Purpose - This paper proposes to investigate the modernisation of the German Dual System for apprenticeships. Design/methodology/approach - The paper looks at the history of the development of the Dual System and looks at the challenges it faces today. Findings - The paper finds that Germany, with its long-standing tradition of dual apprenticeships and the reputation of maintaining its practices rather than changing them, has joined the vocational education and training reform agenda. It also finds that reforms seem inevitable in the face of a partial failure of the traditional mechanisms operating within the existing apprenticeship system. Originality/value - This paper is useful in highlighting the challenges faced by a traditional apprenticeship system.