Sustainably shaping integration in and via vocational education and training

Hubert Ertl

Dear readers,

Persons from a migrant background account for a growing part of the population in our country. 21.2 million people with a history of immigration were living in Germany in 2023. In a context where the skilled worker and labour shortage is becoming critical, the debate surrounding Germany as an economic location is increasingly centring on the areas of potential which refugees and other migrants are able to offer. As qualified skilled workers, they can be of material assistance in negotiating the socio-economic transformation. The situation regarding the integration and societal participation of these people is a closely related topic. For this reason, the articles contained in this issue highlight the role played by vocational education and training in the integration of refugees and migrants into Germany, a country of immigration. Research results and practical concepts are presented and discussed.

Exploiting the integration potential of VET

Vocational education and training can make a major contribution to the integration of persons from a migrant background because it provides multifarious opportunities for development in all areas of working life. Major integration potential is especially inherent in direct interaction with colleagues within the company environment and in joint learning in the work process. Company-based training should therefore be placed at the heart of guidance and orientation measures, particularly for the target group of younger migrants.

Recognising qualifications and competencies

People from a migrant background living in Germany make up a highly heterogeneous group. One important question is thus how host systems in Germany (e.g. the general and vocational education system) deal with their different cultural heritages, educational qualifications and aspirations, and types and levels of competencies. The recognition of qualifications and competencies acquired abroad is significant for integration. The BIBB portal “Recognition in Germany” offers important guidance and assistance in this regard. The fact that the number of applications for professional recognition has risen immensely over recent years shows that there is considerable potential in skilled workers abroad who are interested in qualified employment in Germany.

Localising language support in a training-related way

Language support for migrants is a further area of relevance to integration. Our experiences with forced migration in 2015/16 have amply demonstrated that language acquisition can be particularly effectively fostered within the scope of vocational orientation and practical training in real work contexts. In order for this to take place, company-based training staff need to be involved in developing relevant support provision and have recourse to assistance when carrying out this task. Many measures and structures have been developed in this field since the mid-2010s. The emphasis must now be on implementing them across the board and in a manner appropriate to the target group.

The findings and approaches collated in this issue of BWP are particularly focused on the young people who have sought refuge in Germany since 2015/16. The articles provide important numerical data which forms the basis for an objective debate on what has been achieved thus far and on the remaining challenges in respect of successfully and sustainably promoting integration in and via vocational education and training.

Professor Hubert Ertl
Director of Research and Vice-President of BIBB

Translation from the German original (published in BWP 2/2024): Martin Kelsey, GlobalSprachTeam, Berlin