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Para M. Jones: Germany’s workforce training holds lessons for Americans - Canton, OH - CantonRep.com
Para M. Jones: Germany’s workforce training holds lessons for Americans

Para M. Jones: Germany’s workforce training holds lessons for Americans

By Para M. Jones
Posted Aug 30, 2013 @ 01:00 PM
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I was honored to be selected to represent Ohio community and technical colleges during a recent trip to Germany to study the dual system of education and training known as the German Skills Initiative.

Preparing an educated and well-trained workforce is the focus of the German Skills Initiative. I, like my colleagues, recognized the similarities between the German Skills Initiative and the American community and technical college mission. Both prepare educated, technically proficient employees for advanced manufacturing,
information technology, health care and other skilled occupations.

Germans value their dual system of education and training, which dates to the Middle Ages and is recognized worldwide for its effective workforce and economic development. The dual system provides education and training above the high school level and below the university baccalaureate-degree level. Most secondary school students select the dual system over the university because it provides the education and training needed for 350 occupations.

At the 10th grade, German students opt to enter the dual system or the university. Those who enter the dual system spend three years preparing for a vocation through one-third classroom learning and two-thirds hands-on training or applied learning.

SIMILARITIES

Both Germany’s dual system and the U.S. community and technical college system provide:

• Post-secondary education in the crucial space beyond high school and below baccalaureate degree that gives students options to begin a career, continue for a baccalaureate degree, and-or complete the baccalaureate while working.

• Applied technology programs that combine classroom education and hands-on training.

• Strong business and industry partnerships to ensure that graduates are prepared to meet employers’ needs. German employers work with educators to develop curriculum. Similarly, Stark State faculty develop curriculum and review programs with advisory committees of industry professionals.

• A seamless transition from high school to applied technology degrees. Stark State and other community and technical colleges accomplish this through dual-enrollment programs that can shorten the time it takes to earn a degree.

AND DIFFERENCES

There are also differences between the German and American systems:

• Germany’s systems for developing and validating curriculum with business and industry are formalized, standardized, even legislated.

• Many dual-system students receive their training while working for German companies. Paid internships and co-ops are not as common in the United States.

• German law requires students to complete either the dual system or the abitur, which is equivalent to the International Baccalaureate (IB) or an advanced-placement high school diploma (for students who are university-bound). Dropping out of high school is against the law. The United States has a higher high school dropout rate, and fewer high school graduates go directly to college and/or training programs. Considering that the median age of community and technical college students is 29, it appears that German dual system students have a nine- to 10-year advantage over their American community or technical college peers in working in skilled careers with good wages.

I was honored to be selected to represent Ohio community and technical colleges during a recent trip to Germany to study the dual system of education and training known as the German Skills Initiative.

Preparing an educated and well-trained workforce is the focus of the German Skills Initiative. I, like my colleagues, recognized the similarities between the German Skills Initiative and the American community and technical college mission. Both prepare educated, technically proficient employees for advanced manufacturing,
information technology, health care and other skilled occupations.

Germans value their dual system of education and training, which dates to the Middle Ages and is recognized worldwide for its effective workforce and economic development. The dual system provides education and training above the high school level and below the university baccalaureate-degree level. Most secondary school students select the dual system over the university because it provides the education and training needed for 350 occupations.

At the 10th grade, German students opt to enter the dual system or the university. Those who enter the dual system spend three years preparing for a vocation through one-third classroom learning and two-thirds hands-on training or applied learning.

SIMILARITIES

Both Germany’s dual system and the U.S. community and technical college system provide:

• Post-secondary education in the crucial space beyond high school and below baccalaureate degree that gives students options to begin a career, continue for a baccalaureate degree, and-or complete the baccalaureate while working.

• Applied technology programs that combine classroom education and hands-on training.

• Strong business and industry partnerships to ensure that graduates are prepared to meet employers’ needs. German employers work with educators to develop curriculum. Similarly, Stark State faculty develop curriculum and review programs with advisory committees of industry professionals.

• A seamless transition from high school to applied technology degrees. Stark State and other community and technical colleges accomplish this through dual-enrollment programs that can shorten the time it takes to earn a degree.

AND DIFFERENCES

There are also differences between the German and American systems:

• Germany’s systems for developing and validating curriculum with business and industry are formalized, standardized, even legislated.

• Many dual-system students receive their training while working for German companies. Paid internships and co-ops are not as common in the United States.

• German law requires students to complete either the dual system or the abitur, which is equivalent to the International Baccalaureate (IB) or an advanced-placement high school diploma (for students who are university-bound). Dropping out of high school is against the law. The United States has a higher high school dropout rate, and fewer high school graduates go directly to college and/or training programs. Considering that the median age of community and technical college students is 29, it appears that German dual system students have a nine- to 10-year advantage over their American community or technical college peers in working in skilled careers with good wages.

• Germans value technical education and practical skills more than Americans do, which has helped Germany to maintain a skilled workforce, global industrial and economic strength, and the lowest youth unemployment rate in the world (5.1 percent).

• German students in grades seven through nine visit workplaces and have firsthand exposure to various occupations, which most American students do not.

• The German companies we spoke with define innovation as “a flexible workforce,” achieved through well-educated and trained employees who think critically and contribute to product and service excellence.

• German companies fund the dual system through taxes and-or on-site training centers. They view this as an investment in their future workforce.

PARTNERSHIPS

Our German hosts were impressed to hear about Stark State’s partnerships with the Timken Co., LG Fuel Cell, Diebold and major automotive manufacturers such as GM, Toyota and Honda, and our collaboration with global oil and gas companies to develop the new ShaleNET curriculum. While the German system cannot be wholly exported to the United States, it provides strong reinforcement for Stark State’s mission of collaborating with business and industry partners to enhance regional workforce and economic development.

Para M. Jones, PhD, is a Canton native who spent 22 years in various positions at Stark State College before becoming president of Spartanburg Community College in Spartanburg, S.C. She returned to Stark State in 2012 to become the college’s fourth president.

ABOUT THE TRIP

Hosted and funded by the German government, our 11-member delegation included representatives of the U.S. Department of Education, state departments of labor, governors, labor leaders and community colleges from the District of Columbia, Arizona, North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

A goal of the Skills Initiative is to share the German dual system of education and training with U.S. partners in government and education.

We visited state-sponsored vocational training institutes and company-sponsored training centers funded by German multinational giants such as BMW, Volkswagen and Siemens. We spoke with chambers of commerce, educators, government representatives, students and business leaders.


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