USA and Germany strengthen collaboration in vocational education and training

As part of the Hanover trade fair, an important podium discussion took place on 25 April 2016 entitled “Innovation & skilled workers: How US vocational education and training draws on the German dual education system”.

USA and Germany strengthen collaboration in vocational education and training

At the 2016 Hanover trade fair, the US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Federal Minister of Education Prof. Dr. Johanna Wanka discussed a joint approach to vocational education and training together with Prof. Dr. Friedrich-Hubert Esser (BIBB), Dr. Volker Treier of the German Federation of Chambers of Commerce (DIHK), Dr. Volker Born of the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH) and Frank Sportolari of UPS Germany. Both countries are seeking to strengthen the collaboration. It was agreed by all that the dual system functioned very well and served as a good basis for development, but also that wholesale adoption was not possible. However, it was felt that it certainly contained basic principles around which further cooperation would be of great interest, e.g. with regard to Industry 4.0 and the impact on working life and on ensuring the supply of skilled workers.

The Executive Committee was set up in Berlin on 26 April. An initial exchange of ideas took place relating to policies and key trends, such as Industry 4.0, ensuring the supply of skilled workers and integration in Germany and the USA. The cooperation activities to date were also reviewed, e.g. in the context of the skills initiative, and significant interest was expressed in strengthening the cooperation in vocational education and training. During the meeting of the Executive Committee, arrangements were made for a technical meeting in six to eight weeks’ time on the themes of trainee exchange, research, and the identification of pilot projects for up to three regions and sectors. In light of the forthcoming presidential elections, the US departments responsible are very interested in firmly establishing the basis for bilateral cooperation and in quickly initiating central cooperation projects (“Now is the perfect storm”). This is because the collaboration is certain to have the support of the current administration. A half-day study tour took place for US guests following the meeting. The next meeting of the Executive Committee is planned for Spring 2017 in the USA.

Key representatives of the Department of Labor (DoL), Department of Education (DoE) and Department of Commerce (DoC) for the US and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) had signed a joint declaration of intent in Washington DC on 5 June 2015. In order to help make the declaration of intent a reality, the US side forwarded an action plan in October 2015 and this was commented on by representatives in Germany. Bilateral discussions then took place on this basis in Hanover and Berlin in order to firm up the activities.