Vocational education and training must continue beyond this crisis period

In May 2020, the heads of the partner organisations in the Alliance for Initial and Continuing Education and Training analysed the current situation on the training market and, as part of a joint declaration, agreed measures for supporting both trainees and companies in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Holger Schwannecke, General Secretary of the German Central Association of Skilled Trades (ZDH), explains: "Even in this difficult crisis, the craft trades are seeking to ensure the supply of skilled workers by means of in-house training. With a view to the 20/21 training year and in light of the huge uncertainty among companies and potential trainees, action now needs to be taken to avoid upheaval on the training market due to the coronavirus crisis. In fact, according to a survey of craft trades companies in April, 42 per cent of companies questioned intend to continue their training commitment at the same or higher level. However, 25 per cent of companies questioned also say that they want to offer fewer training positions in the autumn. 

In order to minimise the uncertainty among training companies and facilitate a decision in favour of company-based training provision, the meeting of the Alliance for Initial and Continuing Education and Training has provided positive impetus. It is to be hoped that the measures agreed can contribute towards securing the training commitment of companies and craft trade companies. 

Matching in the training market will very soon need to become our focus. The Alliance partners are therefore calling for delayed career guidance activities to be completed in schools as soon as possible in coordination with local partners and with the additional use of digital formats. This is because school closures and contact restrictions have meant that career guidance activities and training fairs have been cancelled. School leavers are thus missing out on crucial knowledge of what the training occupations offer. This is further complicated by the fact that contact between companies and applicants is significantly restricted and school placements have been cancelled. It is therefore key that delayed career guidance activities are completed and that it is made possible for companies to contact students in the final year of school. This should involve a mixture of attendance in small groups and virtual offers. The chambers and craft trade associations are already active in this respect with webinars, WhatsApp consultations and the digitalisation of their advice and information provision. 

The fact that companies which are giving trainees from insolvent businesses training contracts are to receive a recruitment bonus up to the end of 2020 is the right signal to give; this is very likely to have a motivating affect and provide some certainty. If the situation on the training market worsens, then a programme is planned for a fixed period which offers companies the opportunity to transfer part of their training to inter-company vocational training centres. The aim is for training to be continued in the training company as quickly as possible. 

It is good that the Alliance partners have agreed to continue to keep a close eye on the impact of the pandemic on the training market, and to continue to develop the agreed measures in line with requirements. In the view of the craft trades, the pressure on training as a whole urgently needs to be reduced so that the chain of training is not broken and that companies in future are also able to accommodate training. In this respect, the action the government is taking following the Alliance meeting should be judged positively. They are checking appropriate ways to support or relieve the pressure on those small and medium-sized training companies which have been commercially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic directly or indirectly – as a result of exceptional losses in sales – and despite the difficult situation are maintaining their training provision. This support might take the form, for example, of a training grant."

Source: zdh.de (website of the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts), revised by iMOVE, September 2020