Transformation requires strong vocational education and training

Friedrich Hubert Esser

Dear readers

Growing concerns about securing the availability of skilled workers in our country are more than justified. The labour supply is expected to fall by 1.12 million to 45.19 million over the next twenty years. Against this background, the situation on the training market must give us particular food for thought. The number of trainees declined from 1.7 million to 1.3 million during the period from 2000 to 2020. And the current training market figures do not give rise to much optimism.

Recruitment problems will exacerbate

Although the total number of newly concluded dual training contacts for the 2022 training year was 475,100, a slight rise compared to the previous year, this figure remains significantly below the level recorded in 2019 prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Decreases can be identified both in training place provision (down by 5.9%) and above all with regard to the level of demand from young people (minus 10.6%). Demographic developments are not the only reason for their withdrawal from the company-based training market. The number of dual training entrants fell by 15.4 percent between 2005 and 2021. During the same period, the number of young people commencing a course of higher education study rose by 29.8 percent.

As BIBB projections show, there will be more and more occupational groups in which the demand for qualified skilled workers cannot be covered in the long term. In as early as five years’ time, shortages are expected in 36 of 141 occupational groups surveyed. Occupations in the healthcare and social sector, IT, technical and construction industry sectors will all be affected in particular. However, mention must also be made of further occupational groups of direct relevance to the energy transition. These include occupations in building services engineering and technical building services and drivers and operators of vehicles and transport equipment. Thus there are clear signs that current recruitment difficulties will be perpetuated or exacerbated. Nevertheless, there are reasons to view the future with optimism.

Transformation as an opportunity

“Changing times” have brought topics regarding transformation to the fore. Sectors relevant to transformation are being impacted as “baby boomers”, who were largely trained in the dual system, increasingly leave working life. Consequently, this is an area in which there is a particular need for a growth in trainees. Relevant market signals are already leading to financial incentives for training and employment in the craft trades and technical sector. One of the areas in which this is becoming apparent is in training allowances based on collective wage agreements, where pertinent occupations are increasingly seen very near the top of the ranking list. But there is a further point which is important aside from the financial incentives. 85 percent of persons aged between 14 and 22 in Germany perceive environmental and climate protection to be a key societal issue. This represents considerable potential for skilled worker training in transformation-related areas. Companies must be encouraged to emphasise their own contribution to the “green economy” and to approach young people with ecological interests in a targeted way.

Given the distressed social prestige of dual training occupations, the transformation therefore offers a major opportunity to polish the overall image of occupations and of vocational education and training. This is a further important aspect of the debate on the equivalence of vocational and higher education training qualifications, the main focus of this issue of BWP.

What we need, both now and in the future, is particularly strong vocational education and training which is able to help ensure a supply of skilled workers and to express this aim with conviction!

Prof. Dr. Friedrich Hubert Esser
President of BIBB

Translation from the German original (published in BWP 1/2023): Martin Kelsey, GlobalSprachTeam, Berlin