Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Dual System and Its Promises

In the afternoon of June 14, we had a presentation by Knut Becker from the Landesinstitut fuer Schulentwicklung of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg over the German System of Vocational Education and Training. Herr Becker concentrated on the system of dual training as a means for providing businesses with the skilled workers they need and students with a rewarding career option outside the Gymnasium track. Apart from full time vocational schools that give students a final qualification that is recognized through a school certificate, there also exists a system of dual training. This gives one a state recognized training certificate but also a certificate from the Chambers of Commerce (Handelskammern) recognizing that the completion of the course of the apprenticeship. Both of these courses take approximately two, three, or three and one-half years depending on the student. The Dual system is approximately 25% at school, where the student continues such topics as German, math, science, humanities and foreign languages as well as vocationally oriented course material such as applied math, technical drawing, and technology. The other 75% is on-the-job training. Businesses bear 80% of the cost of this system. So, a student would be at the job 3-4 days a week and at school 1-2 days per week. One signs on to this with a training contract approved by the Handelskammer which lays out the state recognition of the occupation, the designation of the occupation, the duration of training, the profile of the training occupation (minimum requirements) and overall training plan and examination requirements. The contract also stipulates conditions that must be fulfilled by the employers, such as protections against termination and allowance to pay the trainee during the period of the dual system training. The dual system provides training for every sector of the economy and for different specialized occupations. Again, the Germans use the word competence to describe the various skills that one receives from the dual system in the form of specialized skills needed for the occupation, methodical skills such as problem solving and organization, and social skills (people skills). The favorite occupations for young men include motor vehicle mechanic, painter, electrical fitter, joiner, retail, cooks, business specialists, mechanical engineers, bricklayers, and IT. Among the favorite occupations for young women are commercial clerks, retail, hairdresser, physician’s assistant, dental employee, slaes, banker, hotel specialist, sales person. During the training, the student receives a wage depending on the occupation. These wages average about 600 euros per month in the West and 500 in the East. The advantages for industry are that German firms secure the skilled labor they need, it reduces the costs of settling in a new worker, it increases loyalty to a firm, it provides the firm with employees who have job specific qualifications and increases productivity. The Dual System is embedded in the web of industrial, social and governmental institutions that make up the German system of corporatist interest group intermediation. The states issue curricula for part time vocational schools, finance teaching staff and supervise the activities of the Handelskammer. Industry works with employer and unions to draft proposals for the creation of new and updating of existing training occupations, nominate experts for participation in the drafting of training regulations and negotiate provisions in collective agreements, including the amount paid in the allowance for the trainee. The Handelskammer, which are self-governing bodies, advice the stakeholders in the training, supervise training in the company, verify the aptitude of companies and training instructors, register training contracts and administer examinations. This entire system costs about 17 billion euros, with private companies bearing about 85% and the states 15% of the costs. This system is open to all school graduates, even those coming from the Gymnasia. It can also serve as a gate way for some to go on to a research or technical university. For instance, Daimler Benz might hire a student, and then give them the option of going back to the university, receive a stipend, but then be obligated to work for the company afterwards for a period of years. Of the 9 million pupils in general education in 2008, 2.9 million were at full time vocational schools and 1.6 million were apprentices in the dual system program. This system dates back to the middle ages, but is still a stable part of the German economy and is seen by German manufacturers as indispensable.


  1. You described the system as "corporatist". Is that a term that the Germans use themselves? Fascist economics is also most often described as "corporatist" (see Payne, for example). Did the Germans continue to rely on a system first established during the NS-Zeit? The Weimar period?

  2. Actually, the Germans do use it. You need to examine Wolfgang Streek, Gerhard Lehmbruch, or Phillip Schmitter. As you yourself pointed out, corporatism pre-dated the National Socialists by nearly a century, arising out of Catholic areas in the Rhineland (I think the trendy 1990s phrase was Rhenish Capitalism). Schmitter in the 1970s distinguished between societal corporatism and one that was much more state centered (e.g. NS). So, in answer to question, no, it was not a Nazi invention, and, two, it has evolved since 1945 into a well-established system of interest group governance.