Issue 61, April 2015
bullet Workforce Development
bullet Event Review: The Role of Higher Education in the Future of Workforce Development
bullet Innovation: German Embassy's Skills Initiative
bullet Training for the Future: The STIHL Inc. Apprentice Program
bullet Interview with Vocational Education and Training Expert Yorck Sievers
bullet Tackling Skills Shortages in Advanced Manufacturing with the CPCC-Festo Learning Center for Excellence
Workforce Development 

Just four months ago, the U.S. Department of Labor announced up to $100 million in grant opportunities to fund registered apprenticeships as part of the government's push to train individuals for highly-skilled jobs in "high-growth" industries like advanced manufacturing, health care, and information technology. Designed to help combat the current "skills gap" in America, this effort aims to develop a fresh line of talent as the labor force ages. 

According to the DOL, the jobless rate of Americans ages 19 to 24 is 12.8 percent-more than twice the national rate. However, in countries such as Germany, which is home to a strong dual vocational training and education model, a very low youth unemployment rate of roughly 7.2 percent exists, according to The Brookings Institution. Around 60 percent of young people in Germany partake in Duale Berufsausbildung or dual vocational education and training, which supplements practical on-the-job training with theoretical classroom instruction. Each year, German businesses spend approximately 23 billion euros on roughly 1.5 million trainees nationwide.

In the U.S., many firms-particularly in the South and Midwest-are to turning to Germany's successful model to help bolster the supply of skilled workers and middle-class jobs. Recent press has picked up on this trend, with headlines ranging from U.S. News' "Apprenticeships Could Be Gateway to Middle Class" to The Atlantic's "Why Germany Is So Much Better at Training Its Workers." Similarly, in a Huffington Post op-ed, "Should We Rethink Our 'College for All' Culture?," Tom Duesterberg, Executive Director of the Manufacturing and Society program at The Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C., stresses the great value of vocational training and education in society.

The following newsletter articles explore how the German-style apprenticeship model is expanding to the U.S.-through collaboration with government, community colleges, and industry partners-to help enhance regional workforce and economic development.

On April 15, a panel of U.S. and German representatives from academia and industry convened at the GCRI to discuss whether our high schools, colleges, and universities are producing the types of graduates needed to keep the United States competitive in global markets. 

While most countries around the world have seen an unprecedented expansion of their education and skill base over the past decades, a persistent gap still exists between the kind of knowledge and skills that are most in demand in the workplace and those that education and training systems continue to provide. In this environment, the German dual system of vocational training is increasingly seen as a major contributor to narrowing the skills gap.

Mr. Sebastian Patta from the Volkswagen Group of America, Chattanooga Operations, presented on his company's commitment to employee development and lifelong learning, describing in detail VW's successful apprenticeship model. He was joined by Dr. Jim Barrott from the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Chattanooga State Community College who provided an overview of the role of community colleges in workforce development. In particular, Dr. Barrott addressed how Chattanooga State has developed effective relationships with business and industry. Dr. Sanjoy Mahajan from MIT also spoke, elaborating on the paradigm shift in higher education over the past 30 years, with learning becoming a private "investment" and a financial calculation guiding career choice.

Stefanie Jehlitschka, Vice President of the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Southern U.S., served as moderator for the discussion exploring best practices as well as areas in need of improvement in the field of workforce development. The German Center for Research and Innovation (GCRI) hosted the event in cooperation with Volkswagen of America, Inc. 

A photo gallery, video, and podcast of the event will be posted soon online. 


The Skills Initiative of the German Embassy in Washington, D.C., seeks to identify and spread best practices in sustainable workforce development in the U.S. Through the initiative, the Embassy is bringing together German and American businesses as well as local education and training providers to develop training programs best suited to companies' needs and to help fill more jobs with capable, well-trained individuals. 


Together with the U.S. federal government (Departments of Commerce, Education, and Labor), the German federal government is working on a bilateral joint declaration to provide a framework within which the participants may identify and explore collaboration opportunities in the area of career and technical training, increase learning from one another, and provide joint support for future initiatives and measures as a result of this cooperation.


Within recent years, the dual training system has also found a home in many U.S. states. German companies have implemented successful programs and U.S. state governments have taken the initiative to develop new job training programs as well. A few highlights include Michigan educators and businesses recently adopting a skills training system similar to the German dual training model, namely, Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT2?), and Florida officials establishing the Tampa Bay Advanced Manufacturing Skills Initiative, which will bring training centers to the region that use German IHK best practices, standards, and training materials to begin the implementation of German-style apprenticeship programs. The ICATT-Illinois Consortium for Advanced Technical Training, initiated by the German American Chamber of Commerce (GACC) of the Midwest with several Illinois companies, is another prime example of combining practice, theory, and work experience to train a globally competitive workforce. Similarly, following meetings with German Embassy staff, Iowa Governor Terry E. Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, and Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham announced the Iowa Apprenticeship and Job Training Act, which aims to mimic Germany's successful system and adapt it to Iowa's economy.


To watch a news segment on the Tampa Bay program, click here. For a short clip on the MAT2? program, click here.

Source & Image: ? Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Washington, D.C.




In the United States, a lack of educational and training opportunities for skilled trade positions has created a shortage of workers equipped for these jobs. To address this so-called 'skills gap,' companies like the outdoor power equipment company STIHL Inc. have turned to the successful German apprenticeship model.

At STIHL Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of STIHL International, participants complete a "dual system" apprenticeship. Trainees split their time between hands-on learning and classroom education. The four-year apprentice program allows STIHL Inc. to control the quality of the training and to ensure that a skilled workforce is available to fill upcoming open positions. Before being accepted into the highly selective program, the candidates go through an extensive qualification process designed to help ensure that it's a win-win, not just a technical fit, but a cultural fit as well. Over 300 people are evaluated each year for the four or five available program slots.

The apprentices receive training in a variety of skilled work, such as tool and die manufacturing, CNC machining, mechatronics, and polymer molding. In addition to the hands-on practical skills they receive, many of the apprentices graduate from the program with associate's and bachelor's degrees, a rarity in the U.S.

Applicants come from a variety of backgrounds: previous STIHL apprentices have ranged from participants in their early 20s to one who had already worked for the company for 18 years. Many recent apprentices have a military background. The technical skills they acquired in the military have proven to be an asset. The program has a 90 percent completion rate and has also attracted the attention of other regional manufacturers, who have expressed interest in sending their employees through the STIHL training.

Last year, an apprentice and the apprentice instructor from STIHL's dual training program were selected to participate in the German Embassy's Skills Initiative Road Show. In 2014, STIHL's Virginia Beach facility was named Assembly Magazine's "Plant of the Year."  

Source & Image: ? STIHL Inc.    


In his interview with GCRI, Yorck Sievers describes how the vocational education and training (VET) system works in Germany and why it is so successful. He also elaborates on the type of businesses that can benefit the most from this type of training as well as what kind of information and guidance the AHKs and DIHK have to offer American companies interested in implementing Germany's VET system. Finally, he discusses the challenges that businesses face when establishing this style of vocational training abroad. To read the full interview, click here

Since 2007, Mr. Sievers has served as Director of AHK International Vocational Education and Training Projects for the German Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) in Berlin. The DIHK is an umbrella organization representing 80 Chambers of Commerce and Industry (IHKs) throughout Germany. These chambers represent the interests of some 3.6 million businesses in various industry, trade, and service sectors. The Worldwide Network of German Chambers of Commerce-or AHKs-are institutions that aim to promote Germany's foreign trade. The DIHK, together with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, coordinates this global network of chambers with its 130 locations in 90 countries. Over the past 30 years, the demand for German VET has increased significantly and continues to gain momentum.  


Image: ? DIHK e.V.


The CPCC-Festo Learning Center for Excellence, located on the Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) Central Campus in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a unique partnership between the college and Festo's world-renowned Didactic training division. The Center was created to help develop a wealth of new industry-driven training opportunities in automation and mechatronics for manufacturing employees and educational providers. The joint venture will progress in stages, with the first stage operational in early 2015. 

"We intend for our new joint venture to become the 'gold standard' for technical education and training in the United States and North America," said Dr. Daniel Boese, managing director of Festo Didactic. "Through this large-scale initiative, we will advocate and promote advanced manufacturing as a viable, attractive, and lifelong career option for students and new and incumbent workers in the U.S."

Festo Didactic is a world-leading equipment and solution provider for industrial education. It designs and implements learning laboratories, educational equipment, and programs that train workers to perform in highly dynamic and complex industrial environments.

This Festo-CPCC agreement follows another significant initiative that the college has undertaken with German industry. In April 2012, CPCC signed a cooperative education agreement with IHK Karlsruhe, a German regional Chamber of Industry and Commerce, making CPCC the first U.S. community college to offer IHK-certified job training programs. CPCC's goal is to match job training in Germany so closely that a student can start his or her studies in Germany in these subject areas and complete them at CPCC or vice-versa. Students completing these programs earn the equivalent of an IHK specialist certification.

Overall, there are approximately 200 German companies with facilities in the Charlotte region and about 500 in the Carolinas. The 200 German companies in the Charlotte region employ approximately 15,000 people.

To watch a news clip on the FESTO-CPCC program, click here.

Source & Image: ? Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) 


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