The secret recipe of German economic success

Adam Berry | Getty Images News | Getty Images

When Stephanie Neumann from the U.K. finished high school at 18, securing a once coveted place at university wasn't a priority. Instead, she took up a three-year apprenticeship with engineering giant Siemens.

Neumann said she felt the program offered her better job prospects.

"If you're going to university… when you finish, you come out with this great degree. But with the way the economy is, you've not got that opportunity to get a job from your degree," she told CNBC.

(Read more: Euro zone seen growing at last: Thank Germany)

Working in Europe's biggest economy and learning its language was a major added benefit, she said, a feeling shared by apprentices from other European countries.

"People always say that Germans are more accurate and that the work is a lot better, and you see it here also," Tim Demol, a Belgian doing an apprenticeship at Siemens, said. "You learn something very precise, and learn to do it fast too."

Germany's youth apprentice schemes have been hailed as the country's biggest weapon against youth unemployment, with more than 65 percent of young people starting careers with vocational training after they finish school.

The country's youth unemployment rate of 7.5 percent is the lowest in Europe and pales in comparison to rates of over 50 percent in Spain and Greece. No less than 5.51 million people under 25 were unemployed in the European Union (EU) in June.

European leaders and labor ministers have pledged 8 billion euros to fight youth unemployment and the German "dual education system" has beenmooted as a way to solve the problem.

(Read more: High hopes for Germany as 'roller coaster ride' nears end)

The state-encouraged schemes combine apprenticeships with vocational education in a school or college to gain theoretical knowledge.

"The advantage for (young people) is that they gain a high employability and…for the companies is we train our own employees for the future. More than 80 percent stay at the company and get long-term employment," Martin Stoeckmann, the head of the education and training center at Siemens told CNBC.

The schemes are contributing to the German economy too, according to economists.

"Germany is close to full employment right now and apprenticeships are clearly something that have helped drive growth - the apprenticeship schemes work very well in the family-run Mittelstand (small and medium sized enterprises -- SMEs) as it provides cheap labor for companies while young people get training," ING economist Carsten Brzeski said.

The apprenticeships work so well in fact, that there was anecdotal evidence of SMEs struggling to find apprentices as there weren't enough young Germans to join them.

(Read more: German politiciansmust maintain stability: Infineon CEO)

The German government in June launched a drive to attract young people from Britain to come to the country and work as apprentices.

Many of Neumann's university-educated friends are now struggling to get a job.

"I'm learning a new language and German is probably the best language for engineering," she said. It's a great opportunity."

- By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt