On the Dual Track to Success
Germany’s unique dual-track education system helps make the country an attractive location for investment – and is growing increasingly popular abroad.
Around the world, young people are frustrated. The message they heard all their lives – that a college degree would guarantee a good job – has, for many of them, proven to be untrue. In Spain, for instance, youth unemployment has reached a staggering 50 percent and continues to grow. The overall unemployment rate in the United States has also reached record highs. And yet, despite these dismal unemployment figures, companies have had difficulty filling positions that require skilled workers in manufacturing, engineering, and similar fields. In Germany, on the other hand, the situation for young people isn’t nearly as dire – youth unemployment, at 7.9 percent, is the lowest in the EU. What sets Germany apart?
Germany’s unique education system accounts for this positive discrepancy. Young people are offered a wide range of educational options in addition to standard university degrees. For centuries, the country has supported traditional apprenticeship programs in specialized technical fields; today, these apprenticeships have become part of a dual-track educational system – as a complement to vocational training – ensuring that theory and practical application go hand in hand. In practice, this means that trainees spend the majority of their time learning their trade on the job at a given company while simultaneously taking theoretical classes either at a university or a specialized trade school.
The added value for the students is clear: not only do they receive the detailed theoretical knowledge provided by a classroom education, but they also emerge with months of paid work experience and often with a full-time job offer from the company where they trained. For companies, the benefits are also staggering: employers have access to a group of motivated young people with skill sets precisely tailored to their needs. The costs aren’t as high as some might expect either. The only cost incurred is that of the hourly wages a company must pay the student during his/her apprenticeship period. In the long run, the costs that companies expend on the training of their own future employees through these dual vocational education and apprenticeship programs tend to be lower than what they might spend on helping new company-external employees learn the ropes.
Now this “Made in Germany” educational system is becoming the country’s latest export, praised by international politicians and business leaders alike. A special vocational school has been established in Spain to train students in the German style in an effort to alleviate the country’s high youth unemployment rate; in the United States, local companies and subsidiaries of German companies are founding partnerships with community colleges to help fill the roughly 600,000 skilled manufacturing jobs that remain vacant. If this trend continues, young people and companies – both in Germany and around the world – can look forward to a bright future of shared success.
Benefits of Dual-Track Education at a Glance
- Practical, hands-on experience
- Paid work during the program
- Good chances of a full-time position post-graduation
- Large pool of highly skilled employees
- Employee skills tailored precisely to their needs
- Lower costs than acquiring employees from outside the company