The Education Secretary Damian Hinds visited Germany and the Netherlands, as part of his commitment to ensuring every child in this country will have the most well-rounded and best education, regardless of whether they choose a technical or academic route.
“…I’m on a fact finding mission, visiting Germany and the Netherlands, to discover how they educate their young people to have the practical and technical skills needed for a highly productive economy,” the Secretary of State wrote for the Times Red Box. “In Germany I’ll be visiting smaller businesses to find out how they provide apprenticeships, as well as the Siemens Technopark, to see a multinational firm’s cutting edge apprenticeship training in action…I will tour some of the top-performing technical colleges in the Netherlands, alongside leading employers: Siemens, Festo and Accenda. UNICEF have rated Dutch children the happiest in the world compared to other industrialised countries; I’ll also meet Dutch teachers and academics to learn about their systems and styles of teaching.”
Germany has a ‘dual system’ when it comes to apprenticeships and is considered the main route into employment for young Germans. Just over half of young people in Germany go through the ‘dual system’ and for the majority this is likely to be an apprenticeship lasting two or three years. Apprentices spend one or two days a week in a vocational school with the remainder of their time spent learning on the job.
The system is strictly regulated and any company taking on an apprentice must ensure they are trained up to specific standards. There are around 350 of them and these are set by the relevant Chambers of Commerce, which plays a central role in the ‘dual system’. All German companies must belong to a Chamber of Commerce and pay a levy that goes towards the cost of running the training system.
The employer pays for on-the-job training, whilst the costs for the vocational school element of apprenticeship training are paid for by the state.
In the Netherlands vocational education can begin as early as 12. Dutch children are split into three different types of secondary school, with only one of them giving direct access to an academic university.
The other two types focus more on the vocational side of learning. The most popular of these is the ‘pre-vocational education’ route or VMBO for short. More than half of Dutch children choose this route and it involves a mix of vocational training and general education.
After the VMBO young people can then move onto middle-level applied education. This can last between one and four years, either classroom-based or as an apprenticeship. Graduates can then progress onto higher professional education in the equivalent of what had once been polytechnics.
“By helping everyone to fulfil their potential,” the secretary added. “We will also make sure Britain is fit for the future…if we’re to continue to compete and prosper on the global stage, we need a highly skilled workforce that can drive forward our productivity.”