Vocational education and training needs an immediate and real sense of momentum!
Friedrich Hubert Esser
The beginning of the new training year on 1 August provided a good opportunity to raise the public profile of VET. It also heralded a welcome time for a check-up. To put it briefly, there are absolutely no signs of the all-clear. The ongoing trend towards academisation and the knock-on effect this is having in terms of a loss of attractiveness for VET remain major challenges. As a result, more and more sectors are experiencing difficulties in securing a supply of skilled workers. This problem situation has now been entrenched for a considerable period of time and is even escalating in some areas. It has once more become clear that we need to act urgently. A training catastrophe is looming in the craft trades sector in particular as well as in other branches of manufacturing industry if a turnaround cannot finally be achieved that makes vocational education and training more attractive again.
Taking a vigorous approach towards driving forward improvements in the system
The coalition agreement concluded in March this year made mention of the main areas of VET where action is needed, and the German Bundestag recently laid down a marker by adopting a resolution to set up a Commission of Enquiry. The remit of this body will be to investigate prospects for development of initial and continuing training in the world of work of the future and to look at the areas of economic and social potential that modernisation could bring. This sends out an important educational policy signal to trade and industry and to society and thus also represents an impetus for vocational education and training. The fly in the ointment, however, is the prospect that this commission is not expected to produce any outcomes or recommendations before 2020.
For this reason, we should not be tempted to sit back and wait. We need to bring vigour to bear and drive forward our work to secure the sustainability of the VET system. What needs to be done? If we take a closer look at the parts of the system that require repair, it is obvious that we have an implementation problem rather than a recognition problem. This applies across the board with regard to the urgency of improving the level of prestige enjoyed by dual occupations. The attractive educational and employment opportunities that are associated with vocational training pathways must be spelled out. Precisely the same can be said in respect of the equipping of learning venues to meet requirements and the structuring of higher VET. All training regulations also need to be adapted without delay to cope with the digital shift in accordance with the model provided by the recent updating of the industrial metal working and electrical occupations. In light of the increasing heterogeneity displayed by learners in initial and continuing training, we also require more flexibility in initial and advanced training regulations. This could, for example, be achieved via binding inclusion of optional additional qualifications, especially in the former.
Funding programmes could act as effective instruments
Federal Government funding programmes could use vehicles such as practically related projects and evaluation research to offer effective support in improving transitions at the various interfaces. This could include flexibilisation of vocational orientation and VET with a view to strengthening inclusion and extend to encompass implementation of national uniform standards for vocational orientation at all general schools, i.e. at all upper secondary schools too. Continuing training of teaching and examination staff is just as important an action area, especially with regard to growing requirements for media competencies. These are an object of increasing demand. The list could be continued. But, as I have said, we know the areas which have to be tackled. We need to get to work, and we need to do so now!
FRIEDRICH HUBERT ESSER
Prof. Dr., President of BIBB
Translation from the German original (published in BWP 5/2018): Martin Kelsey,