Tailored further development of mobility concepts

Hubert Ertl

Dear Readers,

Calls for greater mobility within the European area are precisely the right approach during a time when compromises are proving difficult to achieve at a European level in many policy areas. The articles included in this issue trace policy debate, investigate the impact of periods of learning spent abroad, and arrive at conclusions regarding the current state of affairs. In light of the goal set by the German Parliament of reaching a mobility rate of ten per cent of trainees by 2020, the focus also needs to be on developing opportunities which will enable even more young people to go abroad as part of their training.

Comparison with the field of higher education is misleading

Reference is frequently made to the significantly higher mobility rates which occur in the higher education sector together with the observation that also enabling VET learners to acquire competencies via international experience is simply a matter of educational fairness. Although this view is understandable, it is of very little assistance in terms of making progress. The prerequisites in these two educational areas are too different. To begin with, trainees in VET are mostly younger than students in higher education. Also, academic subjects are often constituted in a transnational way, whereas VET programmes are often conceived in country-specific ways. Instead of making comparisons with higher education, we need mobility concepts which take account of the particular conditions which prevail in vocational education and training and can incorporate the areas of potential in vocational learning in a beneficial manner. There are good reasons why mobility in VET and in the higher education sector operate differently. The practical examples outlined in this issue illustrate this.

Considering the consequences of Brexit

The United Kingdom is by some distance the most popular destination country for internationally mobile trainees in Germany. Even though it is not yet presently clear what the nature of cooperation between the European Union and the United Kingdom will be post Brexit, the expectation must be that mobility figures will decrease at least over a transitional period. If the schedule for the UK’s departure from the EU is not once again significantly delayed, this may have a material effect in terms of causing Germany to miss its 2020 benchmark. There is, however, an issue which seems to be of even greater importance. Many trainees wish to learn the English language in authentic occupational and social contexts, and the question is how this desire can be fulfilled if the largest English speaking country in Europe is no longer involved in EU funding measures.

Investigating the duration of periods spent abroad

85 per cent of the foreign stays included in the statistics are of a duration of less than one month. A question arises here as to what can realistically be learned in such a relatively short space of time. If the trainees remain abroad for longer, many firms and vocational schools fear that it will not be possible to ensure that all the contents of company-based and school-based training are covered. This line of argument fails to consider two things. Firstly, the object and aims of the period spent abroad can be stipulated within the scope of learning agreements. Secondly, international mobility particularly fosters competencies which extend beyond contents which are merely of an occupationally functional type.

Given the varying constitution of national regulatory systems in vocational education and training, joint development of training plans across country borders may appear to be a far-reaching objective. However, ambitions drawn up at a European and national level will only be capable of quantitative and qualitative fulfilment if this sort of cooperation also forms an object of consideration.

Prof. Dr., Director of Research and Vice President of BIBB 

Translation from the German original (published in BWP 4/2018): Martin Kelsey, GlobalSprachTeam, Berlin