BIBB REPORT Edition 9/09

Many bright spots - but shadows too

The quality of dual vocational training from the trainees' point of view

Ursula Beicht, Andreas Krewerth, Verena Eberhard, Mona Granato

Vocational schools and firms that provide in-house vocational training (training companies) have considerable freedom in how they organise and conduct 'dual' vocational training programmes. Germany's Vocational Training Act and training regulations for the respective occupations stipulate the parameters and content for the in-company part of vocational training that apply nation-wide and the states' school laws and curricula provide the foundation for the part of vocational training that is provided by vocational schools. However our knowledge about how training companies and vocational schools currently shape and organise their day-to-day training on this basis and how trainees rate the resultant quality of their training has been insufficient to date. To learn more, the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) surveyed some 6,000 trainees undergoing training for 15 occupations that can be learned in the "dual" vocational training system (which combines part-time vocational schooling with practical work experience). This survey revealed the strengths of the dual vocational training system as well as areas which work on quality development - which is frequently called for - should tackle.

Availability of data on the quality of vocational training in Germany

The calls to take greater steps to ensure and improve the quality of dual vocational training in Germany have particularly intensified since the Vocational Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz - BBiG) was amended in 2005.(01) However, there is little data available about the current level of the quality of vocational training. As a result, it remains unclear which areas actually need improvement. Available data sources can be divided into three groups:

  • Evaluation procedures have been established in a growing number of training companies and vocational schools in recent years. These procedures are designed to make data on training quality available to the respective organisation and, when necessary, to higher organisational levels (company management or school administration).(02) Since such procedures primarily serve control purposes and are additionally of strategic importance for the respective organisation, they are communicated externally only on a targeted basis, if at all.
  • The quality of training has been examined in individual regions in various surveys, some of them on selected areas of vocational training (see for example DGB REGION MÜNCHEN 2006, HEINEMANN/RAUNER 2008, QUANTE-BRANDT/GRABOW 2008, WESTDEUTSCHER HANDWERKSKAMMERTAG 2008). A number of these surveys covered similar aspects of quality (such as work tasks, working hours and problems during training, aptitude and conduct of the instruction personnel). However, the questions used in these surveys were usually context-specific - for example, they applied to specific occupations in the skilled trades. As a result, it is practically impossible to develop a comprehensive account of the quality of vocational training in Germany on these basis of these studies.
  • There is very little national-level data available regarding training quality. Only the annual vocational training report issued by the Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (DBG - Confederation of German Trade Unions) reports from a national standpoint on how trainees rate the quality of their training. This report covers a variety of occupations that require completion of formal vocational training (training occupations), examining them on the basis of only a few, albeit key, criteria (see DGB 2008). Even though the regular reporting systems for vocational training in Germany - the Report on Vocational Education and Training issued by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, BIBB's Data Report to the Report on Vocational Education and Training, and parts of the national German Education Reports - publish data regarding individual aspects of input quality (such as training participation rates, level of trainees' prior education) and output quality (such as the number of examinations passed and premature termination of training contracts) of the dual vocational training system, the quality of the actual training process remains largely a "black box".

Thus there has been a lack of representative surveys to date, particularly at national level, which provide an overview of training conditions in Germany on the basis of nuanced quality criteria.

BIBB research project Vocational Training from the Trainees' Point of View

In order to close this gap, BIBB is currently conducting two research projects on the quality of vocational training in Germany. These projects are being conducted by a research group and constitute the resumption of a line of research that was established by the Commission on the Cost and Financing of Vocational Education and Training in the 1970s but was pushed into the background in the face of the shortage of training places that has developed since the mid-1990s (for more on the development of the quality discussion in the vocational education and training field see KREKEL/BALLI 2006).

Quality assessments are value judgements that are highly subject to the particular individual's expectations and criteria (see TERHART 2000). For this reason the BIBB research group takes into account not only the trainees' point of view but also the training companies' point of view. The Quality Assurance in In-company Vocational Training project is analysing the demands firms place on the quality of the vocational training they provide, the extent to which they feel they satisfy these demands and the tools and methods they use for quality assurance. The focus of the project Vocational Training from the Trainees' Point of View ? which is the subject of this issue of BIBB REPORT ? is on how trainees experience day-to-day training specifically at their training company but also at their vocational school and how they rate the quality of their training.(03)

In light of the demographic trend that is leading to ever-fewer school leavers, research into the trainee's point of view regarding the quality of vocational training is gaining considerable importance (see ULMER/ULRICH 2008). The reason: Only those companies that are reputed to offer high-quality training will be able to hold their own when competing for potential trainees. Knowing what trainees want in terms of the quality of their training and how they rate it and taking this information into account when designing vocational training is already of key importance today for companies wishing to ensure a source of young skilled workers.

As part of this research project, a written survey was conducted during the first six months of 2008 of some 6,000 trainees who were undergoing training in Germany's western and eastern states for 15 selected occupations. The survey generated for each occupation some 300 to 450 cases that can be analysed. As a result, it was also possible to carry out nuanced, occupation-specific analyses. The box on the next page contains a description of the sample and details of the procedure used in this survey.

The quality model

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The first step to be taken when examining how trainees assess the quality of the training they receive is to decide which quality criteria to use. The research community, political sector and VET practitioners agree here that training quality is an extremely complex subject that can be adequately assessed only when it is examined on the basis of a larger number of criteria. These criteria can involve the prerequisites for vocational training in training companies and vocational schools (input quality), the flow and sequence of the training process (process quality) or the achievement of training objectives (output quality). A wide variety of quality criteria that various players have singled out as attributes of "good dual vocational training" are currently being discussed for each of these levels.

In light of this variety, a quality model was developed at the start of the research project. This model specifies and systemises quality criteria which were used in the survey as hallmarks of "good dual vocational training". The uppermost level in the structure of this model is presented in Chart 1. The divisions beneath this level, down to the level of the 52 individual criteria that were taken into account, are shown in Charts 2 and 3. The model took the criteria for input and process quality and output quality into account, with emphasis on the areas of input and process quality (42 criteria). Output quality was analysed on the basis of 10 criteria since the trainees were in their second year of training and were therefore unable to fully judge which objectives they were likely to achieve by the end of their training. As a consequence, this analysis was less nuanced. A sharp division between input quality and process quality was not undertaken because it is during the training process that trainees first experience the existence of certain training prerequisites and differentiating between these two levels in a trainee survey would seem contrived.

On the input and process quality side, the quality model took criteria into account which the vocational-pedagogic and education-policy fields consider to be particularly suited to ensuring that trainees achieve the objective of acquiring vocational competence (see, in summary, EULER 2005). Since the study was to focus on the in-company part of vocational training, the quality criteria apply primarily to the firm providing the training. However, the model also contains the most important criteria for the vocational school part of training and the collaboration between the learning venues Training Company and Vocational School. Furthermore, it takes a number of youth-sociology-based criteria into account which are of additional importance to youths when assessing training quality.

Sample and procedure used in the trainee survey
A classroom survey of some 6,000 trainees at 205 vocational schools in eastern and western Germany was conducted during the first half of 2008. The survey covered 15 frequently-chosen training occupations which represent a broad range of occupations and thus the diversity of the training conditions found in the dual vocational training system. All the respondents were second-year trainees. This ensured that their assessments were based on lengthier experience with vocational training. The survey was conducted in four western states and two eastern states (Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Thuringia) which were selected on the basis of economic and socio-structural criteria and reflect the country's regional diversity. The vocational schools and classes in the individual states were chosen on a random basis. Additionally, the number of participating vocational schools and classes varied greatly according to the size of the respective state because the states were taken into account in the survey in proportion to their number of trainees.

The sample was designed so that each training occupation would have the same total number of respondents. At the same time, disproportionately large shares of trainees were foreseen for the eastern states to ensure a sufficiently large number of cases. Due in particular to this disproportionate sample design, the survey data subsequently had to be weighted. The sample was therefore adjusted to the structures of the parent population, not only in terms of the distribution of the trainees among the individual occupations and Germany's eastern and western states but also with regard to important personal attributes of the trainees (sex, age, level of education). As a result, the weighted data are representative for trainees in their second year of training in the 15 training occupations examined in the six participating states.

The Institute for Applied Social Science (infas) coordinated and conducted the field work and data preparation. Students received a questionnaire which they were to answer in writing during a classroom period at vocational school. A representative from infas was present during each survey. This person explained the aim of the survey and how it would be conducted and also answered questions.

In the case of output quality, the Vocational Training Act specifies "vocational competence" as a primary quality objective. The quality model used this as the basis for developing a broad concept of education which was then operationalised using several different criteria (see Chart 3). According to this, vocational training should not only teach the most important content and working techniques for the particular occupation, it should also encourage individuals to continue their training in the future and awaken their interest in political and economic issues. This broad objective was developed following the model of vocational training success expounded by JUNGKUNZ (1995).

When selecting the criteria, care had to be taken to ensure that the participating trainees could assess all of them regardless which of the 15 occupations under examination they were learning. As a result, there are no quality criteria that are important for just a single occupation and there are no quality criteria which trainees have no direct experience with and therefore cannot assess.

Input and process quality
The following section explains and gives reasons for how the model was oriented and structured in the input quality and process quality field (see Charts 1 and 2). In the process, the expectations the quality model places on "good dual vocational training" will be made clear by its choice of quality criteria.

  • Company context

With respect to the conditions for in-company vocational training which constitute the focus of this study, the quality model contains four quality fields:

To ensure good organisation, the order and flow of the training should be planned and adhered to, despite sometimes unforeseeable aspects of the company's daily Routine.(04) However, these plans should not be rigid. Instead, they should be adjusted on a flexible basis to the trainees' growing competence and learning needs. For this reason, it is important to obtain in regular intervals verbal and written feedback from the trainees regarding the course of their training (see BRESS 2003).

Looking at the material conditions, training companies should ensure that the areas to be used by the trainees are in good condition and that modern tools and equipment are used for their Training.(05) Furthermore, the provision of up-to-date books, learning materials and media is also considered conducive to better quality (see FOGOLIN/ ZINKE 2005).

The Content and Methods quality field is very complex. For this reason it was divided into three sub-fields: At the lowest level, the Learning in the Work Process field revolves around the question whether trainees have already been confronted by work demands that they will have to meet in the future as trained skilled workers. The background to this: A key quality advantage that dual vocational training has over purely school-based training is that trainees can be entrusted with real customer orders or work orders during their in-company training. When this occurs, trainees acquire not only the hard skills but also the soft skills that are needed to master tasks that are part of complex company operations (see DEHNBOSTEL 2007).

For this reason, trainees should work as much as possible in real business processes at their company and also be involved in complex, multifaceted tasks in this connection. They should plan and carry out the tasks they have been assigned and subsequently monitor their own work performance in this connection. They should also learn to acquire ? on their own with the help of books or computer programmes ? knowledge that they lack but need in order to perform their work.

However, these high expectations are conducive to learning only when the trainee's company has a positive learning climate. Trainees must have enough time to be able to try their hand at and carry out tasks. Errors that are made in initial attempts must be tolerated in order to avoid generating anxiety or fear that can inhibit learning. It is also important that trainees support one another and have the feeling that they are treated properly by the other employees (see FRACKMANN/TÄRRE 2009, pp. 83-101).

The option to complete part of one's training abroad was created when the Vocational Training Act was amended (see Section 2 (3) of the Vocational Training Act). Furthermore trainees can earn ? even while still undergoing their regular training ? additional qualifications that go beyond the occupational profile of the occupation they are learning (see http://www.ausbildungplus.de/). In the Additional Offerings field the survey gathered data regarding the extent to which training abroad and additional qualifications of this kind are already part of vocational training practice.

The quality field Instructor Aptitude and Conduct is particularly important. This is also confirmed by the fact that the Ordinance on Trainer Aptitude (which was suspended in 2003) will be reinstated in a revised form in August 2009.(06) This field deals with the assessment of the technical and pedagogic aptitude of in-company instructors. However aptitude has an effect only when the instructor is actually present during the trainee's everyday work routine: Trainees should always have a reference person who takes the time to discuss the results of their work with them. Instructors should also share responsibility for the trainee's work, particularly at the beginning of training, so that the trainee doesn't feel out of their depth.

  • Context: Vocational school

The success of vocational training also depends in great part on effective co-operation between the partners providing the dual vocational training. The examination of input and process quality was supposed to concentrate on the conditions surrounding in-company vocational training. Consequently, the quality model takes only the most important aspects of the quality of training provided by vocational schools into account. This was accomplished using the three quality fields Material Conditions (tools, technical equipment and rooms at the school), Teacher Aptitude and Presence, and Learning Climate (in this case, classroom climate).(07)

  • Context: Collaboration between learning venues

Vocational training can be considered genuinely 'dual' when trainees experience their training companies and vocational schools as learning venues that establish joint conditions under which they can learn the complex knowledge and activities their occupations entail (see HOPPE/FREDE/MAHRIN 2005). Optimally, content taught at vocational schools should be applied in the respective training company and the work done in the training company should be examined at theoretical level at the trainee's vocational school. This link can be strengthened when training companies and vocational schools conduct projects that involve both learning venues.

  • Context: Additional youth-specific aspects

The criteria used here focus firstly on how compatible vocational training is with youths' leisure time interests. Secondly they deal with how youths feel about the training allowance they are paid. It can be assumed that the trainees' views on these aspects are of significance to training quality (see BUSCHBECK/KREWERTH 2004).

Output quality
Lastly, the output quality in the quality model should be addressed. Drawing on JUNGKUNZ (1995), output quality comprises five objective dimensions. The most nuanced data gathered by the survey was on the occupation-related dimension (see Chart 3). According to this information, vocational training should teach all important content and work techniques of the particular occupation, the individual trainee should be able to work in other companies or areas of his occupation after completing training, and the trainee should have a foundation for self-employment. Moreover, the results from the final examination for the practical training and the diploma from the vocational school should be good. These can be viewed as indicators that the trainee has learned important aspects of vocational proficiency.

In addition to this, following completion of training, a trainee should be able to meet the expectations that are specific to the company that provided his training and should, if at all possible, receive a job offer from that company (training company dimension). Further, initial vocational training should spark an interest in continuing one's training (continuing training dimension), plus enable the individual to master life on their own and give him/her the feeling of being integrated into society (personal development dimension). Lastly, training should also awaken an interest in political and economic issues (social dimension).

Assessment of the quality criteria in the questionnaire
The quality model outlined above provided the basis for the questionnaire used for the trainee survey. Using criteria for input and process quality, trainees evaluated the extent to which the individual aspects of quality were actually implemented in their training. The scale used six levels ranging from "is very true of my training" (1) to "is not at all true of my training" (6). This scale followed the school grading system which youths are familiar with. Looking at output quality, trainees were supposed to estimate how likely it was that the various objectives laid down for their training would actually be achieved during their training. The rating scale used here was also a scale from 1 to 6, from "will probably be achieved" (1) to "will probably not be achieved" (6).

Determining quality indices

The quality model outlined above illustrates that the quality of dual vocational training is influenced by a wide variety of factors. Given the wealth of individual criteria, it is virtually impossible to present the trainees' assessment of quality without losing track of the big picture. Consequently it is necessary to condense detailed information and thus make it easier to draw comparisons. This can be done by defining synoptic indices for the individual contexts and fields of the quality model and/or for input and process quality as a whole and for output quality as a whole. Simply averaging the entire set of individual criteria of the respective group would not however be very useful. This would assume that every aspect is of equal relevance to training quality. This is however not the case at all. In fact, criteria that are more important must be taken more into account than less important criteria when developing quality indices. It is therefore necessary to decide how much weight the individual criteria should be assigned.

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Weights for input and process quality
The criteria for input and process quality were rated by experts in order to ascertain differences in relevance (for more about the method used, see BORTZ/DÖRING 2003). This was done with an online survey that was conducted in 2008 with the help of the BIBB Expertenmonitor online survey system in which vocational training experts with differing institutional backgrounds are represented. Using a six-point scale from "very important" to "not important at all", 355 vocational training experts rated how important the individual criteria in the quality model are for good dual vocational training.

The results show that the participating experts attach great importance to nearly all of the model's quality criteria, albeit with gradations in the relevance of the individual criteria. According to this survey, the most important criteria are those which apply to the aptitude and conduct of instructors and the aptitude and presence of vocational school teachers. However, many criteria regarding the content and method of training used in training companies were also rated as very important for training quality. The experts attached the least importance to the additional youth-specific aspects (see KREWERTH/EBERHARD/GEI 2008).

The weights to be used when designing the quality indices were based on these assessments. This was done successively, starting from the lowest level of the individual quality criteria and moving to the next higher levels of the quality model and ultimately to the overall index as can be seen in Chart 2. Column 1 of Chart 2 shows the percentage of experts who assigned the highest rating ? "very important" (1) ? to the respective criterion. For example, the experts considered trainees' verbal feedback to be much more important than written feedback. In keeping with this difference in the experts' rating, verbal feedback accounted for 80% of the index to the sub-field Obtaining Trainee Feedback and written feedback only 20% (see Column 2).(08)

At the next higher level, the index for the quality field Organisation is defined by the sub-fields Obtaining Trainee Feedback (65%) and Planning and Adherence to Learning Processes (35%) (see Column 3). This reflects the fact that the experts rated the two criteria for feedback higher on average than the criterion of precise planning and adherence that was used in the other sub-field. This principle extends to the next-higher level where the weights of the individual quality fields were determined in order to generate the indices for the individual contexts (see Column 4).

At the highest level ? where the overall index for input and process quality was determined (see Column 5) ? the weights of the individual contexts were not calculated on the basis of the Expertenmonitor survey but rather were specified by the project team. At the same time, particular consideration was given to the fact that the quality of in-company vocational training was the focus of the study. For this reason, in-company training quality accounted for 60% of the overall index for input and process quality. The quality of training at vocational schools accounts for only 20% in the overall index. In no way does this mean that vocational schools are imputed to be of correspondingly less importance for the quality of training. Rather, this was a way to take into account the fact that the study examined only a few aspects of vocational school activities which were not supposed to have too much impact on the overall index.

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Weights for output quality
Since the 2007 Expertenmonitor survey had already asked the participating experts about the importance of different quality objectives in dual vocational training, the Expertenmonitor survey conducted in 2008 did not ask about the extent to which the output criteria used in the model were of varying importance for training quality. In the 2007 survey, output quality criteria that were aimed directly at qualifying the individual trainee to work in their future occupation drew a consensus across the board in all groups of experts. By contrast, educational concepts that went beyond this were a matter of controversy (see EBBINGHAUS 2007).

Both the definition of output quality developed for the 2007 Expertenmonitor survey and the quality model used in the Vocational Training from the Trainees' Point of View project drew on the model of vocational training success designed by JUNGKUNZ (1995). For this reason, the findings from the 2008 Expertenmonitor survey could be used as a guideline when determining the weights of the individual dimensions that were needed to develop the index for the output field (see Chart 3).(09) The weight of the continuing training dimension was determined using only one quality criterion. Therefore its weight was reduced and the weight of the particularly important occupation dimension was increased.

Calculating the indices
The ratings of the individual criteria for input and process quality and output quality that were obtained from the trainee survey were combined to produce quality indices as explained above. In other words, the individual aspects were included in the calculation together with the weights that were determined on the basis of the Expertenmonitor surveys. In the case of input and process quality, indices for the four different contexts (training company, vocational school, collaboration between learning venues, additional youth-specific aspects) and indices for the four company-specific quality fields (and their sub-fields) and the three vocational-school-specific quality fields were developed in addition to an overall index. An overall index plus indices for the five different dimensions was developed for output quality. The following section outlines on the basis of the indices developed for this project how trainees assess the quality of the vocational training they are receiving.

How is input and process quality rated overall?

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This report will first examine how trainees in the 15 occupations covered by the study rated the input and process quality of their training in overall terms. The overall index indicates here the degree to which trainees feel that their training generally satisfies the expectations of the quality model used for this study.

As Chart 4 shows, nearly one-fourth of the trainees (24%) felt that their training met the criteria for good vocational training to quite a high degree.(10) More than half of the participating trainees (53%) were somewhat more reserved in their assessments and said their training meets the quality model's benchmarks only "to a good degree". Approximately one-fifth (21%) felt that the quality criteria were generally met "to a lesser degree". Just one per cent of the trainees was of the opinion that the quality benchmarks were implemented to a very small degree.(11) When averaged for all the occupations examined, the overall index for input and process quality was 3.0. This means that on the whole the realisation of the model's quality benchmarks in day-to-day vocational training practice is neither markedly good nor by no means bad.

What results can be observed for the input and process quality of vocational training with respect to the individual contexts and quality fields? The in-company training conditions take centre stage in the quality model. Here, nearly two out of every five trainees (38%) consider the company-related quality criteria to be satisfied "to a (very) high degree". In contrast, one out of every five said they were realised "to a lesser degree" or "to a very small degree" (see Chart 4). The index for the quality of in-company training averages 2.8.

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The assessments for the individual quality fields in the trainee's company itself vary greatly: The fields Instructor Aptitude and Conduct and Material Conditions received the highest marks, each obtaining an average quality index of 2.6. With an average index of 3.0, the quality in the field Content, Methods and Learning Climate was rated considerably lower. In particular, comparatively few companies are actually currently implementing the model's quality expectations (which tend to be related to education policy) of making it possible for trainees to earn additional qualifications while still undergoing initial vocational training and to complete training segments abroad.

Quality was rated lowest in the field Organisation with an average index of 3.6. For example, it is relatively seldom that trainees are asked by their companies on a regular basis for written or even verbal feedback regarding how their training is progressing on an overall basis. According to the trainees surveyed, precise planning of when and which content is to be taught in the trainee's company and adherence to the plan is not a very widespread practice.

Training conditions at vocational school are also an element in the quality model. They could not however be examined in detail as part of this study. Nearly two out of every five trainees (38%) said that the quality criteria examined for vocational schools were met "to a (very) high degree", whereas one out of every five considered them to be realised "to a lesser degree" or "to a very small degree".

It would appear at first glance that the trainees rated the quality of in-company training exactly the same as they did the quality of training in vocational schools: Both had an index value of 2.8. When comparing the two, it must however be remembered that the quality criteria that were used for the quality index for in-company vocational training and the quality index for training provided at vocational schools can be compared only in part. For this reason, an informative picture can be drawn only when those individual criteria that refer to the same aspects are compared with one another. This is the case for the two criteria regarding instructor aptitude and teacher aptitude and for two aspects of the material conditions at the two learning venues.

As Chart 5 shows, trainees are more reserved in their assessment of the professional qualifications of their vocational school teachers than they are with regard to their in-company instructors (average rating: 2.7 compared to 2.3). They also attribute the ability to explain learning content in an understandable way less often to teachers at vocational schools than to in-company instructors (average rating: 3.0 compared to 2.4). The technical equipment at vocational schools also received a less favourable rating than the technical equipment at the trainee's company (3.3 compared to 2.6). The same also applies to the condition of the physical premises (3.0 compared to 2.2). Thus, trainees assess vocational schools significantly more negatively than training companies in the case of all four directly comparable quality criteria.

Collaboration between the two learning venues ? training company and vocational school ? comprised another part of the quality model. Only one out of every ten trainees (11%) considered good collaboration between these two learning venues as being realised "to a (very) high degree". By comparison, significantly more than half (56%) are of the opinion that this type of cooperation takes places "to a lesser degree", "to a very small degree" or "not at all". For this reason, the index for collaboration between learning venues ? 3.8 ? was the worst compared to the other indices.

Lastly, the additional youth-specific aspects of the quality model should also be examined. More than one-third of the trainees surveyed (37%) said the respective expectations were met "to a (very) high degree". However just under one-third (32%) felt that they were met "to a lesser degree", "to a very small degree" or "not at all". The index for the additional youth-specific aspects averaged 3.1.

How does input and process quality differ by occupation?

Are there individual occupations where trainees give training quality good marks in all respects or bad marks without exception? Chart 6 provides an answer to this question. This table lists the average indices for overall input and process quality and for the individual contexts and quality fields broken down by the 15 occupations examined in the survey. The occupations with the best and the worst index values are highlighted in colour. In addition, the table breaks each index value down by occupation, indicating whether the respective value is significantly better or worse than the corresponding average value for the 14 other occupations (see the comments in Chart 6).

Looking at the overall index for training quality, the occupation Bank Clerk had the most positive rating (2.6 average), followed by Industrial Mechanic (2.7). The most negative overall rating ? an average of 3.2 ? was recorded for the occupation Office Clerk. The occupations Electronics Technician for Energy and Building Services Engineering (Elektroniker/-in für Energie- und Gebäudetechnik), Information Technology Specialist, Salesperson Specialising in Foodstuffs and Medical Assistant did almost as badly, with each receiving an average rating of 3.1.

Looking at the quality of training at the learning venue Training Company, prospective bank clerks and industrial mechanics once again gave the best overall ratings. These occupations also have the best ratings in nearly all of the individual company-related quality fields. Future salespersons specialising in foodstuffs and motor vehicle mechatronics technicians are the most negative in their opinion of the overall quality of in-company vocational training. Nearly all quality fields for measuring the quality of in-company vocational training were rated unfavourably in these two occupations. Further, there are a number of other occupations where at least one or two quality fields also received the lowest ratings. For example, office clerks are very restrained in their assessment of the organisational side of their training and their instructors. On the other hand, electronics technicians for energy and building services engineering (Elektroniker/-in für Energie- und Gebäudetechnik) give low marks to content, methods and learning climate and to the material conditions in their training company. In the case of information technology specialists, it is striking that they gave high marks to content, methods and learning climate as well as to the material conditions at their training companies but some of the lowest marks for the quality of their instructors.

Motor vehicle mechatronics technicians were the most positive in their assessment of the overall quality of their training at vocational school; their ratings for all three quality fields were very good. Following by a substantial margin, the second-highest overall rating for vocational schools was given by five occupations. Looking at the individual quality fields, it must be mentioned that hairdressers give vocational school teachers relatively good marks, while salespersons specialising in foodstuffs and cooks were relatively positive in their assessment of the material conditions at their vocational school. Vocational schools were given the most negative marks by office clerks who tended to rate all school-related quality fields unfavourably. The overall assessment of vocational schools was also relatively poor among information technology specialists. However, they give the classroom atmosphere the best rating.

On the other hand, collaboration between the learning venues Training Company and Vocational School was rated highest by bank clerks. Hairdressers and painters/varnishers also gave it a comparatively good rating. Information technology specialists and office clerks gave collaboration between learning venues the worst Ratings.

In the case of additional youth-specific aspects, industrial mechanics and mechatronics fitters gave the best ratings, whereas hairdressers and medical assistants gave the worst. This can be attributed in large part to the fact that they feel their wages are very low and they have little free time left at the end of the day after training.

How was output quality rated?

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The trainees surveyed were also asked to assess aspects of output quality. Their answers were also consolidated into an overall index and into indices for the individual output dimensions. It must be noted here that the respondents were only in their second year of training at the time the survey was conducted. Thus their answers are assumptions about the future. As a result, the overall index for output quality expresses the degree to which trainees assume that the expectations regarding the outcome of good vocational training will have been met at the end of their training.

Altogether, just under one-third (32%) of the trainees in the 15 occupations examined in the survey were of the opinion that their training would on the whole lead in (very) large measure to good results. Nearly half (49%) were more reserved and felt that the expectations placed on a good training outcome would be realised "to a good degree". Almost one out of every five trainees (19%) assumed that their training would meet the expectations for high output quality "to a lesser degree", "to a very small degree" or "not at all". The overall index for output quality for all 15 occupations together averaged 2.9. Thus, all in all, the trainees' expectations of the results of their training were neither strikingly high nor low.

A comparison of the individual dimensions of output quality shows that trainees give the most positive ratings to the personal development-related criteria. In other words, they assume to a relatively high degree that their training will enable them to master life on their own and that their occupation will account for part of their social status. The average index value in this connection was 2.6. At 2.7 the average for the continuing training-related output criteria ? in this case, being encouraged to pursue continuing training on an ongoing basis ? was also quite good.

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However the research project understood the occupation dimension to be the most important dimension in output quality. This includes in particular that all important content and work techniques which are part of the particular occupation are taught during training, that the trainee does well on the final examination and that following completion of training, the trainee would also be able to work in other companies or fields of his/her occupation. Here the average index is 2.8. At an average of 3.1, the trainees' assessment of the training company dimension is noticeably more reserved. Consequently, trainees' level of expectation that they will be hired by their training company upon completion of their training is relatively low. The assessment of the social output quality was the worst with an average of 3.8. In this case, trainees are seldom of the opinion that their training fosters an interest in political or economic issues.

How do the assessments of overall output quality differ from occupation to occupation? As Chart 7 shows, bank clerks are the most confident about the results of their training. Industrial mechanics and information technology specialists are also quite optimistic. By contrast, medical assistants, painters/varnishers as well as salespersons specialising in foodstuffs tend to be more pessimistic about the expected results of their training. All in all, the assessments of input quality and process quality as well as output quality in the individual occupations correlate in part closely with one another.(12)

Summary and outlook

The findings from the BIBB research project Vocational Training from the Trainees' Point of View show that the quality of vocational training in Germany is in no way assessed uniformly by today's trainees. There are clear differences between the assessments not only for the individual quality criteria but also for the individual training occupations.

Looking at the quality of in-company vocational training, the trainees surveyed were particularly positive in their assessments of Instructor Aptitude and Conduct and Material Conditions. From their standpoint, training companies fell short of the quality expectations in the fields Organisation and Content, Methods and Learning Climate. Vocational schools often scored well with a good classroom climate. Material conditions at vocational schools were rated more negatively than they were at training companies. Trainees also felt that the professional qualifications of vocational school teachers and their ability to explain learning content in an understandable way did not measure up to the level seen among in-company instructors. They gave the least favourable ratings however to the quality of collaboration between their training company and their vocational school. Quality activities ought to be stepped up in this area in particular so that the training processes in training companies and vocational schools mesh better with one another.

The comparisons of the 15 training occupations examined by this study show that no single occupation received only good ratings or only bad ratings in all quality fields. Thus, it is not possible to confirm certain clichés. Instead, the study revealed a quite varied picture with a wide range of nuances. However, some occupations have a greater number of positive or negative ratings which in turn are reflected in the overall assessment of the quality of vocational training provided for these occupations.

Clerical and industrial/technical occupations are among the occupations where training conditions tend to be rated better or worse than average. The two occupations that received the best ratings - Bank Clerk and Industrial Mechanic - fall under the Trade and Industry training field. However, this field also has occupations that were rated less favourably. Occupations that are taught in the Crafts and Skilled Trades field rank in mid-field or lower. On the positive side, none of the occupations examined received extremely bad overall ratings.

The questions regarding the quality of vocational training that were developed for the research project Vocational Training from the Trainees' Point of View could also be used in the future for surveys in individual regions or organisations/plants. The findings from such surveys could then be compared ? as a kind of benchmarking ? with the assessments of the some 6,000 trainees as a whole or with the assessments of the trainees in specific occupations. This approach is currently being tested with trainees in the painter/varnisher trade in Hamburg.(13) Such comparisons could reveal the strengths and weaknesses in day-to-day vocational training practice in the individual regions or organisations/plants, which could be used as a starting point for further action to improve quality.

The following further information about the BIBB research project Vocational Training from the Trainees' Point of View that can be downloaded from the BIBB website at www.bibb.de/de/wlk29213.htm:

  • Detailed findings on the 52 quality criteria examined for 15 training occupations
  • Questionnaire used by the research project regarding the quality of vocational training
  • Background information on the research project

If you would like to receive future publications regarding this research project, please send an e-mail with "Aufnahme in den Verteiler" (subscribe) in the subject box to Krewerth@bibb.de.

  • 1 Thus when the Vocational Training Act was amended, not only the competent bodies' vocational training committees but also the state committees for vocational training were assigned the additional task of endeavouring "to steadily improve the quality of vocational training" (Section 79 (1) and Section 83 (1) of the Vocational Training Act). At national level, the National Reference Point for Quality Assurance in Vocational Education and Training was set up and at European level the European Network for Quality Assurance fosters a cross-border exchange on quality issues (see www.bibb.de/de/50662.htm).
  • 2 In vocational schools, this is often done in connection with the introduction of a quality management system (see Euler 2005, pp. 7-10). At training companies, the IG Metall trade union for example offers its Quality Checklist for Training Companies (see www.igmetall-wap.de/qualitaetscheck).
  • 3 Current information is available at the project website (see www.bibb.de/de/wlk29213.htm and www.bibb.de/de/wlk29219.htm).
  • 4 This requirement ensues from Section 14 (1), No. 1 of the Vocational Training Act.
  • 5 These requirements can be derived from Section 14 (1), No. 3 and Section 27 (1), No. 1 of the Vocational Training Act.
  • 6 Cf. regarding the effects of the suspension of the AEVO (Ulmer/Jablonka 2007). Information in German on the reinstatement of the AEVO: www.bmbf.de/de/1652.php
  • 7 For a detailed account in German of quality criteria for schools, see the findings from the DFG (German Research Foundation) BIQUA priority programme (http://www.ipn.uni-kiel.de/projekte/biqua/index.html).
  • 8 Specifically, the percentage shares of the Expertenmonitor assessments were transformed in each quality sub-field (see Column 1) in such a way that they totalled 100% when added together. To determine the weights at the next-highest level (see Columns 2-4), the simple arithmetic mean for the applicable percentage shares was calculated. These averages were then transformed to 100% in sum. The weights for the next level were calculated analogously. All the calculated weights were rounded off in 5% increments. In four justified cases, a slight deviation from the calculated values was made when determining the weights (see comments to Chart 2).
  • 9 The values here were also rounded off in 5% increments.
  • 10 The indices determined per trainee were rounded up to full values for the description of the distributions. The share of trainees whose overall index reached the value of one (rounded) was considerably less than one per cent. Shares of less than one per cent are not shown in Chart 4. Non-rounded values were used to calculate the average indices. As a result of the weighting method used, the number of trainees for the respective occupation that was used in the calculations is proportionate to the composition of the occupations during the second training year.
  • 11 When examining the distribution of the overall index, it is striking that the indices for the quality field vary much more than the overall index does. This can be attributed to the fact that the strengths and weaknesses in the individual quality fields offset one another to a degree. As a result, a significant levelling of the differences can be observed in the overall index for training quality. This is also evident from the overall index's comparatively small standard deviation (see Chart 6).
  • 12 There is a significant correlation coefficient of 0.562 (according to Pearson) for the overall indices for input and process quality and output quality.
  • 13 The Hamburg Painters and Varnishers Guide is conducting a full census of Hamburg's painters and varnishers in co-operation with the Industrial School 6, the Institute for Vocational Training, Continuing Education and Telematics at Helmut Schmidt University and BIBB.

Related literature


Volume 3, Issue 9, July 2009
ISSN Internet: 1866-7279
ISSN Print: 1865-0821

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