Vocational education and training (VET) at all levels and throughout one’s career becomes more and more important due to demographic change, threat of skilled labour shortage and longer working lives.

For years, under pressure from the OECD, we have done everything to increase our rate of academics. By now, our lecture rooms burst at the seams, whereas businesses around the country are desperately trying to recruit apprentices. This puts our status as an industrial site at risk, as Germany’s innovation capacity and competitiveness highly depends on the dual system, Eric Schweitzer said at the award ceremony of Germany’s best Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) apprentices.

Congratulating the 224 nationwide awardees in 217 different occupations, the DIHK president cautioned against the persisting trend to opt for university programmes. A broad range of interesting occupations provide career opportunities for graduates of different types of lower secondary education. Many DIHK vocational education and training (VET) programmes can easily compete with university education in other countries. Their proximity to practical work provides a decisive advantage. Conversely, high rates of academics are no guarantee for a flourishing economy and neither low youth unemployment rates, as the crisis countries in southern Europe show.

The president of the Federal Institute for VET (BIBB) argues along similar lines. In Friedrich Hubert Esser's opinion, the trend towards increasing educational attainment among the young generation must under no circumstances sidetrack VET. In the future, initial (IVET) and continuing VET (CVET) need to be communicated as a pathway equal to general education and university.

CVET provides many skilled workers with new opportunities. By obtaining further or higher-level qualifications, they create the requirements for their career advancement. This way, they decisively contribute to maintaining the German economy's capability to be competitive and innovate, said the BIBB president.

The greater part of CVET is geared towards keeping up-to-date in one's given profession and helps people adjust to new job requirements. Here we need to change our way of thinking. What is needed are long-term and qualification-oriented CVET programmes – especially for those who have no professional qualification, Esser states.

Allocation of master craftsman and bachelor degrees at level 6 of the European qualifications framework has given a major boost to continuing VET qualifications. This also illustrates their high degree of quality. Incorporating VET in university education should be further promoted. Demographic change, threat of skilled labour shortage and prolongation of people’s working lives will make VET even more important. According to Friedrich Hubert Esser the next 10 years will develop into a decade of advanced vocational training in Germany.

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