Emerging Challenges

During her presentation to the superintendents, director General Haugg went into considerable detail discussing challenges faced by the VET system (see graphic below).

For trainees, a particular challenge is finding a Dual VET training opportunity, as the number of unplaced applicants has increased and the number of companies providing training has dropped 24%. There are also increasing demands in the workforce for additional skills, including foreign languages – and the reverse, the growing number of immigrant applicants without German. The challenge of converting informally acquired competence, perhaps on the job, into certifiable competence is also receiving increasing attention.

Current challenges for Dual VET programs

For employers, confirming something we heard at Siemens, a surprising challenge is finding young people for Dual VET opportunities. Vacant training places increased from 19,800 in 2010 to 49,000 in 2017. Part of the challenge here is finding competent trainees with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes essential to success (“trainability”). The large number of immigrants since 2015 also places burdents on employers, who are simultaneously hoping to increase the number of slots for apprentice trainees dealing with the challenges of disability.

Finally, the government is worried about anticipated shortages of skilled workers, while demographic change (immigrants and lower birth rates among German nations) undermines the supply of qualified potential apprentices. To our surprise we heard again something we had heard at Siemens: more and more young people are choosing to head to universities rather than approaching the world of work through the Dual VET system.

Questioned about the increased interest in university entrance, Haugg characterized it as a challenge, not a crisis. She explained that Germany had reduced the time students needed to remain in school from 13 years to 12. That immediately produced a short-term problem of doubling the number of graduates in a single year. Simultaneously, the Organization for Economic Collaboration and Development (OECD) criticized Germany for having too few students enrolling in university programs, while parents in skilled occupations hoped for a better and more prestigious lifetime of work for their children. As the spasm of increased graduates smooths out, Haugg expects the imbalance to correct itself.

Schmal and Haugg, center, with Roundtable in front of AI display

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