Barcelona (Onisep © EV)There is still a sharp contrast in Spain today:

  • nearly 1/3 of young people leave the school system without any diploma or qualification. The dropout rate during the 2nd cycle of secondary education is the highest in Europe.
  • failing any viable alternative, young people are increasingly drawn to longer mainstream studies as demonstrated by the increase in the number of university degrees.

In order to improve the employment prospects for young people and unskilled workers, Spain wishes to improve the quality and appeal of vocational training by setting up new qualifications and validating experience acquired at work. It is offering more training programmes, increasing financial assistance and giving priority to information services and career guidance.

Moreover, modernising vocational education and training (VET) and making it more flexible as support to lifelong learning and employability are at the heart of Spanish education and employment policies. VET plays a significant role in upskilling the workforce and in helping young people acquire qualifications that respond to labour market needs.

The Spanish education system – 2017





The vocational pathway in Spain


Secondary education

To access the grado medio (intermediate level), pupils must have the Graduado en Educación Secundaria Obligatoria (compulsory secondary school diploma) which is automatically obtained after compulsory schooling. The course lasts from 18 months to 2 years and includes a work placement of 300 hours in an enterprise (Centro de Trabajo). It leads to the title of Técnico, (technician) and allows pupils to continue their education up to specialised A-levels. The technician diploma does not open the door to higher education at university, but does mean that pupils can go on to the Bachiller (mainstream secondary education) or further education for technicians.

Vocational training is modular, including a training module in the workplace (módulo de formación en centros de trabajo), but this module can only be taken once all the other modules followed at school have been obtained. The work placement occurs in the final stage of the course. Higher-level training cycles also include a module devoted to a professional project (módulo profesional de proyecto).

A professional certificate (certificado de profesionalidad) corresponding to a level I vocational qualification in the national vocational qualifications framework is offered to young people aged between 16 and 21 who have not yet obtained a diploma. It comes under the aegis of the Employment Department and can lead to integration on the job market or a return to initial education.

Since September 2014, the « FP Básica » section offers to young people to start a vocational training from their 15 years old, for a period of two years.

Higher education

The grado superior (upper level) is open to holders of the Bachiller (A-levels) or the grado medio. This post-secondary education prepares students for specialised vocational qualifications and lasts for 1 or 2 years. One quarter of the time is devoted to vocational training. It leads to the qualification of Técnico superior (higher technician).

Without taking any further examinations, holders of the diploma for higher technician are admitted to university courses leading to the Grado (1st university qualification).



Work-study programmes are few and far between. They are offered as a priority to young people between the ages of 16 and 21 who dropped out of compulsory schooling and have neither a diploma nor any qualification. It is carried out within the framework of a Contrato para la formacion (Training Contract) and lasts between 6 months and 2 years.

Education authority VET was reformed in 2013 and, from 2014/15, offers basic, intermediate and higher VET qualifications. Programmes last two years (2 000 hours), with training in a company (minimum 20%) and at a VET school (maximum 80%).

Dual training schemes may also be based on an agreement between the company, the school and the learner. Participants have the status of student (no age limit applies) and may benefit from a scholarship, depending on the autonomous communities. In that respect, the recently introduced basic VET and easier access to intermediate VET have opened up progression routes for youngsters and adults with low or no qualifications.

The dual principle has been implemented nationally to increase VET attractiveness and support young people in transition to the labour market. Participants in dual training programmes (16 to 25 year-olds or up to 30 until youth unemployment decreases) may sign an apprenticeship contract (one to three years) and get at least the minimum wage. The reform also opens up the opportunity to acquire IVET qualifications through dual track schemes (with or without a labour contract). In such cases, duration is up to three years.



Key figures

  • As result of active employment policies, the number of training and apprenticeship contracts offered by the employment authorities increased by 25% with respect to 2014. (CEDEFOP – 2016)
  • Around 45% of intermediate VET cycles students are enrolled in the professional branches of Health, Administration and management and Electricity and electronics. (CEDEFOP – 2016)
  • Spain is reforming the VET system to better adapt young people’s skills to labour market needs and to increase the attractiveness, transparency and acceptance of VET programmes. It is doing so by reforming the catalogue of diplomas offered both for medium-level and high-level VET and increasing the flexibility of the curricula of medium-level VET programmes. (EUROPA – 2016)

Last update : 21/02/2018