Development centre for new training regulations and platform for dialogue between the social partners

The Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training was established in 1970 on the basis of the Vocational Training Act of 1969 as an institute for researching, developing and promoting out-of-school vocational education and training.

Today, it is the acknowledged centre of excellence for research into and development of vocational education and training in Germany, performing its duties within the context of the education policy of the federal government.

The Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training is the scientific partner of the social partners (employers and unions) and the federal government for the restructuring of occupations. It supports coordination and agreement between employers, unions and government regarding new educational approaches through research and development. It also shapes the process of developing training regulations and is involved in their coordination with the corresponding framework school curricula of the federal states.

One of the crucial tasks of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training is to collaborate “under the authority of the competent Federal Ministry in preparing training regulations and other ordinances (...) “(article 90, paragraph 3, no. 1 BBiG). Through vocational education research, the preconditions are created for ensuring that the training regulations can be newly designed as well as revised and customized to keep up with economic, technological and social changes. A 1972 agreement between federal and state governments (“joint memorandum”) regulates the procedure for coordinating training regulations and framework curricula.

The further tasks of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training include

  • participating in the preparation of the annual Vocational Education and Training Report of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research,
  • participating in the compiling of the Vocational Education and Training Statistics of the Federal Statistical Office,
  • promoting pilot projects, including supporting scientific research,
  • participating in international cooperation in vocational education and training,
  • other administrative tasks of the federal government to promote vocational education and training,
  • promoting the inter-company training centres and supporting the planning, establishment and further development of these facilities,
  • managing the directory of recognised training occupations,
  • performing the tasks described in the Distance Learning Protection Act and contributing to the improvement and expansion of vocational distance learning through the promotion of development projects.

The Board of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training is made up of eight representatives of the employers, eight representatives of the trade unions and eight representatives of the state governments as well as five representatives of the federal government. Employers and trade unions participate intensively in the development of training regulations by the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training in order to turn the experience from training to good use and to heighten acceptance of new training regulations in the enterprises providing training. This intensive cooperation applies to the entire process. It starts with the joint elaboration of the educational policy benchmarks essential for a regulatory measure and continues up to the adoption of the training regulation. This adoption usually happens only after the competent social partners have had the opportunity to comment on the draft, and the BIBB Board has approved it.

This procedure, generally called “principle of consensus” in the vocational educational policy discussion, goes beyond the sphere of preparation of training regulations. It is also decisive in the putting into practice of the training regulations.

At the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, essential tasks related to the development of training regulations are dealt with in the department responsible for the organisation of vocational education and training. There especially the preparatory research and the actual regulatory procedures are performed, separately for each occupational field. Similarly, the application of new and modernised training regulations and the putting into practice of new examination structures are studied and evaluated in the BIBB.

New training regulations and framework curricula have been adopted for various occupations in response to technical, economic and social developments. Obsolete occupations have disappeared, whole occupational fields have been revised, restructured and merged into new complex occupations.

In the late 1980s, for example, many old specialised occupations in the metal and electrical trades, which are severely affected by changes in technology and job organisation, were grouped together into a few new occupations.

It became necessary also to develop completely new occupations; for example, the new occupation of production technologist came into effect on 1 August 2008. New qualification requirements emerged in the machinery and plant engineering industry. The combination of new production technologies as well as the processing of new materials requires intensified use of information technology. The traditional metal-working trades could not meet these qualifications. At the same time the further training regulation for certified process manager/production technology was developed. Such interlocking of initial and continuing training regulations can modernize the German vocational education and training system. It can also increase the attractiveness of the vocational training system, since it can open up new career paths to skilled workers and also give enterprises the chance to provide process-related training for their personnel.

In the years from 2003 to 2012 a total of 194 training occupations were restructured. Among them were 159 modernized and 35 new training occupations. Five modernised training occupations came into force in 2012 (source: Data report 2013, p. 116, datenreport.bibb.de).

Training modules were developed to facilitate access to the dual system. These are intended to permit transition to the regular dual training for old applicants with the possibility of time credit for skills already acquired or admission to the external examination before the Chamber. The training modules of a training occupation are developed from the current training regulation underlying the occupation and the corresponding framework curriculum. They have to include all the (minimum) content prescribed in those regulation instruments. They are geared to the principles of a complete action and oriented on “acting in situations”. The sum of all module times corresponds to the regulated training duration prescribed by the training regulation.

The purpose of the training is to make it possible for young people to acquire the comprehensive vocational capacity that enables them to take efficient, effective and innovative action independently, on their own responsibility and in co-operation with others. The Vocational Training Act takes this overall objective into account by including the concept of vocational capacity in the amended Vocational Training Act of 2005. Only very well trained skilled workers can keep up with the increasingly rapid developments that are changing people’s work and occupations. Since specialized knowledge once learned is not sufficient for a whole working life, the readiness to keep on learning should already be awakened during training so that one can cope with the changes and new challenges in the workplace. At the same time it is becoming ever more important in training to develop a wide range of social and methodological skills as well as personal skills in addition to expertise.

These dimensions of competence are taken into account in the German Qualifications Framework (GQF)adopted in 2013 as well. In October 2006, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) agreed to jointly develop a German Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning. In the following years, with the involvement of the relevant stakeholders, the German Qualifications Framework was developed, tested, revised and, in May 2013, finally adopted. It is the prerequisite for the implementation of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) in Germany and is intended to promote transparency and permeability between the strands of the education system.

The GQF has eight levels to which formal qualifications from general education, higher education and vocational education are assigned. The qualifications are described on the basis of the competence categories ‘professional competence’ and ‘personal competence’ each of which is again divided into two subcategories (professional competence: “knowledge” and “skills”, personal competence: “social competence” and “independence”).

The concept of action competence is at the centre of the German Qualifications Framework: “In the context of the GQF, competence means the ability and willingness of the individual to use knowledge and skills as well as personal, social and methodical capabilities and to behave in a thoughtful and individually and socially responsible manner. Competence in this sense is seen as comprehensive action competence.“

In the vocational sphere, the concept of competence used in the GQF is equated with vocational capacity as defined in the Vocational Training Act.

In a top-level meeting on 31 January 2012, the federal and state governments, social partners and business organisations agreed on a common position on the implementation of the German Qualifications Framework (GQF); under its terms, the two-year occupations of the dual system are assigned to level 3, the three-year and three-and-a-half-year occupations to level 4. The assignment is shown in the Europass Certificate supplements as well as in the “directory of recognised training occupations”. In 2017 the assignments will be reconsidered, taking into account the hitherto unassigned general education diplomas.

In the context of the implementation of the German Qualifications Framework (GQF), a proposal for the restructuring of the occupation profiles will be formulated in the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training together with the social partners and the ministries. The proposal is to be put into adopted in 2014.