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Germany - industry demands opening universities for skilled workers

ReferNet Germany

In former years, most of the working population was trained within the dual vocational education and training (VET) system. Now, half of all school-leavers pursue academic education focusing on theory. Industry in the federal state of Hesse therefore demands adaptation of the education system to current requirements since it has remained the same for decades.

‘Our education system currently aggravates the skilled-labour shortage. As long as theoretical university education and practice-oriented VET coexist without much permeability and even increasingly compete with each other, we will gamble away the exemplary success of the German dual VET system. We moreover produce significant numbers of university dropouts. This is why we are in favour of forming one joint education system that lifts access barriers and unifies theoretical and practical learning’, says Volker Fasbender, chief executive officer of the federation of Hessian entrepreneurs associations (VhU - Vereinigung der hessischen Unternehmerverbände).

For this purpose, VhU has developed a five-step programme:

  • to open up universities to skilled workers without university entrance qualifications and without proof of professional practice;
  • to offer a ‘vocational university entrance qualification’, an approximately six-month programme for apprentices at vocational schools, which proves their eligibility for university;
  • to accommodate vocational practitioners, university courses have to be reorganised and academic education has to be linked better to continuing vocational training programmes;
  • universities to offer extra-occupational modules that meet academic standards as well as bachelor and master degrees for vocational practitioners;
  • vocational schools to refocus their core task, that is, dual VET, and consistently cut back on educational programmes that compete with dual VET.

VhU and industry in Hesse aim to make VET also attractive to those young people who want to keep an option open to study. However, a surge in academic education has a risk that half school-leavers attain university degrees not in demand on the labour market.

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