The German system is interesting. It definitely railroads kids but it's not impossible to change tracks later in life. Technikers (trade school people) generally get paid more than engineers who has went to college. The best engineers are the technikers who went back to college for an advanced degree.
Their definition of trade school is a lot broader than ours. For instance, one of my friends is a banker, which is a "trade school" track there. His program was basically part time internship and part time American-style high school. There were a few years of full time internship at the end but by the time you're 20 you've got a good job and a skill if you stick with it.
The flip side is it's very difficult to change careers and industries. The culture is very conservative in that regard vs America where lots of people work in different industries and kinds of roles.
People love to speak ill of liberal arts degrees but as someone with soft and hard degrees and with American and German education I think there's a lot to be said for American creativity, critical thinking and communication. People with liberal arts degrees tend to have more of those skills, and those are the hardest skills to teach on the job in my experience.
Germany used to do compulsory healthcare or military service for young people but they phased it out 10 years ago in an attempt to professionalize their armed forces.