German Employers’ vision for education policy

Digitisation and demographic change are what characterise society and the world of work in Germany. That is what will challenge us in the future even more than hitherto. Education is the most important strategic element to realise current and future requirements successfully, and thus to secure economic success, a prosperous society and social cohesion.

In the BDA publication “Bildung 2030 im Blick” (issued in March 2017, see www.bildung2030.de for the full version in German), German employers set out their vision for a modern and forward-looking education system ranging from pre-school and school education through to vocational, university and lifelong learning.

German employers support the following principles and orientations for education policy:
  • Our most important resource – in individual, economic or social terms – is education. That is why we need an efficient, results-oriented education system which promotes not only the acquisition of specialist knowledge but also independence, personal initiative and willingness to take on responsibility. Young people must be given effective support in their efforts to develop into mature citizens.

  • A good education policy is the most effective and most sustainable social policy. There is no better protection against unemployment and permanent integration in society than a vocational diploma or university degree.

  • Vocational training and a university education must not be set up in opposition to each other. As a home for business, Germany needs well qualified, hard-working, creative and motivated skilled workers from both areas. We need an education system structured within the framework of the social system allowing permeation between further and higher education with the focus on finding the best outcome for the individual and offering the opportunity for as many people as possible to develop their personal skills and individual talents. Degrees and diplomas must always be pathways into subsequent career choices.

  • With the increasing use of technology and connectivity, digital skills (using, understanding, operating and reflecting digital technologies) and social skills (in particular communication skills and team spirit as well as individual responsibility) are moving ever closer to the heart of working world and everyday life – no matter what the sector, job description or level in the hierarchy. All areas of education need to strengthen and further develop digital skills. These skills will in future be of central importance for employability.

  • All schools must endeavour to ensure that as many young people as possible leave with a training or academic diploma. A full general school education also includes a background in economics and STEM training including digital information and media competence. It is important to develop the offer of all-day schools significantly. Municipalities and regions urgently need to address the need to renovate and re-equip many schools. The support offered by the Federal Government in this regard must be rolled out rapidly and effectively.

  • The dual training system is a fundamental pillar underpinning the strength of the German economy. It offers young people with or without a high-school diploma a range of opportunities to develop and enhance their career prospects up to the level of company director. Trainees who show particular promise must be given access to additional qualifications, dual training courses and fast-track training courses. Young people who show less promise must be better integrated in the training market through entry qualifications or assisted training. This also applies for young people with a migration or refugee background.

  • Vocational schools are an indispensable pillar in the dual training system and an important partner for businesses. Their staffing and financing resources – inter alia to provide digital training – must have the highest priority for each region and for each individual municipality. Vocational schools must be incorporated in federal and regional investment and promotion programmes in the same way as general schools.

  • Lifelong learning must increasingly become the normal situation for everyone. Flexible and practical training offers are a precondition for this. Such offers also contribute to an ongoing updating of people’s technical and digital know-how and skills. Further training enhances the digital literacy of all employees as an element of human resources policy. Universities must in future open themselves up more to the target group of workers and those with vocational qualifications – also in the area of further training. Flexible study formats which fit in with professional activity need to be developed more actively.

Without wishing to question the competence of Germany’s regional authorities (“Länder”) for education, we as German employers are firmly convinced that, given the challenges which we will in future face as a result of demographic change and ever more rapid changes in the worlds of work and life, Germany needs an education strategy coordinated between the different levels of political decision-making (federal, regional, municipalities) – from kindergarten, school and training through to university and further education. The German federal system can only deploy its full positive strength if the necessary interests of the education system are also respected and effectively taken into account in a conscious interaction between all levels of government.

With their new position “Bildung 2030 im Blick”, German employers call on federal, regional and municipal authorities to agree and rapidly implement an education strategy with shared action plans. German employers want to make their contribution and to help shape this process actively and constructively.