Successful German concept of vocational school combined with on the job practice
an export hit in the U.S.A.!
Exports from Germany’s largest State, Bavaria, are quite well known in the United States. BMW’s, Audi’s, adidas and even Germany’s most renowned festival, the Oktoberfest, are all being exported to the US and throughout the world. And now another German export is making its way to the US – the nation’s highly successful Dual Vocational Training System.
With a long tradition in Germany, it is a critical factor for Bavaria’s highly productive economy and low unemployment rate, particularly among young people. In Bavaria, a world leader in manufacturing and exports, only 2.7% of people under 25 were unemployed in June 2013. Such German style training programs are getting great press lately with promise of being a solution to America’s job crisis. And Bavarian companies like Siemens and BMW are playing a big role in exporting this educational model to the United States.
The concept: after graduating from secondary or high school, generally at about age 16 to 18, students apply for a two to three year contract at a company. During this training period, the government supplements the trainee’s on the job training with related education at a publically funded vocational school for one or two days a week. Trainees leave the program with practical and technical experience, a strong bond with the company and a highly respected state certificate for passing exams designed by industry groups – who know what skills are needed on the job.
Bavarian companies have long put their faith in this home-grown structure. Following the economic crisis, more countries are discovering this time tested model. In co-operation with German and Bavarian companies, the German Chamber of Foreign Trade already offers such training programs in many countries worldwide. “The German system of dual professional training is developing into a genuine export hit”, said German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guido Westerwelle, at the spring 2013 conference titled: German Companies as Pioneers of dual Vocational Training Abroad. In other countries trainees are usually trained exclusively at schools, mostly supplemented by just one or two internships. Consequently, transition to the professional world is more difficult. “We are seeing an amazing development”, comments Hubert Schoeffmann, Deputy Head of the Vocational Training Department at the Chamber of Commerce of Munich Bavaria. “A few years ago the mantra was: the economy needs a high percentage of university graduates that is the only recipe.” That has now changed. “Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Slovakia and Latvia all declared in December 2012 that they want to introduce a system based on the Ger man model. That is also why young people from Spain are already coming to Bavaria to start their metal and electrical industry training.
In the US, German manufacturers have long used this model to get workers proficient in skills needed in complex manufacturing. Even President Obama briefly mentioned the dual system in a Congressional speech: “Once they complete school, German kids are ready for the job” said Obama. “They were trained for the jobs that are available.” Siemens was recently singled out by President Obama in a recent State of the Union address, for its partnership with a North Carolina community college.
What is a common place success factor in Germany is all the talk in local US economic development circles, with US policy makers, at universities and during corporate strategy sessions alike.