The path from school to work is easier in Germany. For young people who don't go on to college, apprenticeships combine work experience and classroom training for two or three years after high school. The system is supported by government, companies and unions.
Sandra Buchta is completing her one-year apprenticeship at a moving company in Frankfurt. She works 3½ days a week and takes two mornings of instruction in areas like bookkeeping and software at a vocational school. Buchta receives a $675 monthly stipend that lets her get by while living at home. And she's likely — but not guaranteed — to get a full-time job offer from the company.
Typical for an apprentice, she's learning all aspects of the company's operations, from dispatching to bookkeeping. The training provides skills she could use anywhere in the moving industry.
That broad training is a key difference between mere on-the-job training for a single post and an apprenticeship, says Brigitte Scheuerle, who oversees training programs and the exams at Frankfurt's Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
"A worker standing on the assembly line does not just install one part," Scheuerle says. "He knows what is going on to the left and right of him."
Yet it's not clear how well Germany's model, which dates back to the Middle Ages, would transfer to other countries. It's based on extensive cooperation among government, companies and unions.
It's "an attitude of solidarity, and solidarity can't be imposed by fiat," Scheuerle says.
For now, struggles persist elsewhere in Europe. Gloria Carracedo, 24, hasn't been able to land a full-time teaching job in Spain. She plans to leave for Malta to learn English. Living there is cheaper than London.
Still, she keeps her hopes in check. "The way things are right now," she says, "I don't foresee being able to reach my parents' standard of living."
McHugh reported from Frankfurt. AP Staff writers Christopher S. Rugaber in Washington, Angela Charlton in Paris, Paola Barisani in Rome, Cassandra Vinograd in London and Harold Heckle in Madrid contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.