Apprenticeships and German Chambers of Commerce

Friday offered us another extremely valuable day. Hosted by Christian Baumann, headmaster of Stadische Berufsschule fur Medienberufe (City Vocational School for Media Professionals), we learned about this excellent vocational school. To accommodate the Roundtable in the face of major traffic problems in Munich, Herr Baumann was joined by Jorg Engelmann, director of vocational education projects and international vocational education programs for the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Munich and Upper Bavaria (CCI). Herr Engelmann led the way with a detailed and informative presentation on the role of CCI’s in apprenticeship training.

Jorg Engelmann briefs Roundtable

Significance of VET. Engelman reinforced what we had heard earlier at Siemens and the German Ministry of Education and Research about the central role of the dual Vocational Education Training system (VET) in developing apprentices in Germany. About 50% of secondary students in Munich leave school with a VET certification in 327 different occupations, he said. They break out as follows:

  • Industry and commerce: 60% of VET recipients
  • Handicrafts: 27%
  • Agriculture: 3%
  • Public Service: 2%
  • Liberal professions: 8%

Membership in the CCI is compulsory for all companies, large and small.  Even a small home-based firm producing post cards must belong to the CCI, even if it is not required to pay membership fees. “Our task,” said Engelmann, “is to represent all firms, large and small, with one vote apiece.” The CCI system in Germany is comprehensive, we were told, with 79 CCIs across the nation and 130 offices in 90 foreign countries.

Within the CCI there are voluntary groups organized by business function. These deal with issues such as wage and relationships with labor unions. Said Engelmann, “The Chamber considers itself to be a ‘social partner’ with public agencies. We are linked with companies, and our partner, the school, is linked to the German ministry.” A particular obligation of the business community, he said, resides in the obligation to transmit the “decent values” of “honorable” business leaders.

Responsibilities between schools and CCI are divided as follows: companies offering training provide work experience, develop necessary skills, and encourage character development. The vocational school offers general education, theory, and an award of achievement. It is, he emphasized a true partnership in which German companies are willing to invest resources in return for the ability to influence training and apprenticeship opportunities.

A true partnership with opportunities and responsibilities for each partner

As with other presentations, Engelmann and Baumann emphasized that there are numerous opportunities as students as students progress through their postsecondary education to revisit earlier decisions and move from apprenticeship training to universities or vice versa. We heard from several students in the school that, in order to gain some practical experience, they had returned to the VET system after a year of more in university. Several of the faculty members in the school also observed that they had moved from working industry to university teacher training programs in order to be able to bring the benefit of their practical experience to younger people.

Options for moving from schooling to apprenticeship and vice versa

Academy for Vocational Training. The Munich CCI is made up of 390,000 companies and it maintains an academy for vocational training for small- and medium-sized companies. Large corporations such as Siemens and BMW can offer their own apprenticeship training programs, but it is much more difficult for smaller enterprises to do so.

A National Qualifications Framework defines the efforts of the CCI around vocational training and apprenticeship, noted Engelmann (see below). Levels 1-7 involve VET efforts; those at level 8 and above are headed toward university teaching.

Strikingly, students themselves are supposed to find the company that wants to be part of their training. The companies know which schools are capable of providing the theoretical knowledge. It appeared that typically around 8th or 9th grade, schools offered students internship opportunities with a variety of companies — and students, parents, and school officials use the relationships formed during these internships to identify potential apprenticeship opportunities. The CCI helps out in this process by providing three-week summer camps for weaker students finishing Grade 10, supporting partnerships between schools and companies, funding the “House of Little Explorers” to introduce elementary school students to STEM subjects, and funding “Vocational Training Scouts” to bring apprentices currently in training back to their schools to encourage younger student.

An important consideration, concluded Engelmann, is that if companies want to be responsible for training (and they do) they have to invest money in the system. This seems to be a given in Germany, a real partnership exists when both school and company contribute to the outcome.

Comments are closed.