A New Progressive Era

BERLIN — 3 July 2017

Breakout session: Vocational training and education-to-work transition: what works?

27th May 2016

Speaker: Margherita Bussi, researcher, University of Brighton, and European Trade Union Institute

Chair: Michael Miebach, deputy chair and co-founder, Das Progressive Zentrum

Why should progressives talk about vocational training?

Young people are hard-hit by crisis, which is particularly bad as they are hit in formative period in life. Hence inequality is looming.

Design of policy tools is important. Many people are talking about youth unemployment. The German model of vocational training is part of the ‘miracle’ leading to low youth unemployment. Can it be exported?

The peculiarity of the German model is threefold:

  • Long and strong institutionalisation. Stakeholders are heavily involved. Power is relatively balanced. But that social partner model is difficult to export.
  • Cost is shared by employers and government: different practice in other countries.
  • Structure of labour market and cultural norms: status and prestige of vocational training often is rather low in other countries. So associating vocational training with labour market performance is key. Continuum between general and vocational educational is also important.

Comments and conclusions:

  1. You cannot export the full package but each country should integrate lessons into its own dynamics. The example of Brussels was given: people from low socioeconomic and migrant backgrounds are pushed towards vocational, but local labour market is high-end.
  1. German system has its problems too: shortage of candidates and at the same time risk groups not qualifying. Refugees are obvious candidates but uncertainty of stay is an issue.
  1. Vocational training could be an important instrument to increase the employment of refugees. Sweden is experimenting with compulsory track for migrants. It has its own version of apprenticeship system in the context of shift of the power balance towards employers.
  1. Is vocational training responsible for the German labour market success or is it rather precariousness introduced by other policies? Vocational training is part of a continuous move to ever higher value added. But a lot of extra employment is in precarious jobs. Precariousness is also not seen as a problem within the framework of ‘youth guarantee’. So it boils down to a preference for employment over guaranteed income.
  1. How much say do employers have in the design of vocational training programmes? There is a risk of lock-in in very specialised and particular skills.
  1. There is anecdotal evidence of social mobility by vocational training and active labour market policies but statistical evidence unsure.


Rapporteur: Jan Cornille