German economy has been growing at steadfast speeds with a strong focus on manufacturing and exports. It is also recognised for its specialised Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), known as the ‘Mittelstand’. Around 1,000 of these are global market leaders in their segment. A cornerstone of this success is their direct involvement in addressing the skills gaps in the labour market to remain competitive. Increasing global competition, focus on R&D, innovation and demand for high quality products; fosters the participation of German SMEs in organising apprenticeships based on the dual principles of Vocational Education & Training (VET).
The system is so called because young people are trained in a two-track system after they have finished school. 70% of training time is spent at a company in the sector in which they later want to work and 30% at the vocational school. These two parts are coordinated in terms of content and regulated by the Vocational Training Act. Organising dual training is complex and requires clear division of responsibilities between the main stakeholders. It involves government (both at central & state level), employers and trainees along with social partners such as chambers, trade unions, vocational schools etc. to work together. Employers play a central role to ensure that vocational training meets the current manpower needs as well as prepares for the future demand for skills.
Overview of the role of stakeholders
- The Federal Government, through the Vocational Training Act, facilitates the smooth organisation of this system. The BiBB (Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training) manages the development and updating of the training standards for which it brings together experts from the industry, chambers, trade unions and vocational schools. These standards are then enforced by the government legally. The BiBB also takes measures to promote dual training and conduct special research projects to ensure the constant updating of vocational training in Germany.
- Chambers (of skilled crafts and industry) are assigned as the competent body for public tasks in dual training relating counselling and monitoring functions. They also oversee the contractual agreements between companies and apprentices. Each chamber also appoints training advisers to meet the specific needs of the industry within their district, verify the aptitude of companies and assess the quality of training provisions. The chambers take care of the overall organization of examinations by fixing dates and setting up examination boards, which administer the examinations. The chambers also issue the certificates, which are awarded to successful candidates.
- Companies/SMEs: The premise of the dual system is that the training is conducted on site / in real work environment as per the agreed training standards. Furthermore, in-company training familiarizes the trainees with the technological and organizational aspects of the current work processes in companies. The companies invest costs related to organising the in-company training as apprenticeship allowances, accreditation with the chambers, in-company trainers, material and equipment. On the other hand, trainees contribute to the company’s productivity during their training, which reduces the overall cost of vocational training for both – the companies and society – at large.
- Vocational schools, managed and funded by the State Government, are attended by trainees on part-time basis. Training in schools can be organised on a regular basis (apprentices attend school e.g. one or two times a week) or blocked (apprentices attend school for several weeks for several times per year). Systematic teaching at vocational school is a necessary supplement to process-oriented training in the company which is rather more based on specific in-house requirements.
Source : iMOVE Case Webinar on ‘How German companies approach Apprenticeships?’ Background & Case Reading