Vocationally-trained workers with relatively narrow skills face a harsher labor market with time as the nature of production changes. The employment advantage of German youth with vocational as compared to general education reverses over time and disappears around age 50, according to a study I conducted along with an international team. At that point, even with Germany’s continuing emphasis on dual education, vocationally-trained workers who have not adapted to changed labor market demands, begin leaving the labor market altogether. These costs are only now being recognized as Germany’s declining population has focused more attention on the growing retirement burdens.
In fact, the problematic aspects of the vocational system may be even larger than just Germany. The narrower skills and less adaptability of vocationally-trained workers in Europe have even led some macroeconomists to identify underlying training policies as an explanation for the slower growth in Europe compared to the U.S. with its more ubiquitous general education emphasis. Firms are led to choose from a smaller set of production processes that favor the existing skills of their workers.
The European Union, which generally has supported expanded vocational training, emphasizes the importance of “lifelong learning” as a way of facilitating adaptation to new labor market conditions. Indeed, job retraining does appear to be the key, but EU governments have not been successful at developing labor market retraining programs for older workers. Nor, it appears, have firms stepped up to take on this job. In German firms, workers with general training, whose academic training developed the skills to learn new things, are much more likely to get training throughout the career than those who enter with vocational training.
The U.S. simply cannot adopt wholesale the vocational training systems of Germany
For a variety of reasons, some of which are listed above, the U.S. simply cannot adopt wholesale the vocational training systems of Germany. U.S. schools used to have significant vocational education tracks, but these have now largely disappeared ― partly the result of the inability of schools to keep up with ever-changing industries. This generally uniform retreat of U.S. secondary schools from providing a vocational curriculum does not feed into the idea of expanded apprenticeships well. The lower levels of unionization ― and the significantly lower levels of certification and of labor market restrictions ― further create a very different environment for firm participation in any general training. And, the lack of strong bonds between schools and firms makes it difficult to emulate the dual aspect of the German system that emphasizes a strong parallel academic program.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Emulating Germany’s Apprenticeship System Won’t Make America Great Again | HuffPost
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