Lessons from the German VET system – could ASQA be redundant?


In Bonn, Germany this week working with UNESCO UNEVOC, Wendy Perry met with Philipp Grollman from Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (BIBB) to learn about the German VET system, compared with Australia and others around the world.  Please watch the quick 4 minute video til the end and read all of the blog, then share your ideas.

Germany has 327 occupations available as Apprenticeships with all Vocational Education and Training (VET) provision offered through the schooling system, that is training providers are schools.

The regulation model is interesting as it is the Chambers of Commerce, Crafts and Industry Associations (usually not for profits and incorporated bodies) that manage the apprentice assessment and they must guarantee quality.  They are referred to regulation buddies.  So whilst providers are schools, they are closely connected to industry partners with quality managed by the industry sectors.

‘Dual’ system in relation to Germany is an approach that many have heard about and this means employment and training in the workplace, as well as at school.  Usually the model is 3.5 days in the workplace and 1.5 days at school or 3/2 days split.  Off the job and on the job is probably how we might describe the delivery in Australia and there isn’t the option of full on the job training for apprenticeships.

Curriculum is written broad enough so it doesn’t need to be updated too often – generally around every 5 years or so.  The Chambers and industry groups feed into curriculum development which is managed by the Federal Government.  German’s system is dependent on the economy and labour market but it would be highly unusual for any VET to be delivered without workplace based experience.  The number one option for VET is an apprenticeship.

In the past, numbers have been higher in apprenticeships, say 80/20 or 70/30 percent, compared with University degrees, but numbers are now around 50/50.  Pre-vocational programs are not in place, or perhaps even needed, as in years 8 and 9 students consider occupations with a portfolio to suit and undertake internships (2 week work placements).

Entrepreneurship doesn’t have a specific focus but is more embedded into occupations, for example building and construction, specific crafts and businesses that might be owned by family.

Apprentices have a different wage status to non-apprentice employees which is negotiated through a public bargaining process.  There are not levels in occupations but it generally starts with 3.5 year apprenticeships, with technician and master qualifications.  The German Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning, contributes to the comparability of German qualifications in Europe, and this is a key part of the work of the European Commission too.

On the quality assurance (regulation) model, the chambers and their networks regionally, are also responsible for assessing international grade certificates.  Work based learning time gives additional training which may include more general skills and knowledge where industrial enterprise run training through centres supported by employers and industry.  Pilot projects in VET are encouraged, for example companies trying out new curriculum with a process for measures over 3 – 4 years.

Research on occupational needs is undertaken by the Federal Institute of VET (BIBB) and the Institute for Employment Research which are agencies with respective departments.  The Federal Institute of VET is governed by a board which includes the Department of Education and Training as well as Economic Affairs, state level government, social partners including unions and employer representatives.  The board meets twice a year, with sub groups meeting more regularly and they provide advice to the Federal Government, as well as set the strategic direction.

BIBB is involved in research such as skills and workforce needs for industrial estates and the agency manages European Union funds for projects supporting international cooperation.

Now to the lessons and policy learning.

An agency like the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) isn’t needed as the quality assurance responsibilities are imbedded in the relationship with the ‘schools’ and regulation (assessment, industry based) buddies.  Any issues that come up would be managed between those partners and as the chambers have to ensure quality outcomes for assessment then this means ensuring the curriculum implementation and delivery meets industry needs.  How do you think this could work in an Australian VET context?

With German agencies research identifying occupational requirements and workforce needs now and into the future, feeding this into the curriculum development process, there is a strong match to what employers and industry want.  In Australia, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) could have a stronger advisory and leadership role on informing current and future workforce requirements, together with employers and industry.

Perhaps there are also insights for the Australian Industry and Skills Committee on simplifying the relationships in VET and roles, similar to the governing board of BIBB noting we also have a board for NCVER.

Encouraging experimentation and innovation in VET must be a final lesion particularly as increasingly there is discussion locally, nationally and internationally about the relevance of VET.

So please consider, what learning from the German VET system might improve Australia’s VET system and policy, plus your products, programs and practices?

P.S. If you have some promising practices that others may be able to learn from then UNESCO might be interested in capturing your examples.  Follow this link on Promising Practices for further information.

4 Comments

  • Ron Broadhead says:

    Very interesting Wendy. The recent example in the Mallee of the Victorian Skills Commissioner and the Mallee Regional Skills Taskforce (industry reps.) has illustrated the need for industry to play a much more active role in identifying future skills needs and also working more closely with RTOs and schools. Need to be able to get a blend of national, state and regional industry needs and to ensure that schools and RTOs are responsive to these needs at the local level. Some very good lessons from your observations in Germany.

  • AnneBowden says:

    Thanks for such an informative summary Wendy. One of the thoughts I have often had is the difference in many European countries, including Germany and UK, where apprenticeships are the norm in many industries. I love Erica Smith’s reference to Captain James Cooks’ first job as a retail journeyman. If the economy were to value skills across many industries more equally I believe we would enhance our economy and certainly enhance the attractiveness of VET to young people and other stakeholders, eg parents. The tentative moves towards higher apprenticeships in Australia is a good start I believe.

  • shirlidovaston says:

    Certainly food for thought Wendy – a move towards anything that ‘regionalises’ the industry in my view is worth discussing .. the one size fits all approach will always create issues with differing markets / sizes / needs etc ..

  • Christina Atomoaie says:

    In Germany, the “VET” sector works with and for the industries. The “VET” sector in Germany isn’t an industry from which the government’s economy benefits billions of dollars or euros, it’s for the people to gain skills and knowledge to build a career and a future.

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