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New Skills Agenda of the European Commission IW News 5. December 2016

Brush up the image of vocational training

The European Vocational Education and Training (VET) Week is designed to make vocational training more attractive. The dual system in Germany can serve as a model for countries with high youth unemployment.

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Roughly seven million Europeans between the age of 15 and 25 are neither training nor working. The EU Commission intends to counter this problem with its "New Skills Agenda": Vocational training ought to be more attractive for young people, and the provision of basic competences in reading, writing and numeracy to be improved. The skills that young people acquire in the training should be better suited to the actual needs of the companies. Part of this agenda is the first European VET Week from 5 to 9 December. According to the motto "Discover Your Talent", more than 750 activities and events throughout the EU promote vocational training.

The EU Commission uses the dual system in Germany as a role model function. It becomes increasingly clear that the learning of training content in the real working environment prepares better for the job than the purely theoretical concentration with the future job. This is also reflected in the low level of youth unemployment in countries with dual training systems: in 2015 Germany had the lowest youth unemployment rate with 7.2 percent (EU average: 20.3 percent), followed by Austria (10.6 percent) and Denmark (10.8 percent) - also countries with dual training systems.

A study by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW) has shown, however, that there is no single model suitable for the design of the vocational education training in Europe as a whole: The design and development of a dual training system has to be tailored to the structures and institutions of the respective country or region in order to be successful. In addition, the IW study concluded that dual training systems are by no means automatic processes leading to satisfactory results. Policy makers and companies must provide comprehensive training in VET. They also need to demonstrate young people that apprenticeships also offer attractive career paths – it does not always have to be a master’s degree.

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