‘Dual education’ is coming to America

3 Jun

The Economist story Ein neuer Deal? Germany’s vaunted dual-education system is its latest export hit describes Germany’s dual education system:

URSULA VON DER LEYEN, Germany’s labour minister, likes to point out that the two European Union countries with the lowest unemployment, especially among the young, have dual-education systems: Austria and Germany. Like Switzerland, they have a tradition of combining apprenticeships with formal schooling for the young “so that education is always tied to demand,” she says. When youths graduate, they often have jobs to walk into.

With youth unemployment in Germany and Austria below 8% against 56% in Spain and 38% in Italy, Mrs von der Leyen has won Europe’s attention. Germany recently signed memoranda with Greece, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain to help set up vocational-education systems. Mrs von der Leyen discussed the topic in visits to Madrid in May and to Paris this week. There is even talk of a “new deal” for Europe, including bringing youths from crisis-hit countries to work in Germany and making more loans.

Germany is best known in euro-zone countries for its macroeconomic prescriptions of austerity and structural reform. So it helps politically that it should now be seen assisting people in those countries into jobs. But does its dual-education system deserve so much credit, and should other countries adopt it?

Although based on older traditions, it formally dates from 1969. Youths not interested in, or qualified for, university sign up for a programme in which they work three or four days a week for a firm that pays them and teaches relevant skills. The rest of the time they spend in school, completing mostly specialised courses. Chambers of commerce and industry associations make sure that the work and the teaching are matched. After three years or so, trainees are certified and, if they make a good impression, may stay as full-time workers.

About two in three young Germans go through this system and into about 350 careers. Some end up in blue-collar jobs, others in sales and marketing, shipping and agriculture, or pharmacology and accounting. The practical nature of the education is an advantage, as is the mutual screening between potential employers and employees during training.

Yet the system existed in the 1990s, when Germany was the “sick man of Europe” and had high unemployment. German success today surely owes more to its labour-market and welfare reforms of a decade ago and to unions’ wage restraint. In an ageing and shrinking population, demography also helps, as fewer German graduates choose among more open jobs.

Ludger Wössmann, an economist at the Ifo Institute in Munich, suggests that vocational education can have bad side effects. In his research, countries that combined school and work-based education (Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland) did much better at getting young people into jobs. But early training can turn into a disadvantage by the age of 50. It appears that skills learnt in vocational training “become obsolete at a faster rate.” Low youth unemployment today may thus come at the cost of higher old-age unemployment tomorrow.

Related topics

The Career Technical Education Foundation (CTEF) has a good synopsis of “dual education.”

In Dual System of Education, CTEF explains:

What is the dual system of education supported by industry for career academies with an internship/apprenticeship model?  Two partners share the responsibility for education and training.  The Career Academy assumes the responsibility for teaching the required curriculum content including theory and practical application.  Industry provides the career academy financial support and the training necessary to familiarize the trainee with the technological and organizational aspects of the work processes within the company.

Advantages of the Dual System for the Industry partner:

  • Secures the skilled labor needed

  • Reduces the costs to train for positions within the company

  • Increases motivation and loyalty to the company

  • Trainee receives job specific qualifications

  • Productive performance of trainee

Advantages of the Dual System for the Student:

  • Recognized Industry Certification

  • Increased prospects for employment upon completion

  • Theory and practical application of curriculum

  • Certain degree of independence through an “earn while you learn” program

Financing of the Dual System of Education and Training

  • Industry partners who provide training contribute the largest share

  • Perkins and other District funding as available from State and Federal Agencies Grants

  • Dual System of Education and Training provides the opportunity for the successful Career Academy Graduate to:

    • Earn Industry Certification and/or

    • Earn college credit upon successful completion of each course while attending the Career Academy

    • Apply to the University of their choice

    • Earn Industry Certification

    • Enter gainful employment either with their own training company or another company

    • Continue education process by:

      • Working with the training company 3.5 days/week

      • Attending University or Continuing Education facility 1.5 days/week with company assistance where needed until coursework completed.

To read more please visit the Executive Summary Page


As with any education system, there are advantages and disadvantages.

The 2006 article, Dual system is singular success which was published in Times Higher Education reports:

For all its success, the policy is not without its problems. As in Britain, universities were at first loath to recognise an alternative form of higher education. They have been reluctant to give adequate recognition to AMK graduates on university masters programmes.

Employers are anxious about an oversupply of graduates, and they and others claim that some aspects of technical and vocational education are neglected. The relationship with the municipalities and regions is not always smooth, and there is a high dropout rate.

Maintaining a dual system in Finland has been made more difficult by the success of the policy and of the Bologna Process. When AMKs were established, they were the only institutions that offered bachelors degrees; since Bologna, most Finnish universities do. AMKs now also offer masters programmes, although they are mostly part-time schemes for mature students. But some universities are also entering this market. The dual system is thus challenged by “vocational drift”. The challenge for the polytechnics – and for the Government – is to maintain the distinction between the broad aims of the two sectors while recognising that a difference of purpose does not necessarily imply a difference of status. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/206872.article

The United States is also looking a different education formats.

Moi wrote in The International Baccalaureate program and vocational students:

There is an “arms race” going on in American Education. More people are asking whether college is the right choice for many. The U.S. has de-emphasized high quality vocational and technical training in the rush to increase the number of students who proceed to college in pursuit of a B.A. Often a graduate degree  follows. The Harvard paper, Pathways to Prosperity argues for more high quality vocational and technical opportunities:

The implication of this work is that a focus on college readiness alone does not equip young people with all of

the skills and abilities they will need in the workplace, or to successfully complete the transition from adolescence

to adulthood. This was highlighted in a 2008 report published by Child Trends, which compared research on the competencies required for college readiness, workplace readiness and healthy youth development. The report found significant overlaps. High personal expectations, self-management, critical thinking, and academic achievement are viewed as highly important for success in all three areas. But the report also uncovered some striking differences. For instance: while career planning, previous work experience, decision making, listening skills, integrity, and creativity are all considered vital in the workplace, they hardly figure in college readiness.http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news_events/features/2011/Pathways_to_Prosperity_Feb2011.pdf

There is a reluctance to promote vocational opportunities in the U.S. because the is a fear of tracking individuals into vocational training and denying certain groups access to a college education. The comprise could be a combination of both quality technical training with a solid academic foundation. Individuals may have a series of careers over the course of a career and a solid foundation which provides a degree of flexibility is desired for survival in the future. See, Why go to college? https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/why-go-to-college/

Michael Alison Chandler is reporting in the Washington Post story, New college-prep IB program could be offered to technical students about giving vocational students the opportunity to participate in the International Baccalaureate program. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/new-college-prep-ib-program-could-be-offered-to-technical-students/2011/11/21/gIQAareS6N_story.html


There shouldn’t be a one size fits all in education and parents should be honest about what education options will work for a particular child. Even children from the same family may find that different education options will work for each child.


Vocational Education Myths and Realities


Vocational Education in the United States, The Early 1990s


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8 Responses to “‘Dual education’ is coming to America”

  1. jenny June 29, 2013 at 3:15 am #

    Hello, I ´m from Germany and i must explain you some negative aspects of such an educational system. It is very difficult for most of the people with dual training education to have a further education. Normally the UN say, that Higher Education must be equally accessible to all. In Germany, the school system decide in an early age of 10, that children are not allow to go into Higher Education and the get only access to dual training. Later it is very difficult for these people to get a further education. I must went to school again for more than 3 years, because there was no access for me to further and higer education. They had wasted my lifetime! That is my lifetime. I have to visit an upper secondary again! A second time.

    The quality of my vocantional education was low, it would be possible, to teach that in 2 years, but i have to learn it in 3 years, because the employee should test the person. That is wasting my lifetime! than i have to go to school in the evening a second time to study more than 3 years to get a highschool certificate, because i want to study. That is my lifetime!

    many of women with this dual education get only Minijobs with some hours after their education. But when they don´t have access to further education, than it is a dead end street! Also for further education it is a dead end street very often, for example if people only have a temporary job, they are often not allow to go to further education. In Germany not all person with dual training have an access to further education. That´s the reason i think, why many are unemployed later, because a limited possiblity to change the job. Without highschool certificate a dual training apprentice have no possibility to study or to have higher education.

    I think Highschools are better systems for the youth! Every pupil should have a chance to change jobs and to go into Higher Education. In Germany many children should not have access to Higher Education – the reason is a school system from a tripartite society in the 18th century – that is not the right system for a modern country.

    In Germany many people are cemented in One Job for the whole life. And what happens, when the training is in a minimum wage sector or a shrinking sector? The only find Minijobs, have no school leaving certificate for alternative ways and must go to school again.

    in reality the Azubis are older than 18, but dual training should be for people who are 15 or 16 from Hauptschule and Realschule. But my oncle and other firms only accept older Azubis. Your Highschool leaving certificate is in an age from 17, 18 or older — that is the right age for the job market, not 15 or 16 years. Many pupils are in a transition system and have to wait there, because they don´t get an dual training place — than they are over 20 very often, when they get a place.

    Sorry for my bad english. Don´t destroy Highschools! For me Highschool is a good way to educate children, not a tripartite systems like Germany. Education is a human right.

    Now I study at University, but because of this complicated way in Germany I will be to old to find a good position. The Germans are also to fixed on practical experience. We have a 3 year dual training for everything. In some other countries it is easier to find an access to the job market, also without a custom-fit dual training.

  2. jenny June 29, 2013 at 3:28 am #

    15 or 16 is a bad age for the job market. Th dual training system is for pupils in this age normally. The reason is, that such children don´t have the right to get an access to gymnasium education in history. Today many pupils in this age start their career not in the dual training system, but in the transition system, where they have to wait for dual training employer. The reason is, that many companies don´t accept such joung pupils.

    Remember: Highschool education is until the age of 17,18 or older. Many dual training starter today are older than 18, many are older than 20. That ´s a better age for the job market, but it is the age for tertiary education. The children under 20 should get a highschool leaving certificate and that they get a full right for further and higher education and the can study in a younger age.

    that is also better for the economy, because it is easier to change jobs and to get a new education. no institutional barriers than in Germany, because there is no proper school leaving certificate for college access.

  3. jenny June 29, 2013 at 3:35 am #

    Earn college credit upon successful completion of each course while attending the Career Academy

    Apply to the University of their choice

    No!! That is not right. that is not the system in Germany. And the real youth unemployment rate is 15%, not 8%, because of the transition system.

  4. jenny June 29, 2013 at 3:53 am #

    I think vocational education in Finnland, Sweden and France is better thing: the all get a highschool leaving certificate with access to college education without institutional barriers — but in Germany there is no access directly – i must go to school again for some years — in Sweden and Finnland you get both together: Highschool leaving certificate with access to furhter and higher education and vocational training. In Germany you get only vocational education and no access.

    this a problem, when the apprenticeship is in a low wage sector, a shrinking sector, when you become unemployed after the apprenticeship — 50% of aprrentices don`t get a place in the company after their education or they find Minijobs and other bad jobs.

  5. jenny June 29, 2013 at 4:18 am #

    It appears that skills learnt in vocational training “become obsolete at a faster rate.”

    That is not right. Especially for women the skills become obsolet directly after training very often. 3/4 in the low wage and Minilohnsector have a dual training with 3 years or more training time.

  6. jenny June 29, 2013 at 4:31 am #


    The Reality: Many Young People are Parked in a System

    German has also a demographic change – since 2010 more older leave the job market, than younger go in. The fertility rate in germany is one of the lowest worldwide since 1970.

  7. jenny June 29, 2013 at 7:59 am #

    and don`t forget: only the companies offer educational opportunities in dual training systems. That means a limited offering — you can have some regions, where you only find dual trainings in jobs like hairdressing and sale (some regions in eastern germany f.e.g.). But pupils need more education opportunities than only a dozen jobs! In some Jobs they train over demand and i think that is the reason, why there are so many women with dual training in lower wage jobs. I think so.

    most of the countries like danmark and sweden have more alternative ways in schools, where people get both: highschool certificate and vocational. The transition system has in many programms nothing from both. That´s only a waiting system. when people get a highschool certificate, than they have access to further and higher education and can change education and jobs easier and more flexible. In Germany there are historic reasons, why many people are not allow to get this access. General education was for an elite only for a long time. Today Society need it more flexible.

  8. jenny June 29, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    My Oncle is a businessman and he produce high tech components in the sector Wind Energy. In Germany he was only allowed to go to a Hauptschule with limited access to general education. EVERY Citizen of a country has got a full right of the best education! Not of an inferior or third-class education. Many children in Germany are selected to the wrong schools and then they have limited access to general education. That is not education for modern countries. All families have their roots in Craftmen and farmer families — don´t put your own grandfather to a Hauptschule, because you think he can only work practical.

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