International Workforce Development Perspectives: Germany and the United States

By Gaal, John | Techniques, January 2007 | Go to article overview
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International Workforce Development Perspectives: Germany and the United States

Gaal, John, Techniques


NEAR THE END OF MAY 2006, I participated in a 10-day research project pertaining to the dual apprenticeship system in Munich, Germany. Across the globe, it is no secret to people involved with career and technical education (CTE) that the German apprenticeship system is looked upon as the "gold standard" of workforce development training.

Below are various questions I posed to subject matter experts (SMEs) while in Germany and to their U.S. counterparts upon my return. Each of these topics addresses significant contemporary issues impacting secondary and postsecondary CTE professionals. The following format allows the reader to compare and contrast the responses from SMEs in two of the world's industrialized nations struggling to adapt to a seemingly ever-changing environment.

21st Century CTE/VET (Vocational Education and Training)

In the May 2006 Techniques article, "A Vision of the 21st Century," Gene Bottoms, senior vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board, suggests that teaming academic teachers with CTE teachers will produce students who are able to link academic content to practical applications. What steps has your system taken to ensure that today's academic teachers and CTE/VET teachers can demonstrate what they expect their students to know?

Germany: Valentin Lichtenegger, head-master of the Craftsman Berufsschule in Munich, replies that schools in Germany are under strong supervision with the state and, therefore, cooperate narrowly with the economy. For this reason, our lessons and teachers' skill and knowledge must be aligned with the latest science and technologies. In fact, the city of Munich has a system in place that addresses its teachers' lifelong learning needs. Each year, teachers are required to attend 14 days of continuing education, of which four of these days are self-directed. In addition, each school offers advanced levels of training.

United States: Nancy Headrick, assistant commissioner of CTE for Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, indicates that in order for Missouri to succeed. CTE instructors and academic teachers must provide students with purposeful learning. From a strategic standpoint, part of our focus will be on professional and knowledge development, wherein efforts to integrate curriculum, certify programs and instructors, emphasize high-demand occupations, and increase collaboration with the workforce development system will ensure that our students can demonstrate what they know.

The Creative Class

According to Richard Florida in The Rise of the Creative Class ... And How it's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, today's high-technology workers spend massive resources on education in order to home their creative skills. How has the traditional labor-management training model diminished the need for your country's workers to take individual responsibility for managing their own career development?

Germany: Elmar Ziegler, director of professional education and training for Siemens in Munich, says that creative and independent thinking is required for today's high-technology worker and upper management. For these workers, in the past, career paths and multi-step development programs were already delineated. However, the edict for lower-skilled workers of the past was: Don't think, work! And, in that era, those types of workers-with special focus on limited tasks-were needed in the economy.

However, in today's economy, simple jobs will be offshored while only ambitious jobs will remain. Therefore, it is essential that lower-skilled workers move toward higher qualifications. In addition, it is equally important that training providers develop training models that assist as many of these individuals in succeeding. Ultimately, taking responsibility for one's own career means self-driven actions based on long-term planning.

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