Strengthening and raising the profile of vocational education and training!

Friedrich Hubert Esser


Dear readers,

Although dual vocational education and training continues to be held in high regard abroad, there is no doubt that it is under pressure in Germany. Over the past ten years, the number of newly concluded training contracts has fallen by around 100,000. The proportion of companies providing training is declining, especially amongst small companies and the smallest category of firms in the craft trades and industrial sector, and matching problems on the training market still present a major challenge. At the same time, the trend towards higher education amongst young people continues unabated.

Is the lecture theatre replacing the workbench?

School leavers and those who advise them are obviously finding initial and continuing VET less attractive than studying for a degree. It is equally apparent that a lower degree of esteem is being attached to the career opportunities associated with initial and advanced VET. Our knowledge society and economy needs brain work. The consequence of this is a rising demand for academic programmes.

No consideration is given to the fact that training occupations have also become more demanding and more complex in terms of content over recent years and that additional qualifications and upgrading courses are leading to interesting development possibilities.

The articles included in this issue of BWP illustrate that VET has plenty to offer. They show how training and upgrading training provision can be developed to provide professional career models. It is also clear that the digitalisation of work is becoming an important driver of company-based continuing training and is therefore also exerting a strong influence on the further development of skilled workers. Even greater use should be made of this in order to enhance the attractiveness of vocational education and training.

Encouraging career development at companies

With regard to the company level, we should certainly note that employees with a qualified initial or advanced training qualification can easily bear comparison with those holding academic qualifications. When filling leadership roles, human resources managers value the specific competence profile the former are able to offer.

Whereas most major companies have their own programmes in place for the fostering of up-and-coming talent, this seems to be an area of provision that still needs to be expanded in small and medium-sized enterprises. Any external support available in this respect is primarily focused on training management and on the acquisition and onboarding of trainees. Offering assistance and guidance to SMEs as they seek to develop young workers would, however, also be both conceivable and desirable.

Improving permeability in the educational system

If we look at individual training pathways, it needs to be said that further impetuses are necessary in order to promote permeability between academic and VET. Although autonomy should certainly be emphasised, the focus must be on accentuating the connectivity of both sub-systems instead of on reinforcing competitive relationships.

Robust and sustainable implementation of the German Qualifications Framework (DQR), which describes the equivalence of academic and vocational education, very much forms part of this process. Unfortunately, this has not taken place thus far. The public at large is unfamiliar with the DQR and unsure as to what it is for. For this reason, we need a powerful information campaign in order to provide a further vehicle for continuing to strengthen VET and to raise its profile.


President of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training

Translation from the German original (published in BWP 5/2017): Martin Kelsey, GlobalSprachTeam, Berlin