Germany, since ages, has been an undisputed leader in manufacturing of precision instruments, automobiles, heavy machines, optical instruments, chemicals, food & dairy products, to name a few. Moreover, it is one of the topmost ranked countries in the area of ‘innovation’ and ‘technology’. This is despite the fact that the country produces less than 45,000 engineers per year (contrast it with 15,00,000 engineers produced in India every year). Infact, when it comes to precision manufacturing, even the US significantly lags behind Germany. Today, I will discuss the special German education system that has made the country an undisputed champion in the field of manufacturing and technology.
In Germany, once you complete your high school, you have two options –
1. to continue your academic studies in a university,
2. to continue intensive vocational training of your choice.
As per the German federal ministry of economic affairs website, more than 66% of the students join vocational training after completing their high school. (In USA, this number is just around 6%). These vocational training institutes, known as ‘berufsschule’ impart rigorous ‘dual training’ in more than 350 courses, from bakery, plumbing, machinery, masonry, and what not !! These vocational courses are of 3.5 years duration, and more rigorous than many of the university courses.
After training in ‘berufsschule’, students have to undertake ‘apprenticeship’ in companies related to their work. For example, someone who has done a course in bakery will undertake an apprenticeship in multiple bakeries; or someone who has undertaken a dual training in optical instruments will do apprenticeship in companies that manufacture lenses or cameras. This is of another 2 year duration.
Only after 4-5 years of rigorous dual training in ‘berufsschule’, can someone start a job as an electrician, plumber, baker, mechanic or 350 other such jobs. This is how you make quality heavy instruments (ABB), or cars (BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen), Aeroplanes (Airbus), Chemicals (Bayer, Merck, BASF, Boehringer Ingelheim, Henkel), instruments (Bosch, Siemens), Optics (Zeiss, Leica), construct world class infrastructure and the list is endless !!
Unlike other countries, where those having a vocational education do not enjoy the same status/respect as someone with an academic degree, the case in Germany is pretty different. Those who have a vocational degree get better employment, are paid better, and have immense respect in the society for their ‘skills’ and ‘precision’ in whatever they do. As my personal experience with an electrician who earns more than many electrical engineers, he said, “these engineers can just think and design – when it comes to doing it practically or implementing something, they are helpless and useless.” This feeling is well echoed in the society as well.
The respect and craze for vocational courses can be imagined from the fact that more than 66% of students join vocational training courses right after their school. What it has done to the country is that apart from making it a manufacturing/technological leader, it has ensured that unemployment is among one of the lowest.
The government of India has rightly understood the importance of acquiring skills to end unemployment and become a manufacturing country (Make In India), and hence, the focus on imparting skill training under ‘Skill India’ has increased.