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Topic Title: Apprenticeships
Topic Summary: Comparisons with Germany
Created On: 23 May 2015 09:27 PM
Status: Read Only
Related E&T article: The three main political parties are out to win the apprenticeships argument at election time.
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 23 May 2015 09:27 PM
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Posts: 4
Joined: 02 January 2003

Living in Germany, it is interesting to read about the ongoing debate in the UK about apprenticeships. The German economy and small and medium sized enterprises in Germany depend on apprenticeships to train their employees. Almost all school leavers go into some form of training - and most of which lasts at least two years and often three. Apprenticeships are considered a serious alternative to going to university.

The role played by the apprenticeship system is party historical - there was no deindustrialisation of the German economy in the 1980s leading to a loss of traditional schemes - and also partly by innovation in the system over the years. Whereas there were until about 10-15 years ago few opportunities to do, for example, an apprenticeship in IT, these have become more common. Car mechanics now learn significantly more about electronics than about mechanical components. Even school leavers going into office jobs have a formal training programme and you will also find supermarket employees spending 1-2 days a week at college understanding the retail trade, learning about customer service as well as bookkeeping and accounts.

The status of apprentices in society is much higher than in the UK. They often enjoy the same benefits, reductions in entry fees, cheaper bus and train tickers, etc., as students. Their time is part of the vesting period for pension rights and they pay national insurance contributions on their salary. Most importantly is that the schemes are not short, one-off schemes, of one year or less, but are always longer. They are not seen as a way of reducing youth unemployment with schemes being created with possibly no real value. Currently there are more places on offer than young people interested (although it should be conceded that the unfilled places tend to be on the more unpopular schemes, such as bakery workers).

The schemes are run with the full participation of employers and government as well as trade unions and works councils. The apprentices often have their own representatives on the schemes and can influence their direction. It's very different in the UK with a somewhat muddled approach to development of the schemes, being dependent on different employers and training agencies.

One criticism, until a few years ago, was the difficulty in moving on from being an apprentice to a university course. This has now been addressed with an increasing number of "dual study" course incorporating much of the subject matter from the apprenticeship scheme, but up to a higher degree level. Most companies who have recruited students rate their qualifications and teaching highly.

Well, the EU may consider that Germany does not put enough of its school leavers into higher education. The economy has not suffered and as someone who has worked both in the UK and Germany, I can only say that I think that young people benefit from choice, rather than being encouraged/forced to go the degree route.

Rob Harrison

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