Interview on the world championships of vocational skills

"Vocational education and training are an incredible springboard"

Hubert Romer is director of WorldSkills Germany. In this role he heads up the German delegation at the world championships of vocational skills. In the interview he talks about the competition, the importance of vocational education and training, and career opportunities.

Hubert Romer is director of WorldSkills Germany. The association promotes vocational education and training and helps to increase recognition of dual training occupations, for example via occupational competitions such as the world championships of vocational skills. They recently took place in 15 different countries. Chancellor Olaf Scholz was patron of the German national team.

Mr Romer, for the first time this year the world championships of vocational skills is taking place in 15 different countries. What are Germany's chances?

Hubert Romer: Following the cancellation of WorldSkills in Shanghai, it was important for us to be able to offer a suitable high-quality replacement. This was only going to succeed if the participating nations worked together globally and used the available resources. The German team underwent very intensive preparations for the competitions as it does for the national WorldSkills championships.

The standard of the German team is high. All are extremely motivated. In recent years the world has come ever closer together, however this means that medal winners are ultimately decided by slight differences only and by just a few points. What distinguishes all participants – we refer to them as competitors – is that they have already demonstrated in their nations that they are among the best in the world. They are committed, enthusiastic, full of energy and open to other people and cultures. They are great ambassadors for their nations and for their occupations.

So, in your view, how is vocational education and training doing in Germany, and particularly when compared internationally?

Romer: Thanks to the country's high vocational education and training standards, Germany can take pride in its high basic level. This means competitors come with important and excellent basics which others still have to learn. However, finishing in the top positions always requires intensive additional training. In this respect, the German vocational education and training (VET) system could adopt ideas from the international structure. The very best are also groups of people with particular needs. We should be supporting these.

Many sectors in Germany are impacted heavily by the shortage of skilled workers. What can we do to address this? How can we meet the need for well-trained skilled workers in our country?

Romer: Most important of all is that teachers, parents and pupils are given an understanding of the exceptional variety and opportunities in vocational education and training. Over recent years, much positive work has been done by the Federal Ministry of Education and by decision-makers. Vocational education and training can be an incredible springboard into a professional career. Few people realise this. Careers guidance urgently needs to be brought together and stepped up. It is obviously also important that qualified work is well remunerated. Ultimately, events such as the occupational competitions can really shine a light on VET.

What’s the situation with the digitalisation of training occupations? Has the coronavirus pandemic sped things along at all?

Romer: The picture emerging here is one of stark contrasts, both regionally and depending on the occupational profile. Basically, lots of occupations embarked on their digital journey many years ago and have already achieved a great deal. There are also vocational schools which have come a long way. However, this is not the case across the board. The coronavirus pandemic has certainly accelerated some processes. Everybody wants to be actively working on this issue. What's important is that our complex structures in Germany also facilitate this.

Many young people tend to opt for a degree after school. How can dual training become more attractive – key word "equivalence"?

Romer: As already mentioned, we have to run communication and information campaigns with an even greater intensity in order to spread awareness of the innovations. The foundations we have in place are fantastic. Recognition, the equivalence between VET and a degree, as well as the permeability of education chains represent a great opportunity. We are communicating this. Digitalisation requires further enhancement of training and therefore recognition of occupations. Let’s demonstrate the special features, let’s highlight the good aspects. We need to stop sending out only negative messages.

… and what are the opportunities for a career – without a degree?

Romer: These statistics show that many of our successful top managers and skilled workers have previously completed vocational education and training and then upgrading training. Those who had the benefit of training before completing a degree are successful and more focused in that degree. However, even without a degree, there are great advancement opportunities available through to self-employment. The basic rule should be start with vocational training and then an upgrading or continuing training qualification.

Source: (website of the German government), revised by iMOVE, June 2023