Vocational lessons from Germany and France

French unions protest against the government reform of vocational education
Sept. 27, 2018: Teachers rally against reform of France’s vocational training system, which the government is trying to make more relevant to business needs (source: dpa)
  • Germany’s company-based vocational training system has become a global model
  • The decentralized system works because firms, unions and local governments cooperate seamlessly
  • France’s attempts to reform its ineffective centralized model have been too timid

Together with countries such as Switzerland or Austria, Germany is usually praised for its model of vocational training (or apprenticeship). Some would say the best evidence is Germany’s low youth unemployment rate of just above 6 percent. Others would argue that this number can be also explained by Germany’s aging population, but this merely provides extra incentive for companies to secure a supply of qualified future employees through vocational training.

On the other side of the Rhine, France – with a youth unemployment rate of 22 percent – has long known that its vocational training system needs fixing. A new government reform has generated lots of publicity but on closer inspection appears to be quite timid, carefully refraining from changing anything fundamental in the traditional French model.

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