2013 - a successful year in German-Russian VET cooperation

14.02.2014 | GOVET

Since 2012, a cooperation agreement has been in place between the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation (MON) with the aim of strengthening dual training structures in Russia. The Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) has also been working in conjunction with the Federal Institute for Education Development (FIRO) in Moscow since 2011. The establishment of the German Office for International Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training (GOVET) has lent this cooperation a considerable degree of added dynamism and made 2013 a successful year of collaboration in VET between Germany and Russia.

German companies operating in Russia (Bosch, Knauf, VW, Daimler, Schäffler etc.) and local groups and firms are all increasingly suffering from a shortage of skilled workers. Around 70% of Russian school leavers aspire to a career for which academic qualifications are required, whereas only 30% are prepared to consider vocational education and training. This is despite the fact that income and development opportunities are far greater in the latter case. Approaches towards achieving permeability in initial and continuing training are in evidence and are being introduced at technical universities in some cases, albeit not yet systematically. In Russia, elements of dual training are more strongly established in the Kaluga region, where companies such as VW, Kalibrix, Knauf, Festo and Siemens are driving the system forwards in several locations. The same is also true for Nizhny Novgorod and Yekaterinburg. Russian firms in Magnitogorsk, Pervouralsk and Lipitz, for example, have also integrated dual training in the form of company workshops. Nevertheless, there are complaints about the high costs involved. The objective now is to counter the shortage of skilled workers by introducing dual structures based on the German model. The low level of qualification of training staff and an absence of opportunities for continuing training have been identified as the central problem.

A cooperation agreement between the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) and the Federal Institute for Education Development (FIRO) in Moscow has been in place since 2011. The FIRO is a "think tank", a centre for general educational issues and questions relating to scientific and vocational initial and continuing training which is subject to the supervision of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation (MON). A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has existed between the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation since November 2012, the declared intention being to support the introduction of dual elements of vocational education and training along German lines. In order to give an initial boost to the MOU, a high-ranking delegation under the leadership of Natalia Zolotareva, Head of the "Initial and Continuing Training of Skilled Workers" Section at the MON, visited Bonn as early as the end of 2012 in order to obtain information on aspects such as quality assurance of vocational education and training staff and inter-company centres for initial and continuing training. The three main thematic focuses that emerged for the cooperation were vocational education and training staff, occupational fields and inter-company initial and continuing training centres.
Quality of vocational education and training staff

BIBB and the FIRO have jointly developed a project by the name of "Continuing training of vocational education and training staff". The aim is the systematic introduction of a standardised training programme concentrating on methodology and didactics for subject teachers at Russian vocational schools.

The milestone of the project in the year 2013 was the drawing up of a skeleton curriculum which takes the Russian legal situation into account as well as corresponding to education and training and labour market mechanisms. A draft version is already available. At the beginning of 2014, this will be evaluated and adapted as necessary by a German company which offers training in Russia. The development of the skeleton curriculum was backed up by interactive workshops staged in Kislovodsk in the Northern Caucasus and at the Vocational Training Centre of the Berlin Chamber of Crafts and Trades in Bernau in close cooperation with the partner institute the FIRO. One highlight was a pilot study trip for Russian VET staff on the topic of "employment-oriented training". A total of 15 VET specialists, the majority directors of leading Russian vocational colleges, were split into small groups and given the opportunity to experience the everyday routine of trainers in the construction trades, in mechatronics and in the commercial occupations. They also took part in a simulated examination in line with the German Ordinance on Trainer Aptitude (AEVO) under the watchful eyes of the Head of the Examination Board of the Berlin Chamber of Crafts and Trades. The workshops held in 2013 trained a total of 60 Russian experts to be multipliers. They will be closely integrated into the joint German-Russian activities in future.

An online survey of the target group "vocational education and training staff" gave the specialists concerned a chance to provide feedback and enabled measures to be designed in a precisely tailored manner. Around 280 staff took part in the survey. Asked which aspects of their training activity gave them particular pleasure, for example, over 80% responded that they enjoyed "working with young people" and "team work". Most see their role as that of an advisor. The respondents confirmed that teaching from the front and group work are the prevailing forms of teaching used. The necessary material is largely researched online. As far as their own continuing training is concerned, the VET specialists prefer project work and interactivity, although the latter does not yet subsequently play any significant role in their teaching activity. More than half of those surveyed would like better equipment and modern teaching material for the training of the young people. The fact that almost half of training staff would like to see a greater degree of flexibility in the VET standards laid down sends out a clear signal to education and training policy makers.
A majority of participants welcome the expansion of the practical elements of training, although they do not believe that the relationship with local firms is yet on a strong enough footing to enable practical phases to go beyond "shorter practical placements". Trainees are still too often perceived by the companies as a "nuisance" in the work processes. Clarification is also required with regard to which school subjects can be reduced or replaced in favour of phases of learning in the "workplace". This is an area in which the Russian partners are designing projects which are supported by BIBB and GOVET.

In order to communicate the results of the training courses across the country, the Russian side has decided to use the mechanism of a "trainer portal" based on the model of the German trainers' site "foraus.de" and to establish a dedicated Internet presence. Seven learning modules from the field of "employment-oriented training" have already been selected by colleagues from the FIRO and translated into Russian. These will be made accessible online to the specialist academic research and teaching community in Russia at the beginning of 2014 together with a glossary for "Vocational education and training staff" featuring a specialist commentary. The launch of the portal is sure to be one of the highlights of cooperation in 2014.

Development of occupational fields

The conclusion drawn following the practical training courses on the topic of "employment-oriented training" is that the key to increasing quality in vocational training lies in robust continuing training for specialist staff. More detailed development of methodological and pedagogical skills, collaboration with the private sector at a local level and better knowledge of the labour market and of prospects within the respective occupations are all important elements. In order to achieve these aims, occupational fields must be redefined and realigned. There is also a need to impart the attractiveness of these to young people, young adults and parents.

For this reason, the main emphasis now is on the reform of various occupational fields. This will make it necessary both to adapt company-based training plans and harmonise school training curricula.
Over the past twelve months, extensive discussions have taken place with partners on how dynamism can be introduced into the revision of occupational fields within the scope of the general existing statutory provisions. German companies including Volkswagen have already submitted a proposal for a general training plan in the occupation of "Vehicle mechatronics technician". BIBB and GOVET are advising the partners on this reform process.

In 2014, the companies KCA Deutag in Tyumen and Berlin Chemie will be offering training based on the German model in the occupations of "logistics specialist" and "pharmaceutical technician" respectively. Similar routes are already being pursued by the companies "Knauf" (drywall lining and interior finishing works) and "Kalibrix" (industrial mechanics). The firm DULA, a world market leader in the field of shop fitting which also has production operations in Russia, is seeking to support the realignment of the occupation of joiner and is cooperating to this end with BIBB, GOVET and with FIRO. This has led to the emergence of a small network of continuing training providers, companies and institutions on both the German and Russian sides which needs to be nurtured and developed.

Establishment of inter-company initial and continuing training centres

The third main thematic focus in German-Russian cooperation in 2013 was the establishment and management of inter-company initial and continuing training centres. At the current time, clarification is required as to which forms of management and financing can be used to set up relevant institutions. Individual centres which to some extent simulate the company as a learning venue are already in existence in Russia. These centres, which are also conceived as networks, are in some cases accepting orders from the private sector and involving trainees in the production process. A major problem is to obtain commitment to vocational education and training from small and medium-sized companies, which criticise the lack of incentives for such involvement provided in areas such as tax legislation. Large company groups mostly have their own training workshops and therefore form less of a focus with regard to this issue. The problems are usually a lack of staff involved in training, an absence of any cost structure for the courses offered and the low esteem in which vocational education and training is held in Russia rather than a shortage of financial resources made available by regional government.

The Center of Excellence at the Leipzig Chamber of Crafts and Trades has entered into a partnership with the Georgiyevsk inter-company initial and continuing training centre in the Northern Caucasus in order to provide support in the field of inter-company initial and continuing training centres. A relevant Memorandum of Understanding based on the exchange of information and communication was signed during the WorldSkills Fair in Leipzig in July 2013. BIBB and GOVET are championing this cooperation agreement and, as part of the signing ceremony, organised a "Round Table" involving leading German companies such as Deutsche Bahn, Daimler/Trucks, Real, DLGI (an IT services provider) and partners from the iMOVE Network. The Russian side advertised technical occupations by presenting school pupil competitions, the Russian World Skills and examples of dualised structures at vocational schools. The event provided a framework for an extensive dialogue on how dualised structures can be integrated into the various VET institutions. Discussion was further enriched by presentations and publications.
BIBB and GOVET were, for example, heavily involved in presenting the topics of "vocational orientation", "cost-benefits" and "structure of dual initial and continuing training". A compendium of specialist papers on "vocational orientation" published by the FIRO featured an article from GOVET.

An important aspect with regard to implementation of the activities is agreement between the political partners, i.e. between the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Russian Ministry of Education and Science. This purpose is served by regular meetings of the working groups. The 7th such meeting was staged in Moscow at the end of November, and the 8th is scheduled to take place in Berlin in June 2014.
The Russian side is also continuing to display a lively interest in working in an outcomes-oriented manner. This year, GOVET plans to carry on with the projects which have been commenced and to intensify cooperation with the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Russia, particularly in the field of "examinations".