What needs to be done first and foremost!

Friedrich Hubert Esser

Dear readers,

The training market figures for the end of 2018 were remarkable in that they contained numerous “peak values” compared to the period of the past ten years. Two of these are particularly worthy of attention. 574,200 company-based training places were available, the highest level of provision since 2009. However, 57,700 of these remained unfilled. This figure is three times higher than the corresponding rate ten years ago. A further finding has emerged. The endeavours undertaken by trade and industry to attract young people to vocational education and training achieved particular success amongst young men. By way of contrast, development in the case of young women moved in entirely the opposite direction. Their proportion of the training place demand collapsed to an all-time low of 225,100. This enables us to delineate a complex problem area for VET which will need to be accorded priority in the near future – the attractiveness of occupations and companies within the scope of career choice and planning, especially in the case of young women.

Craftsmanship as a cognitive task

We have known for some considerable time of the wrongness of the assertion that dual training in Germany is on the decline. A closer investigation reveals that demand for training places in recent years has reduced in certain sectors or with regard to certain occupations and types of company.

A tough task lies ahead if we are to alleviate the depressed state of the dual VET system and put it back on the track to success. The focus needs to be on countering the lack of attractiveness experienced by some occupations. One of the major problems here is the different values society ascribes to occupations. This ultimately determines their reputation and in turn exerts a considerable influence on vocational orientation and on the career choices made by young people.

A detailed cause analysis leads us to conclude that the differentiation made between body and mind, which has characterised societal thinking for centuries, is the starting point for the suggestion re-emerging today as a result of the trend towards academisation that mental work is superior to manual labour. Within this context, studies conducted by BIBB make reference to the 17th century Dutch philosopher BARUCH DE SPINOZA, who addressed the separation of body and mind and explained why a good mind is absolutely necessary in order to perform good craftsmanship. For this reason, it is important to understand the cognitive component of craftsmanship. Training is inherently education. In his book “The Craftsman”, which was published ten years ago, RICHARD SENNETT attempted to justify a conciliatory connection between man as “homo faber” and “animal laborans”, a polarisation that had been set out by HANNAH ARENDT in the 1950s. This permits the conclusion that it is perfectly possible for a blue collar worker to be educated and vice versa. DE SPINOZA and SENNETT are, however, merely individual examples of possible ways in which we may arrive at solutions to our problem.

We need a debate on the value of occupations

An overall societal debate on the value of occupations is required in order to get to grips with the losses in attractiveness being suffered by VET. Proposals for increasing the attractiveness of VET – if indeed these are implemented – will otherwise only at best lead to the further development of the VET system in terms of its functionality. They will not, however, halt the academisation trend. It is not necessarily apparent from the current educational policy agenda that due recognition is being accorded to the depth and scope of the attractiveness problem. Nor is it obvious that measures which will really help are being devised. This is what needs to be done first and foremost!

Prof. Dr., President of BIBB

Translation from the German original (published in BWP 1/2019): Martin Kelsey, GlobalSprachTeam, Berlin