How VET throughout Germany is to be changed from Ulm

The Ulm Chamber of Crafts and Trades impressed the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with an exceptional training concept – and it was accepted. As a result,  funding worth millions is on its way to Ulm.

As explained in an announcement, funding is now being provided for "innovative excellence training in the craft trades" made in Ulm.

As part of the innovation competition "Shaping the future", the Ministry of Education has been searching for "Innovations for excellence in vocational education and training".

The project is now being funded as one of two projects in Baden-Württemberg, and 17 across Germany. Working together with other partners (School of Advanced Professional Studies, Ulm University of Applied Sciences, Biberach University of Applied Sciences, and the Heinz Piest Institute for Craft Trades Technology), the Ulm Chamber of Crafts and Trades developed a concept for "new and innovative vocational education and training" and has applied for funding of around €4.5 million for development, testing and implementation over the four-year period.

Developing the German education and training system from Ulm

"We now have the opportunity to develop the German vocational education and training system from here in Ulm. This is a real honour for us. The line between vocational and academic education and training will be blurred and we shall seek out the best of both," explains Tobias Mehlich, General Manager of the Ulm Chamber of Crafts and Trades.

At the heart of this development and testing over the next four years will be the Ulm Chamber of Crafts and Trades' Continuing Education and Training Centre for Innovative Energy Technologies (WBZU) based in Eselsberg. "With the Ulm Chamber of Crafts and Trades' WBZU, the vocational education and training star is now shining even brighter on the university campus between the Helmholtz Institute and the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research (ZSW). This national funding enables us to achieve a great deal for the region," explains Ronja Kemmer, CDU member of the German parliament, from Ulm. She is a member of the German Parliament’s committee for Education, Research and Technology Assessment. She personally invited the Federal Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek, to visit the WBZU herself to find out more in July 2019.

Crossing traditional occupational boundaries

The objectives set by the concept is to create attractive vocational education and training pathways for young people alongside academic qualifications. The purpose of this is to strengthen the equivalence of vocational and academic education and training. The concept includes the areas of digitalisation, the energy revolution, Economy 4.0, and VET 4.0. It includes, for example, the smart home concept and virtual learning.

"Funding will enable our craft trade occupations to be strengthened at the higher qualification levels such as master craftsperson, and will also allow traditional occupational boundaries to be crossed. We are establishing new and modern qualification and training profiles which also meet the increasing needs of our clients," explains Tobias Mehlich. He adds that this is because the digital and technological transformation also extends to training and continuing education in the craft trades.

We need to prepare skilled workers for tomorrow. At the same time, he continues, because the increased opportunities for continuing education and training will increase the attractiveness of the vocational career path, this will also ensure the next generation of skilled workers. For example, somebody with the higher education entrance qualification is able to complete training over two and a half years as an electronics technician for energy and building technology, and learn specific practical content as preparation for the "Bachelor Professional" qualification. During the 18-month Bachelor Professional course, the student receives further training in the area of intelligent building technology and system networks as well as preparation for the master craftsman certificate in electrical engineering. After two years they are then able to progress onto the Master Professional qualification.

The university representatives Prof. Dr.-Ing. Hermann Schumacher, Head of the School of Advanced Professional Studies (SAPS) at Ulm University and the Ulm University of Applied Sciences (THU), Prof. Dr. Reinhold from Schwerin, Vice Dean of Information Technology at the THU and Deputy Head of SAPS, and Prof. Dr. Martin Becker, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Transfer at the Biberach University of Applied Sciences are agreed: "We regard the integration of craft trade vocational and academic education and training as both a huge opportunity and challenge. In the future, digitalisation and data competency will also be increasingly required in the craft trades and for this we need well-trained skilled workers. We are contributing to the subject areas with our expertise in academic training and continuing education, and by developing future-proof and transferable educational concepts we are facilitating new teaching and learning opportunities to support continuing education and training in the craft trades."

Praise from the city of Ulm and the district

Gunter Czisch, Mayor of the City of Ulm, and Heiner Scheffold, District Administrator for the Alb-Donau district, both cooperation partners with vocational schools, emphasised the following: "We are changing tomorrow’s vocational education and training from here in Ulm. The regional craft trade companies need trained skilled workers who think in an interconnected manner to ensure needs continue to be met in our region. Young people expect career opportunities if they are going to take up a craft trade occupation. The concept combines competencies in such a way that they provide tomorrow’s skilled workers in the craft trades with the best opportunities for the future."

Source: (website of the German newspaper "Die Schwäbische"), revised by iMOVE, January 2021