or too short.
Some of the key points to consider before enrolling for a training program are:
The trainees should be aware of objectives and time frame within which the program is to be completed. The program should run between 18 to 24 months for Business, Engineering and Marketing programs and about 24 to 36 months for research programs. Less than 12months or more than 36months, is basically just a Aushilfe position.
The entire program should have about five rotations or projects within five departments within the company. This ensures you get to know the company much better.
From the onset, it’s important to find out if the program offers mentorship. If the trainee program has a permanent contact person or mentor who will be available for guiding trainees in their professional progress. This alone is a sign of a good trainee program.
- Services offered:
The content specified for the training program should not be significantly below that of a direct entry-level to an academic institution. The training should offer regular feedback and interactions with trainers
- On the Job Training:
During the trainee period, the trainee should have the possibility to attend on the job training which should include workshops and seminars. These should be planned and fixed from the onset of the program.
The salary should be the same or nearly the same as a direct entrant. Some companies unfortunately offer direct entries at lower salaries then name them “Trainee positions”. Check online to find out how much entrants in that field earn, then orient your salary on that during the negotiations. A good starting point is the annual renumeration report, check here for 2015.
- Project Abroad:
There should be a possibility to take part in a project abroad, if the company is international. If the company is only in Germany, then the possibility to take up a project at a different site within the country would be advantageous. This may sometimes be tricky if a company is local.
- After the trainee period:
Ideally, at the end of the trainee program, the candidate should have the possibility to be hired by the company. Some companies will issue a permanent contract when you start your trainee period, some may offer a contract that ends at the end of the trainee period and you get a new one once you get a job offer.
Be sure to clarify, though before starting. It doesn’t look good in your CV if you took part in a trainee program in one company then never worked there afterwards.
Applicants should clarify the key issues during the interview to avoid unpleasant surprises, or at the very latest at the Assessment Centre.
PS: I have seen Kenyan companies that offer trainee programs e.g. Centum, PwC e.t.c. I’m not sure they work the same as the German ones, from my own research and reading their ads, they sound almost like internships for recent graduates. Please note the German trainee programs are usually for graduates seeking to join the job market.