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How Germany and America Differ on Job Training

By Kyle Jaeger

The conventional wisdom in America is that landing a good job requires a degree from a four-year college. But in Germany — where the youth unemployment rate is half that of the U.S. — many students pursue a different path, opting for vocational training programs that set them up for careers directly after graduation.

Here’s how it works: Students who take the vocational track split their time between in-class training and on-the-job apprenticeship. They spend three or four days per week in classrooms, learning the fundamentals about certain industries such as carpentry or welding, and the rest of their week is spent doing hands-on work at companies that offer apprenticeship programs. It takes either two or four years to complete a vocational program, depending on the industry, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The appeal of vocational training in Germany is that employment after graduation is almost guaranteed. That could explain why about half of German high school graduates enter into vocational programs. In contrast, 69 percent of American high school graduates enroll in two or four-year colleges, while 29 percent immediately enter the work force, according to a 2016 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

One reason that vocational programs are less common in the U.S. is that companies are less willing to pay for apprenticeships that offer on-the-job training. German companies “pay 75 percent of the $19,850 annual cost of each trainee, and the government covers the rest,” PBS NewsHour reports in 2014.

There’s also the issue of consistency. Whereas, American vocational programs differ from school to school, German vocational training is regulated — with “standardized occupational profiles, or curricula, developed by the federal government in collaboration with employers, educators and union representatives,” according to The Atlantic. The outlet also noted the following:

“Every young machinist training anywhere in Germany learns the same skills in the same order on the same timetable as every other machinist. This is good for apprentices: It guarantees high-quality programs where trainees learn more than one company’s methods, making it possible for those who wish to switch jobs later on. But it’s hard to imagine this level of state control or business-labor cooperation in the U.S.”

In recent years, there’s been a greater push for the U.S. to adopt German-style vocational training programs. For example, the Obama administration proposed in Feburary a $200 million investment in skills-based training and apprenticeship programs. However, the difficulty of implementing a system such as Germany’s — combined with the increasing importance of having a four-year college degree in order to secure employment after graduation — has left the future of vocational training in the U.S. uncertain.

This article was originally published on the attn.com website.

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