Event Reports

VI. Dikli Forum on Social Market Economy

Dual Vocational Education and Training

The Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the German-Baltic Chamber of Commerce (AHK) jointly organized the VI. Dikli Forum on Social Market Economy for economic, political and education experts on May 27th-28th, 2014.

The Latvian way of addressing and tackling the challenges of the severe financial and economic crisis of 2008 and 2009 has often been perceived as a success story. However migration, high youth unemployment and the absence of future perspectives keep challenging decision makers in Latvia and abroad. Hence the German dual vocational education system presently attracts more and more attention in Latvia as well as in many other parts of the world. Dual vocational education embodies parallel and combined training in companies and vocational schools. The system is seen as a guaranty for high quality vocational education and a low rate of youth unemployment. The knowledge acquired in vocational schools can be immediately applied in the companies which thus receive well-qualified young workers.

In July 2013, the governments of Latvia and Germany signed an agreement on assistance and advice to introduce the dual vocational education system. The intention is to adapt elements of the German dual vocational system to the Latvian conditions and thus to introduce suitable parts of it. The project receives great support of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany to Latvia and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Latvia. Both institutions were highly represented at Dikli Forum. The personal interest and commitment of the German Ambassador, Andrea Wiktorin, for fighting youth unemployment and to give youngsters professional development prospects became explicit.

This year’s Dikli Forum was honored by Ina Druviete, the Minister of Education and Science of the Republic of Latvia, who expressed her strong support for a close cooperation between Latvia and Germany in the field of vocational education and training (VET) during her dinner speech.

At the VI. Dikli Forum 40 entrepreneurs and representatives of education and state institutions, associations, trade unions and chambers got together. The forum informed about the vocational education system, demonstrated its possibilities and limits, and analyzed its advantages and preconditions. All participants actively discussed important social and political aspects of dual VET to develop implementation strategies for Latvia. Practical experiences from Germany were imparted by German MP Kees de Vries. On his agricultural company more than 30 youngsters were trained. The following results of the workshops represent the consensus of the participants:

Dual vocational education and training needs a rethinking in society

VET needs a new and fresh image, especially among young people. Attractive, modern and well-structured training programs with high quality standards, individually applicable to respective companies and trainees, stimulate interest. Young people need good career and training guidance, thus information on VET should start during early school years or even at kindergarten. Best practice examples of apprentices can demonstrate the possibilities of starting a professional career with VET. Due to life-long learning and modern technologies, VET is not leading only to blue-collared work as well as dead end roads, however it creates opportunities not only for school-leavers. An apprenticeship is the starting point for attractive professions combining theory and practice at an early stage of learning.

The strategies and achievements in VET have to be supported, implemented and optimized in joint efforts of all stakeholders. ESF project funds have to be used efficiently; communication and cooperation between all partners is needed. Creative entrepreneurs can provide good examples and pioneer projects for the education of the next generation of skilled workforce. Politicians should be open-minded regarding questions of taxation and the reduction of bureaucracy to motivate employers to take in more apprentices.

A new large scaled marketing campaign has to be launched to communicate the possibilities and efforts for all participants in dual VET and the whole Latvian society.

Dual vocational education and training is a public private partnership

Public private partnerships provide extraordinary chances to increase the competiveness of companies and a sustainable dual VET program. Therefore the public sector should provide an appropriate and reliable legal framework for making dual VET more attractive for all parties. Vocational schools and companies should see themselves as partners, not as competitors. The practical phases within the companies should be prolonged and attuned to the needs of establishing highly qualified workforce, combined with the theoretical courses in the vocational schools.

Business associations are content carriers and should be divided into sector clusters to guaranty efficient work. Dual VET can bring incredible added value to the sustainable development of companies. But this requires long term thinking. Sectoral councils play a substantial role in realizing a joint commitment amongst all important stakeholders. A coordination of all stakeholder activities is required and should be provided by a business orientated institution – and, the institutional infrastructure needs to be manageable.

Realization of dual vocational education and training in Latvia

The companies know best what their skilled employees need to be capable of and which qualifications are required; they must have the chance to co-determinate the contents of training programs. To ensure a company-based education and, thus, labor market relevance of the contents of the training programs, a combination of longer practical training on the job is needed besides the theoretical education to be provided by the schools.

To ensure both high standards and company-based education, obligatory qualification requirements for in-company trainers are essential. This includes not only professional and technical but also pedagogical knowledge. Furthermore the appropriate level of qualification of teachers in schools is guaranteed by regular exchanges of experiences as well as internships at companies.

In order to ensure flexibility and mobility of skilled workers throughout Latvia, training programs and examinations must be comparable nationwide. This can be achieved by a professional coordination of this system and a corresponding legal framework.

An independent quality assurance throughout the training process is essential. Independent institutions, ideally financed by business, should be empowered to guide and coordinate the implementation of such structures.

To conclude: Only concerted interaction between all stakeholders could ensure a successful implementation of dual VET structures in Latvia.