Apprenticeship programs-lessons from Germany & German companies in India.

AuthorPilz, Matthias
PositionBy Invitation

Bridging the Competence Gap

India's economic growth is being jeopardized by the shortage of skilled labor. Despite the large potential labor pool, many businesses find it difficult to recruit employees with the appropriate skills (Majumdar, 2008: 41f.). In a survey conducted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), 90% of the companies reported that they experienced problems of finding sufficient numbers of skilled workers and could not, therefore, exploit their full economic potential (FICCI, n.d.). Most of the new workers emerging from the training system have inadequate skills for the world of work, and a majority lack adequate vocational qualifications to be able to meet the demands of the labor market (Agrawal, 2012: 455). More than 60% of all those who have completed a course of vocational training have not found permanent employment three years after finishing their training (World Bank, 2008).

The Eleventh Five-year Plan drawn up by the Indian Government therefore places great emphasis on skills development. The government has, for example, set itself the goal of providing vocational skills training for 500 million people by 2022 (GoI, 2008), while plans significantly to boost the quality of vocational training are intended to ensure that the private sector is increasingly involved in training.

Involving the private sector in vocational training has for decades been a successful part of the training systems of many other countries, especially in Germany, where the strategy is seen as underpinning skills training for young people that reflects the needs of the market and helps integrate them successfully into employment (Kupka, 2005).

The question arising from the findings set out below is whether--and if so, how--India can learn from the experiences of other countries. International comparative research into vocational education and training has shown in this context that it is possible for lessons to be learned from the reform initiatives of other countries without their mistakes being replicated. However, blanket transfer is not appropriate, of course, so any learning process requires very precise analysis of the country-specific features in the 'learning' country (Pilz, 2012). The scope for learning from other vocational training systems will therefore be discussed against the backdrop of the 'dual' training system that is widespread and very successful in Germany. The first section of this contribution will outline the German system and review its strengths.

The scope for transferring German experiences to India will then be discussed in the context of a research study focusing on the training practices of German companies in India. The final section will discuss the findings.

The German System

We shall provide here a brief overview of the initial vocational education and training in Germany. For the sake of simplicity, this will be equated with the country's 'dual' vocational training system, although it should be borne in mind that the 'dual' system (which combines periods of on-the-job training in a company with periods in the classroom in a vocational school) is just one part of the wider provision of initial and continuing vocational training within Germany's VET system. Our decision to focus solely on the 'dual' system is, however, justified because it is the most important subsystem within Germany's VET system in both qualitative and quantitative terms (it provides around two thirds of all vocational training places) (BIBB, 2013:9).

The key feature of the dual system is the cooperation that it involves between two learning sites, the vocational school and the training company. Between them, these two sites provide vocational training, typically of between two and three and a half years, in around 350 recognized training occupations (Kupka, 2005). The aim of the Berufsprinzip/vocationalism (Ryan, 2003)--the principle that underpins Germany's legislation on vocational training--is that "on completion of a period of vocational training conducted over a period of several years in line with principles applying across the country, young people are equipped to carry out many different specific vocational activities" (BT-Drucksache 15/4752 of 26.1.2005, authors' translation). Trainees usually spend three or four days each week in their training company, which provides a practical introduction to their chosen occupation. The remaining one or two days are spent in vocational schools, where they receive general and occupation-specific instruction. Teachers in vocational schools generally have a university degree; the instructors in their training companies are not required to have any specific academic qualifications, but a mandatory trainer aptitude test ensures that they have the necessary subject and teaching skills (Hoeckel/Schwartz ,2010:10).

Training regulations govern mandatory provision for training and assessment at national level, but the curricula for vocational schools are devised at federal state level. The private sector is represented by employers' associations and trade unions in framing proposals for the creation of new regulations and training occupations or for updating existing provision. The fact that the 'dual' system forms such an integral part of the institutional framework is seen as one of the main factors underpinning its success: in particular, the involvement of companies ensures that the skills trainees acquire are in line with the needs of the market and that the system remains flexible (Hoeckel/ Schwartz 2010: 12f.). Training is funded by a combination of the companies themselves and government. While the federal states take responsibility for funding the upkeep of vocational schools and the cost of employing the teaching staff, companies meet the cost of in-company training and the salaries of the instructors.

Although the regulations do not make it obligatory for would-be trainees to have any specific secondary school qualifications to access training in the 'dual' system (BIBB, 2011), 31% of all those taking up a course of training have successfully completed nine years' secondary education (Hauptschulabschluss), 42% have completed ten years (Realschulabschluss), and 23% hold the qualification (Abitur) that would entitle them to move on to tertiary education (BIBB, 2013: 169). The proportion of trainees with the latter qualification has, in fact, risen steadily over recent years (BIBB, 2013: 170). Indeed, for these young people, vocational training in the 'dual' system is frequently a springboard to higher education: for example, 17% of all those embarking on a degree in the autumn of 2011 had already successfully completed such a course of vocational training (BIBB, 2013: 180).

The key guiding principle of vocational training in Germany is to develop practical skills, defined by the country's ministers of education as "the ability and willingness of individuals to act appropriately, reflectively and in a socially responsible way and in accordance with existing...

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