The dual system of vocational education and training provides all young people with an opportunity to enter skilled employment and take responsibility for their own lives. At the same time, it trains tomorrow's skilled labour and thus makes a significant contribution to Germany's competitiveness and prosperity.
Through targeted innovations, the system of vocational education and training can contribute to sustainable changes in the labour market and in society as a whole.
The Vocational Training Act (BBiG), which was comprehensively amended through the Vocational Training Reform Act, provides the necessary legal framework for this. The objective of the reform is to secure and improve training opportunities and ensure that all young people receive high-quality vocational training - irrespective of their social or regional background. The Federal Government's task is to reach this objective in all of Germany, not least in order to secure the innovative strength and competitiveness of German industry by providing skilled young labour.
The new vocational training law gives decision-makers at Federal Government, Länder and regional level more room for manoeuvre. It also facilitates the competitive efforts to offer the most successful vocational training pathways.
It is very important for apprentices to obtain high-quality vocational education and training. There are often different ways to get into any given area of work, and the new Vocational Training Act is designed to facilitate the process.
After leaving school, a number of young people participate in one of the measures offered by the Federal Employment Agency or in other special programmes. This gives them an opportunity to acquire initial vocational qualifications. The new Vocational Training Act enables apprentices to obtain credits for the qualifications acquired through these measures which can then be used for subsequent vocational training.
In the 2007/2008 school year, more than 230,000 apprentices participated in full-time school-based training outside the remit of the BBiG. In the past, school-based vocational training graduates were less successful in the labour market than young people who had completed dual vocational training. As a result, a significant percentage of these young people decide to upgrade their school-based vocational training by subsequently pursuing a dual vocational training qualification. This is a waste of young people's time, resources and skills.
A certificate from the chambers of industry and commerce still provides the best opportunities in the labour market. For this reason, the new Vocational Training Act authorizes Land governments to give pupils easier access to chamber examinations. The amended BBiG stipulates that school curricula can and should be modified in such a way as to give school leavers a chance to pass chamber examinations and thus benefit from the new opportunities. Additionally, vocational training qualifications can now be linked with secondary or advanced school qualifications.
These measures are designed to support apprentices in obtaining better qualifications and completing their training more quickly.
In future, a wide range of new content and time models can be agreed locally for cooperation between in-company and school-based education and training. This has the aim of increasing training quality, making the best possible use of all training resources, and adapting more efficiently to structural changes in industry. Training collaborations between schools and commercial enterprises will also be possible, with schools acting as the managing partners.
These new forms of cooperation between companies and vocational schools can:
The new Vocational Training Act enables the Länder to ensure that vocational training periods in schools are given as much credit in recognized training occupations as in-company training periods.
Innovation by means of rapid modernization
The rapid modernization of the system of training occupations is one of the centrepieces of the Federal Government's vocational training policy. Since 2000, about 123 occupations have been updated and 50 new ones introduced. This is the most extensive series of modernizations since 1969, when the Vocational Training Act came into force.
Delays in the modernization process are now a thing of the past. Proposals to update or introduce skilled occupations which open up additional training opportunities and employment prospects are usually implemented within a year.
The new Vocational Training Act promotes rapid modernization by reducing the number of statutory advisory bodies:
Different occupational profiles and training durations (two to three years) enable young people to choose the most suitable training occupation for them. In addition, the new Vocational Training Act includes:
This makes it easier for those who have completed two-year training programmes to proceed to more demanding occupations without losing any time.
In future, those who have no opportunity to embark on follow-up training immediately after the two-year initial training qualification will be able to take the final examination in the more demanding occupation after only two and a half years of employment.
For the first time, the new Vocational Training Act makes training periods abroad an equally valid part of recognized training under the dual system.
In addition, Germany is participating in the European Union's efforts to improve the mutual recognition of qualifications. A credit point system for vocational qualifications is to be introduced.
The new Vocational Training Act contributes to removing the rigid lines between the different areas of education: It gives vocational schools new opportunities to participate in dual vocational education, which also significantly improves the powers of the Länder to combine vocational education and training with advanced general qualifications, right up to the level of university entrance qualifications.
The new Vocational Training Act also introduces additional qualifications that go beyond the subjects included in the training regulations. These can take the form of independent qualifications with separate examinations and certificates. This makes it possible to complete parts of upgrading training while still undergoing initial training.
The new links between national and international training, general education and vocational training, and initial and continuing training open up new career opportunities for interested and committed young people. In response to the increasing quality demands in a globalized world, these links enhance the attractiveness of dual training, particularly for high achievers.
Since coming into force in 1969, the Vocational Training Act has developed into a solid basis for vocational training, further training and re-training. The Vocational Training Reform Act builds on these tried-and-tested structures. Furthermore, the findings of more than 30 years of vocational training research have been taken into account, and the regulatory framework has been adapted to the terminology of modern vocational training. The many existing special and individual regulations - particularly on the subjects of instructor qualifications and determining what authority is responsible for what issues - are being harmonized under a single and transparent system. New modalities for examinations now make it possible for final examinations to be held in two parts. Examination results from vocational schools can be used towards determining final examination results. The implementation of exams is made considerably easier by giving members of examination panels the possibility of carrying out individual parts of examinations. The modified testing clause will make it possible to adapt training occupations to developments which cannot currently be foreseen.
High-quality vocational education and training remains a national responsibility. Young people and businesses have a right to expect their own efforts to be embedded in a system that offers access, quality, mobility and innovative strength. The legal framework offered by the Vocational Training Act and its training regulations is indispensible for this.
New challenges and opportunities require new solutions. The reform of vocational education and training offers more scope for flexibility and competitiveness.
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