President Donald Trump will hold meetings Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during which vocational education will be the focus according to White House guidance.
The United States, under Trump’s leadership, seeks to re-energize its manufacturing sector and will need more workers trained in industrial skills.
Germany’s vocation education system is one of the best in the world and supplies the European Union’s largest manufacturer with the skilled workers it needs to maintain industrial dominance.
Our friends in Germany know—as we should—that some students are bored by traditional studies; some don’t have the aptitude for college; some would rather work with their hands; and some are unhappy at home and just need to get away. They realize that everyone won’t benefit from college, but they can still be successful and contribute to society.
Americans often see such students as victims. Germans see these students as potential assets who might one day shine if they’re matched with the right vocation. And it has a system in place—a partnership of employers and unions with government—to do the matching and provide the necessary training.
As more American builders and manufacturers struggle to find the skilled workers they need, looking to the success of Germany’s program could lead to a blustering economy and lower unemployment.
As a result of this system, few Germans find themselves unemployable. The youth unemployment rate, for example, was just 7.7 percent in February, well below that of the U.S. (16.2 percent officially, excluding those who have dropped out of the labor market) and the euro zone as a whole (23.9 percent). Overall unemployment in Germany was just 5.4 percent in February.
‘Dirty Jobs’ host Mike Rowe has led a multi-year effort to “make work cool again,” a project that seeks to reverse the U.S. educational system’s decades of “skill-shaming.”
The public education system centers on the skills that helped make the careers of those that run the schools – teachers, bureaucrats and administrators. Classes like industrial arts/shop/construction skills, are rarely offered and certainly not pushed by counselors with the same vigor as STEM-aligned coursework.
Not every student is meant to pursue a Rhodes Scholarship or an Ivy League invitation and it would seem that employers also need workers that are better-skilled than they are well-rounded.
Decades of “skill-shaming” may also be to blame. The cultural notion that if you don’t get a college degree, you’ll just be some poor, blue-collar bumpkin has been prevalent for the last 50 years.