Skip Navigation Hotkeys

Search and Service

Case Study Vocational training and employment in a supermarket chain


The company, which also includes a supermarket chain with several shops and inclusive businesses, is a subsidiary of a non-profit workshop association. The aim of the company is (e.g. in the retail sector or in supermarkets) to employ people who are disadvantaged on the general labour market because of their disability on a permanent basis at a wage that is customary in the sector and to enable them to participate in society.
The concept of the supermarket chain to close gaps in supply for people who depend on a food supply within walking distance to cover their daily needs is very successful and is to be spread further by new franchise partners or supermarkets. The individual supermarkets offer a wide range of products. These include meat, sausage, cheese and bakery products, which are offered fresh to customers in the respective departments. The proportion of employees with severe disabilities is 50 percent.

Disability and functional impairment of employees:
People with a mental illness or physical disability work in the supermarkets. People with a physical disability have limited physical capacity and limb function (arms, legs and motor function). For this reason, these people are limited in their ability to perform activities that require frequent manual lifting and carrying of loads. In addition, the people with limitation of walking function, for example, due to spina bifida (split spine/open back), cannot be used for jobs that require constant standing and walking. People with mental illnesses have limited mental capacity, have problems in interpersonal contact, work somewhat slower and forget some tasks.

Training and job:

Before starting their vocational training or job, employees generally complete an internship or work trial (of two to eight weeks) in a supermarket. During this time, it is determined whether the person is capable of performing an appropriate job in the supermarket and what may need to be changed technically or organisationally in order for the person to be employed. After the internship or work trial, the person then starts vocational training or starts working as a non-trained person.

1. Vocational training

In supermarkets, employees are trained as sales assistants in two years. The vocational training ends with a final examination before the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK). After passing the examination, the sales assistants can enter the general labour market. However, they can also, if they wish, continue to work in their former training company as skilled workers. Alternatively, the sales assistants can also obtain further qualifications and, building on this, be trained as retail sales assistants over a period of one year. During their vocational training as sales assistants and retail salespersons, the trainees attend a vocational school, which is part of the workshop network, two days a week. Here, specially prepared curricula are taught in coordination with the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the usual vocational school. The trainees also receive special training to promote their personal development so that they can better absorb all the training content in theory and practice.

2. Unskilled employees

For the new unskilled employees, a basic and advanced course is offered in the vocational training centre of the workshop network to prepare them for the job and to teach them key qualifications. The basic and advanced courses each consist of two modules. The duration of the basic course is approx. four weeks and that of the advanced course two weeks. Within the basic course, basic knowledge is imparted on the philosophy of the company, on dealing with customers, on goods, on the transport of goods and on accident prevention. The theoretically acquired knowledge is then deepened in practical exercises on site in a supermarket. In the advanced course, the main points of the basic course are repeated and further discussed. Additional topics, such as coping with conflict situations, are intended to help promote or expand the social competence of the course participants. If they are interested and suitable, unskilled employees can also train to become sales assistants.

Workplace and work task:

The goods are transported from the goods-in warehouse to the shelves in the salesroom (Fig. 1) by the employees using transport or lift trucks (Fig. 2). The shelves or racks for the self-service area must be filled and checked by them daily (Figs. 3 and 4). If necessary, expired spoiled goods are disposed of directly (Fig. 5). In addition, the beverage dispenser must be stocked with empty carts for empties. The empties from the full trolleys are then sorted into the respective empties bins by the employees.
Supermarkets also have meat, sausage and cheese departments. In these departments, customers order the relevant goods at a counter from an employee. They then portion, weigh and pack the goods and hand them over to the customer (Fig. 6 and 7). The goods are then paid for at the checkout. The employees at the checkout push the goods over a scanner, inform the customer of the amount to be paid and, after receiving the money, return the change together with a receipt. The conveyor belt and the scanner have to be cleaned from time to time (Fig. 8), so that the barcode can be recorded by the scanner without any problems and thus the barcode can be assigned to a product or a price in the EDP system. The employees were specially prepared for their work at the checkout by means of instructions. For the employees with mental illnesses, no technical aids had to be used to make them suitable for disabled people. They are used for work tasks whose processes are clearly structured. This means that there are no sudden changes that could lead to an increase in psychological stress due to, for example, time and performance pressure. Employees with physical disabilities (e.g. spasticity or spina bifida) are specifically assigned to work that they can perform without technical aids, e.g. at the checkout. For employees who can only be used to a limited extent for transporting goods, appropriate transport or lifting aids are available.

Working environment:

Most employees use public transport to get to work. The employee with spina bifida, due to her limited walking function, also uses a tricycle with pedal drive for the way to work, which she cannot cover by public transport. She uses a crutch within the supermarket to reach her workplace (checkout).

Assistive products used:

Further Information

The supermarket foundation and the creation of workplaces for people with severe disabilities was supported by the integration or inclusion office, the respective municipalities and the association of workshops.

ICF Items

Reference Number:


Last Update: 25 Mar 2019