Well, the first thing that is new is the fact that it exists at all. Under the German federal constitution, responsibility for education lies with the individual states (Länder) and the federal government (Bund) is cast in a largely supporting role. The new strategy is the first of its kind, jointly produced by the Bund, the Länder, employers, and labour unions.
The rationale offered for this spirit of cooperation is digitisation. One much-cited study claims that a quarter of German employees work in occupations at high risk of replacement through the new technologies, and that report is duly mentioned in the new strategy. The focus here is on workplace skills as a means of tackling the challenges of digitisation for individuals and enterprises alike, with a particular focus on small and medium sized firms and on the least skilled workers.
The strategy sets out ten ‘action goals’, and commits the partners (federal ministries for education and labour, Länder, employers, unions) to putting them into practice. These goals are:
- Supporting the transparency of continuing education possibilities and provision.
- Closing gaps in support , putting new incentives in place, adjusting existing support systems.
- Strengthening comprehensive lifelong educational advice and skills guidance, especially in SMEs.
- Strengthening the responsibility of the social partners.
- Testing and strengthening the quality and quality evaluation of continuing education provision.
- Making visible and recognising workers’ prior skills in vocational education.
- Developing continuing education provision and certification.
- Strategic development of educational institutions as skill centres for vocational continuing education.
- Strengthening continuing education staff and preparing them for digital change.
- Strengthening strategic foresight and optimising continuing education statistics.
if anyone wants more detail of these broad goals and their implementation, let me know.
Imp-lementation starts after the summer break. Responsibility for overseeing progress against these goals is being handed to a national committee of the partners, which is charged with producing a joint progress report in 2021. At the same time, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has been asked to produce a national report on continuing education in Germany.
Those who look for a broad and civic approach to lifelong learning will not find it in this strategy. Its focus is aimed entirely at change in continuing vocational education, with a view to reducing the rigidities of Germany’s skills system, and promoting greater labour flexibility flexibility in the face of tech change, and digitisation in particular. As a strategy for upskilling, though, it’s an enormously interesting development, and given Germany’s wider influence in Europe and beyond, it’s worth watching closely.