The latter portion of our time in Germany has been in the southeast corner of Baden-Württemberg, a few miles from the Swiss border in the city of Konstanz. We started our time here at the local chamber of industry and commerce, the IHK, which plays a government-mandated role in bringing together “social partners” to agree on all the details of vocational education, working by consensus.
This helpful video explains its role in the dual training system.
We also met with professors from the University of Konstanz and learned about vocational education in Germany and the state of vocational education in Baden-Württemberg. Much of what we learned there was about the benefits of the dual system but also about tensions in the system due to an increasing preference for university credentials.
Nationwide, more than 48,000 apprenticeship positions go unfilled. However, 23,000 students are not successfully placed because they lack basic skills. In Baden-Württemberg, there about 10,000 unfilled apprenticeships.
Within the next year Germany will adopt a framework called the European Qualifications Framework, or EQF, that will allow German system qualifications to be easily translated into other European educational contexts in 8 levels, and vice versa.
In the last few years, Germany has seen university entrances increase to the point that they now for the first time exceed entrances to the vocational training system. Professors at Konstanz see this as a concern. Rising expectations for credentials are making harder for lower skilled students to access apprenticeships.
The dual system may be at risk as universities add training opportunities and “dual” degree programs are created - more academics are being added to apprenticeships and vocational education, which is having an impact on employer expectations. However, even with more students going to university, there isn’t a need for remedial education because students have a nationally-standardized school leaving certificate, called an Abitur.
More to come on our school visits and the Swiss system.
Christy Wolfe is a Senior Policy Advisor for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Read her first post in the series recapping her fellowship.