In view of the challenges posed by structural and sectoral change in technical and economic terms, the German Federal Government has worked together with the social and economic partners, the Lander and the Federal Employment Agency, in consultation with academics and practitioners, to develop a National Skills Strategy (the Strategy) focusing on continuing vocational education and training. Continuing education and training (CET) is the key to securing the supply of skilled labour and to maintaining the employability of all workers. It is also an investment in social participation and equal opportunities.
The Strategy aims to either safeguard vocational competence, in the case of top-up and refresher training, or to increase vocational competence, in the case of personal and professional development. Specifically, the Strategy partners have agreed on the following ten objectives and, to implement them, have formulated commitments relating to specific activities and initiatives:
(1) supporting the transparency of CET opportunities and programmes;
(2) closing gaps in support, creating new incentives, adapting existing support systems;
(3) ensuring joined-up lifelong CET counselling nationwide and strengthening skills development counselling, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises;
(4) strengthening the responsibility of the social partners;
(5) reviewing and enhancing the quality and quality assessment of continuing education programmes;
(6) increasing the visibility of and recognising the skills acquired by workers through vocational education and training;
(7) developing further training qualifications and continuing education and training programmes;
(8) strategically developing educational institutions into centres of excellence for continuing vocational education and training;
(9) supporting CET staff and equipping them with the skills required for the digital transformation; and
(10) strengthening strategic forecasting and optimising statistics on CET.
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Länder will, in line with their joint responsibility for the recruitment and training of future managers and professionals, revise the Upgrading Training Assistance Act (Aufstiegsfortbi-ldungsförderungsgesetz). The aim is to significantly improve the support provided and, among other measures, to establish in future an entitlement to support for each of the three levels of further training which are to be enshrined in the Vocation- al Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz) and the Crafts Code (Handwerksordnung). Federal funding for the Upgrading Training Assistance Act will be topped up by 350 million euros in this electoral term.
In response to the sweeping transformation processes taking place in the course of the digital revolution, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will work to enhance the employability of the labour force, including job-seekers and people who are unemployed. Among other steps, the Ministry will therefore examine measures such as publicly subsidised educational leave and part-time educational leave for employees, in order to provide cross-sectoral support to help meet, in particular, employees’ significantly rising demand for personal and professional development, and in some cases for retraining. One specific first step to enhance employability is an entitlement in principle to support for second chance vocational training (leading to a vocational qualification) under Books II and III of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch) for workers without a vocational qualification – in line with personal aptitudes and labour market relevance. In this context, the possibility is being examined of modifying the provision giving priority to placement in employment in Book II of the Social Code to match the provision in Book III of the Social Code. The National Skills Strategy partners have been unable to reach a consensus on more far-reaching legal entitlements.
In the past, the short-time work allowance has proved effective in dealing with major economic challenges. To ensure that the transformation being driven by digital, global and environmental factors can be dealt with successfully, flanking structural instruments – such as the further development of the short-time work allowance in conjunction with CET – are to be examined in case disruptive developments take place.
Educational leave is a legal entitlement for employees to receive paid leave from work to attend recognised CET events. The Länder are examining whether and how this legal entitlement can be bet- ter promoted and used as an instrument to boost continuing vocational education and training.
The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will, in coordination with the Federal Employment Agency, implement the coalition agreement’s commitment for the Federal Employment Agency to work with individuals to develop a plan of action within three months after they become unemployed, and for this to include an offer of support for continuing educa- tion and training, where appropriate, in order to provide a lasting boost to their employability.
The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will examine, together with the Federal Employment Agency, what steps can be taken to provide further support for successful participation in subsidised CET leading to vocational qualifications. This includes examining the possibility of extending the continuing education bonus scheme for individuals engaging in retraining who pass intermediate and final examinations, which was introduced with effect from 1 August 2016 and is due to expire at the end of 2020. The discussions on this will also draw on experiences gained in relation to the introduction of a “skills development bonus”, which is to be piloted in Bremen from 2019 onwards.
The Federation, the Länder and the Federal Employment Agency share the view that further action is needed to promote literacy and basic skills. They will work together to enhance literacy and the acquisition of basic skills, especially the ability to read and write in the German language, and IT and maths skills for adults. For low-skilled workers and low-skilled individuals who are unemployed, in particular, having basic skills is a prerequisite for successful completion of continuing vocational education and training. Further concrete steps are to be agreed in the framework of a policy development lab.
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