Strengthening vocational education and training

Esser: “Small companies and vocational schools need more support!”

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Speaking on the day when the 2017/2018 training year officially gets underway, Friedrich Hubert Esser, President of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, stressed that both policy makers and trade and industry need to adopt measures to strengthen the status of vocational education and training in Germany. “Despite sustained high employment and a new record level of vacancies in the private economy, the number of trainees and companies providing training is continuing to decline, particularly in the small firms sector. We are running the risk of biting the hand that feeds us,” he warned. “The fact is that today’s trainees are the skilled workers and master craftsmen that German trade and industry desperately need in the future.”

Professor Esser stated that the focus now needed to be on reinforcing the training willingness and capacity of small firms and companies in the smallest size class in the craft trades and industrial sectors. “These companies form the backbone of the economy.” In light of the prevailing educational trend and demographic developments, they urgently required more support in order to be able to compete with institutes of higher education and major companies to acquire the services of young people. Professor Esser believes that this is a challenge which should mainly be taken up by the self-organisations within trade and industry, such as the chambers, the district craft trade associations and the guilds. These bodies have close ties with companies, whose trust they enjoy. They are also able to deliver a wide range of services to meet requisite needs, such as vocational orientation, initiation of training contracts, and training support. Policy makers also had a part to play by improving general conditions for the implementation of training support instruments, including introductory and assisted training.

Ultimately, however, measures of this nature would come to nothing if young people’s attention could not be more closely drawn to the fact that small firms and the smallest category of company are capable of offering training and are able to provide equal employment prospects. The key factors in this regard are training quality, work-life balance, training allowances and opportunities for advancement. “If no substantial progress is achieved, the trend towards higher education and away from VET will continue.”

At the same time, policy makers need to redouble their efforts to make vocational schools once again more attractive as a second dual learning venue with equal status within vocational education and training. Given the ongoing digitalisation of the world of work, this would involve everything from necessary investments in equipment for vocational schools all the way to initiatives for initial and continuing training for teachers. It was clear that vocational schools were already experiencing major teacher recruitment problems, particularly in technical subjects. “Being a teacher at a vocational school needs to become an attractive profession again,” commented Professor Esser.

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