Sections of the Research Unit
- Dual system of vocational education and training: The researchers analyse the German dual VET system, which combines school-based and work-based learning. They also investigate trends in supply and demand of apprenticeship positions and how VET can remain sustainable and attractive for both young people and enterprises.
- Continuing vocational training: Topics in this area include the rate and extent of companies’ activities in continuing vocational training, e.g., by providing refresher courses or other forms of lifelong learning. Every three years IW researchers conduct the representative “IW Continuing Vocational Training Study”.
- Skilled workers: Skilled workers are vital for the success of German enterprises. Research on the availability or shortages of skilled workers as well as potential solutions to this problem – in particular for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) –are major topics of the research unit.
- International Research on VET: In particular due to the low youth unemployment rates the interest of other countries in the German dual VET system is growing. Therefore, researchers exchange regularly with representatives of other countries how dual elements in VET can be strengthened. Furthermore, the research unit provides information about foreign VET systems and foreign qualifications (bq-portal.de) in order to provide more transparency for companies and to support the competent bodies in the equivalence assessment. Many of the topics of the research unit are closely connected to other research units concerned with schooling, academic qualifications, or migration issues, inter alia. The main focus is on Germany. However, in many topics, there is a strong connection to European policy-making (e.g., concerning the implementation of "dual" elements abroad). We contribute our expertise to the public and political debate.
Findings and Positions
- Inclusive power of VET: Germany has Europe’s lowest youth unemployment rate – largely due to its dual VET system that helps integrate young people in the labour market right after they leave school. It is especially effective in providing qualified and recognized degrees to those who cannot or do not want to attend university.
- Enhancing permeability: While the dual VET system helps youths to get a foot in the labour market, steps need to be taken to further communicate its attractiveness in times of demographic changes and educational shifts. Eased transition between the vocational and the academic track – in both directions – is thus indispensable in providing adequate opportunities for youths in both qualification tracks.
- Lifelong learning: Vocational qualification is not the end point of a professional career; instead, it is the starting point for lifelong learning and the onset of further vocational training. Employers as well as employees have a vested interest in keeping skills at the most up-to-date level, as this increases productivity, innovative capacity and leads to higher earnings and better career opportunities. Especially the participation rate of low-qualified people should be increased.
- Digitization and Industry 4.0: The internet of things and the ongoing digitization in everyday business influences jobs and qualification needs. While the digital transformation will create jobs rather than destroy them, “new” qualifications increase in demand while "old" skills need to be updated. First evidence shows that the German VET system is well prepared for the new developments. However, the need for lifelong learning is growing. We closely monitor developments in this field.
- Careers with VET: Many workers with vocational degrees earn comparable salaries and have comparable responsibility as their peers with academic degrees – an often neglected fact in the debate about the value of VET. Promoting such knowledge about the equivalency is vital for enterprises in search of apprentices and vocationally skilled personnel.
- SMEs: SMEs form the backbone of Germany’s economy. They also train most of the apprentices and are in need of adequately skilled labour. Focusing on ways to answer to their need to find and retain such workers – particularly in competition to large enterprises – is the aim of the “Kompetenzzentrum Fachkräftesicherung” (kofa.de), which addresses SMEs’ needs by offering targeted advice and guidance.
- Policy should strengthen VET in Europe: VET can help to reduce youth unemployment. Therefore, the European Union should reinforce work-based learning in education and promote mobility of young people.