Sunday, July 13, 2014

Understanding the Meaning of Vocational Education in German Context

At a vocational school where students were learning and
special make-up effects.
July 13, 2014. Hamburg, Germany. By Anita Lamoureux.

What a week it has been!  There are so many additional benefits that extend beyond the primary educational purpose of our interactions with the German educational and work system.  These are the benefits that helped us grow and develop as individuals and professionals.  Our cohort was a diverse group of educators and program managers that share a passion for student learning within CTE.  We all came together and experienced a new culture, all the while exhibiting patience as we helped each other maneuver through this foreign environment.  Our acculturation did not take long!

Collectively, we agreed that the German people we had the privilege to interact with might have initially appeared curt; however, as we acclimated – we came to understand the confidence of being forthright and factual…”no beating around the bush” as we Americans would say.  We all came to appreciate this trait.  One particular waitress comes to mind from the Bremen Ibis…the initial thought I had of her was “she scares me” – her outward sternness and commitment to doing her vocation was clear.  Yes, she was committed to her job – but, she was the dearest sweetest hospitality employee I have come in contact with during our stay in Germany.  Nothing/no one would stand in the way of satisfying her customer/client!  As I mentioned my initial “fear” to other cohort members – they expressed the same reaction to her as well. Other interactions proved to be similar during our stay this week.  All the students we had the privilege to interact with were proud to share in the value system of Germany – and were confidently and clearly direct in their message.  Only once did I hear a student ask permission to “speak frankly” about his success within the educational system.  Certainly, that was unusual!

Another impression that I take with me is the idea, or concept of, “beruf.”  This German word for “vocation” is the antithesis of its American term.  “Beruf” is not just a word for job/work/position – it is so much more.  It combines a belief in the value of work for self, community and soul.  This word represents a way of life, not just a means to an end.  This is but one valuable lesson I bring back to my CTE students – life’s work is not just about the work, it is your whole person, and the benefit that comes with being positively connected to your society.

As I reflect back on this journey, I am blessed to have been invited and I am blessed to have come to know so many wonderful people in this one short week.  The beauty of social media is that we will remain connected personally, while striving to share and continue to compare our passion for student learning within the context of CTE.  To this end, I appreciate the richness of this journey and look forward sharing my experience when I return home.

Wiedersehen für jetzt deutsche Freunde! (Goodbye for now German friends!)
Anita Lamoureux is Teacher Leader/Business Department Head at Mariner High School in Cape Coral, FL.
She is also a master student in career and technical education at the University of South Florida.

More Than One Way to Win With the Apprenticeship System

Airbus booth at the recruitment fair at the Bremen
city center on July 12, 2014.
July 13, 2014 - Bremen, Germany. By Meredith Bogush.

Designed in a way that is broad enough to meet the needs of the citizens, but focused enough to provide a tailored education that is flexible with both practical and theoretical application to each student, the German educational system is preparing students for success. In visiting Germany, I have received numerous opportunities to talk with teachers, students, apprentices, school administrators, and business owners. Through those discussions and observations, I have gained a better understanding of the German view of success.

I was able to speak briefly with an 18 year old part time student who attended vocational school for 2 days out of the week and worked for a German railroad company the other three days. This student explained that he was looking forward to entering the workforce immediately. He had no intention of attending university, because he felt prepared. To this student, success was feeling confident in his option  and ability to learn both in and out of the traditional educational enviroment-- without sacrificing time, money, or effort. He did not feel a pressure to continue a theoretical education because it was "the only way" to success. Instead, he felt the need to focus on more pratical experience becuase it complemented his skill and interest and was part of his pathway to success. A second example of Germany's broad but tailored educational system was when we were able to visit the Mercedes training center. We spoke with two apprentices who were both in their second year of apprenticeship. Both males were under the "Same roof, same family, same team," motto of Mercedes and judging by their laughs and looks they gave one another, they were good friends. Even though they were in an equal position with Mercedes, the both had very different future goals. One, wanted to leave the company and continue his education through the university and later return to Mercedes; whereas the other apprentice did not want to further his education with university experience. Instead, he wanted to stay with Mercedes in hopes of advancing. Both of these apprentices were confident with their future aspiration as they both believed their choice was helpful to experiencing more success.

These are just 3 examples of students who have been exposed to both the theoretical and practical experience of their trade yet, they are choosing various ways to strengthen and guarantee their success. They did not seem swayed by a societal view of "one way to success" but instead they viewed success by making the choices they felt were necessary to achieving their future goals.

In reflecting on these interractions, I am encouraged by the various future goals each student aspires to achieve; but, even more so, I am encouraged by the assertiveness in their decisions as they showed confidence in their ability to receive a specificly focused education from a broad and flexible sytem. It is because of this flexibility that students are able to pick a future career/vocation that they feel confident, capable, and successful in.

 Bob Dylan once said, "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night, and in between does what he wants to do." I believe, that is what the German educational system has allowed its learners to do---to experience success comfortably and confidently practicing and advancing in their abilities.
Meredith Bogush is Coordinator of the  SCATTER Tutor-a-Bull ​ Program​ at the University of South Florida (USF)
in Tampa, FL. She is also a doctoral student in career and workforce education at USF.

The Value of Hands-On Learning

Meredith Bogush, Siever Dietmer (company owner),
Pekka Kämäräinen (ITB Researcher), and Ansberto
Vallejo during the visit to the Siever + Knuppel
company in Bremen.
July 13, 2014 - Bremen, Germany. By Meredith Bogush.

During my teaching career, I was frequently asked "Why are we learning this?" Sometimes my response was quick and easy, "We are learning to tell time so that you won't have to depend on your parents to tell you when your favorite TV show is." Other times, ​connection between the lesson and the application were not as easy to convince to students​ . "We are learning how to find the circumference of a circle so that... so that...." ​That could be a tough one! Without that application, that connection, that purpose, knowledge seemed to go in one ear and out the other. One of the MANY valuable experiences of being here in Germany has been the ability to see theory and practice being used to effectively educate students. This has been a unique and motivating experience.

While visiting the Technical Education Center (TBZ Mitte) in Bremen I was able to see students engaged in vocational training courses. Once class that we briefly observed had students engaged in nearly an hour lecture/training on a new electrical problem. These students met two days a week for lecture and hands on application. During the lecture/training, students were provided background information and a purpose for solving the problem. They were then asked to stimulate the exact electrical model and "make it work." Not only did the students "make it work" but they did this while not becoming distracted by nine non-German speaking USF students who were peering over their shoulder asking questions. Additionally, students were able to explain their task and how they were to solve it-- in English! Talk ​about student engagement!

I walked out of that classroom thinking, "In the USA, students would be very inclined to choose a class with such great instruction, application, and purpose." To my surprise, that was just the starting point of the application-- to be more precise, that was just two-fifths of it.  The other three-fifths (three days) of the school week, students were out in facilities as apprentices learning the trade. Thus, they were taking what they were learning in the classroom and applying it to real world/ on the job situations!

The USF CWE group and I went on to visit Siever & Knuppel Elektrotechnik, a small company where we spoke with the owner, Dieter Siever. Siever gave us a tour of the small company that is run by just 12 employees. Even though the company is small, Siever sees  ​the​ benefit in supporting apprenticeship. Siever explained that he has two apprentices that are utilized to their full potential to accomplish company responsibilities. The apprentices responsibilities can include any and all of the following: acceptance of orders, planning, and implementation.

I thought to myself, "That is a lot of faith to have in a student." This is something that Siever was (obviously) well aware of, but it does not deter him from supporting apprenticeships. He expects apprentices to make mistakes because they are not masters of the field and "no one is perfect." When Siever was asked about what qualities he looks for when choosing an apprentice, he stated, that because he places a great deal of responsibility on apprentices, he expects the level of communication to be very strong.

I couldn't help but notice Siever's reaction to our questions. He didn't seem burdened by the responsibility of training an apprentice. He seemed proud.  He did not seem overwhelmed with the training of the apprentice. He knew the 11 other staff members at Siever would help in the training and growth of the apprentice. I viewed Siever as a great contributor to the success of the German Education system; yet, it appeared as he viewed his inclusion in the apprentice system as a win-win-win for him, the apprentice, and the future of Germany. It was this collaborative effort between the schools and community that allowed students to see the true purpose to what they were learning. As a result, I found that instead of students asking the teacher, "Why are we learning this skill?" students were answering the question themselves.
Meredith Bogush is Coordinator of the  SCATTER Tutor-a-Bull ​ Program​ at the University of South Florida (USF)
in Tampa, FL. She is also a doctoral student in career and workforce education at USF.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Developing an Understanding of the German Vocational Education and Training System

Ready to disembark after a short ferry ride.
July 11, 2014 - Bremen, Germany. By Ansberto Vallejo.

I thought that the highlight of our Study Abroad experience was going to be the various school visits, learning from the apprenticeship-company owners, meeting with the director of the Bremen Chamber of Commerce, and/or sharing Germany’s win to the Final match of the 2014 World Cup. However, my “aha” moment was today, July 10, 2014 at the factory of J Mueller when I was able to connect the dots between Germany’s Dual Vocational Education Training System and how parts of this learning can be applied in Tampa, Florida with its public schools. Our journey started with a ferry boat ride across the river.

J Muller Company.
What is the J Mueller company? Historically Bremen has been a major international port of the world establishing exchanges with goods such as spices, metals and other various products. Now, the J Mueller company, located in Brake, Germany is an active port for shipping to several countries such as Brazil, Spain, Romania, and Egypt to name a few and provides several services which require a workforce that specializes in:

1. Port logistics
2. Construction mechanic
3. Industrial mechanic
4. Electronics technician
5. Automotive mechatronics engineer
6. Freight and logistics services
7. Shipping merchant
8. Specialist for system integration system development

At the company we were greeted by J Mueller’s Human Resources Manager, Mr. Bernd Kempendorf. And of course J Mueller like all of the institutions and companies that we have visited, were very hospitable and had a spread of refreshments, coffee, tea and chocolate cookies, which always put a smile on our faces.

Mr. Kempendorf shared that he had also been a young apprentice at J Mueller and is now responsible for over 400 employees and 61 apprentices, which validated the impact his experience and now professional career. Not only has J Mueller expanded the number of apprentices but has added sought gender diversity in their their workforce which has been historically dominated by males. Mr. Kempedorf was proud to present this data and attributed this success to the partnerships with the Vocational Education Training schools, establishing a strong partnership with the Bremen’s Chamber of Commerce and doing outreach such as “Future Day” which provides candidates with an orientation to the various jobs/apprentice opportunities at the J Mueller factory.

Getting an explanation of how the apprenticeship works at
the company.
After Mr. Kempdendorf, provided an overview of the J. Mueller’s apprenticeship process, we headed off to visit with the employees and understand their job roles. It was at this point that I was convinced that “this” is what’s best for students and if “this” is good for Germany’s youth, there must be way that we can integrate the apprenticeship into our education system and workforce. One of the apprentices was able to concrete my assumption after I asked him the question: what are the perceptions of your friends and family regarding your apprenticeship with this company? He quickly and proudly responded that his family feels that he has made a great choice and they feel that it is a prestigious job to work and learn at J Mueller. He is in his 3rd year of his apprenticeship and the term usually ends in 3.5 years. At the end of his apprenticeship this student has the option of being hired full time at J Mueller or now that he has acquired this experience can negotiate his salary with other companies.

Although we ended our experience at J Mueller with a relaxing three-hour trip by boat to Bremen, my mind was working and trying to grasp how we could implement such system back in the U.S. I must admit that we have the resources back home; it’s a matter of starting these conversations with gradual steps and getting key individuals involved. Stay tuned….
Ansberto Vallejo is Supervisor for Career and Postsecondary Planning in the Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, FL.
He is also a doctoral student in career and workforce education at the University of South Florida.

Appreciating German Efficiency

July 11, 2014 - Bremen, Germany. By Zachary Riffell.

Sometimes Germans are too good at their jobs.

I arrived in Germany with a single short-sleeved shirt. I do not know how I made this mistake, but I have paid for it. It is very warm, and at times I wish I had an additional short-sleeved shirt to wear. I finally broke down and went to Karstadt, a company that was established in 1881.

A young man, who spoke excellent English, quickly came to help me. It was close to closing time, but he did not show any exasperation at my needing a shirt. (Don’t worry, I left before the actual closing time.) I told him I did not know what size I needed, so he quickly pulled out a cloth tape measure and took a measurement.

He wrapped the tape around my neck and immediately told me I needed a 44. It was here that I was reminded of how many times I have bought a dress shirt back in the US and used my neck size and sleeve length to buy the shirt. The other measurements simply worked. This is something the Germans established as they began to mass produce clothing.  This is no small issue, and one I am thankful for.

We began looking for a shirt. I wanted the cheapest shirt possible. He did not care that I was looking for a cheap shirt. I saw a pattern I liked and he immediately told me that it would not work. “That is a modern fit. You need relaxed,” he told me. “I like this one. Maybe I should try it on just to see.” I was sure I could fit in the shirt.

“No,” he said. Unapologetically, the young man told me it would not work. He knew his job and he knew that the shirt would not fit. It hurt my feelings some, but it saved me a pointless trip to the dressing room.

Next I found a T-shirt I liked. “In that you need a 54,” he told me. He explained that T-shirts use a different size. “But you should probably go for a 56.” Again, he hurt my feelings, but he knew his job. If you are curious, I wear an XL in the states. Here I wear an XXL (and even that is tight). I may not feel good about that, but I cannot complain about the job this kid did in helping me.

This young man is currently an apprentice who works one day, goes to school the next day day, works  the following another day, goes to school and work the next day, and then works or has the fifth day off. He hopes to work at the store when he finishes his apprenticeship. I suspect he will be offered a contract.

I am getting tired of how well people do their jobs here. This young man was quickly able to explain to me how oversized my belly is for German shirts. The brew meisters are too skilled at turning out quality beer. The butchers are too good at assembling bratwursts. And most of all, the gelato makers are just too good (just ask Dr. Hernandez, he has had 35 scoops since we got here).  If they are going to prepare food this good, perhaps they need to add some shirt sizes for people like me.
Zachary Riffell is Project Manager of Advanced Career at the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta, GA.
He is also a doctoral student in career and workforce education at the University of South Florida.

The Flexibility of the German Dual System of Vocational Education and Training

At a Technical Education School in Bremen.
July 10, 2014 - Bremen, Germany. By Zachary Riffell.

The German dual-track system is full of mystery for Americans. We take our time when Googling information, but apparently not all information on the internet is reliable. Some in America view the system as oppressive, a rigid system that provides little to no flexibility to meet the needs of the individual. The perception is that the system is built solely on the needs of the state and the people are mere cogs in the machine. Part of this belief is true, but the question is to determine if it is possible to meet the needs of society without sacrificing the individual.

Throughout the week, my understanding of the German system has vacillated significantly. The system seems incredibly structured and carries students into their early twenties, yet there is permeability in the system (one that confuses Americans with their linear view of education) that allows for significant choice. The visits at the schools and conversations with students had convinced me that little was etched in stone, that students were free to jump from school to school within the system.

At the Bremen Chamber of Commerce.
For example, our trip to the Bremen Chamber of Commerce on July 9 had some shocking implications. In the middle of the conversation, Karlheinz Heidemeyer explicitly said that the system is built on “training based on the practical requirements of the companies.” While this was likely an implicit understanding all along, the outright statement was somewhat shocking. Does this mean that the needs or desires of the individual workers simply do not matter?

The answer to the question above is a resounding NO. We have met many people with varied backgrounds in our studies here. One professor went through the apprenticeship program. One teacher began as a lawyer. One HR manager started as a mechanic. The flexibility is there (but please don’t ask me to explain it in its entirety).

The important issue is that students find training. They learn how to do something. This is not insignificant. This initial level of success introduces them to work and convinces them of their ability to operate within society. Many likely continue along the line of their initial training. Others discover a new avenue for further exploration. Somehow it works.

Of course, it may seem obvious that there is flexibility within the system. In the German vocational system, there are 331 vocations. Surely this is not enough to catalog the extent of work that must be done in such an advanced society. Some flexibility must be inherent.

A training supervisor and an apprentice sharing how the
apprenticeship system works at the J Muller company.
J Müller, a logistics company in Brake and Bremen, addresses this for their own needs. The company currently trains 61 apprentices. This training is governed by the federal state which outlines the standards for training. At J Müller, apprentices receive this mandated instruction, but they also receive additional training. “We want employees with some flexibility,” Bernd Kempendorf told us. (This is a powerful message for people who complain about standards in the United States. Standards for instruction can and should be viewed as minimums, not maximums for instruction.) In fact, the company now offers an incentive program for those hired on after their apprenticeships that allows them to pursue university training.

There is still much for me to learn about the German system, but the concept that the needs of the businesses must come first is not something I feel I need help in understanding. The people of Germany are taught how to function. They are given opportunities to succeed. They are not locked into a career they pick as a teenager, as so many fear. The system works because society’s needs are met, because businesses’ needs are met. Individuals can meet their needs because of the success of the businesses and the vocational education and training system.
Zachary Riffell is Project Manager of Advanced Career at the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta, GA.
He is also a doctoral student in career and workforce education at the University of South Florida.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Understanding Work Processes and the German Apprenticeship System

July 10, 2014 - Bremen, Germany. By Todd Van Auken.

On Monday, July 7th, the group visited the University of Bremen’s Institute of Technology and Education (ITB).  One of the hosts, Dr. Falk Howe, gave a presentation titled "Task-oriented learning: the bridge between school and the workplace".  As with most occupations, there are many work processes in which trainees must develop competencies.  Dr. Howe described a learning model that clusters similar work processes into a single “sphere of activity”.  This makes learning outcomes more manageable by taking high numbers of separate work processes and placing them within nine to fifteen spheres.  While working to gain competence in a sphere, the apprentice must perform the proper tasks in four successive phases.

The first phase, acceptance, involves the beginning of a task or project and utilizes a variety of skills including communication and technical.  An example could be answering a call from a prospective customer who would like a security system installed in her home.  The apprentice should have an understanding of the system features as well as cost and time estimates. Once the customer agrees to the conditions, the apprentice must then begin the planning phase.  This would involve drawing plans, making calculations and gathering the proper tools and equipment for the job. Next, the apprentice performs the tasks related to the installation from start to finish.  This phase is referred to as implementation.  Precision and quality would be important as the reputations of the company and the apprentice would be at stake.

Finally, during the completion phase, the apprentice and the customer review the finished product to ensure satisfactory installation.  The apprentice would also handle the payment and bookkeeping aspect of the job.  This beginning to end work process training helps the apprentice understand not just one task of a project, but rather the project in its entirety.

Of course there is much more to this model including the measurement of methodological, social, and technical competences and the development of curricular frameworks for particular occupations, but the four phases serve as the core of the model.

Mr. Siever, Owner of Siever + Knuppel Elektrotechnik
On Wednesday, July 9th, the crew visited a local electronics manufacturing company named Siever and Knuppel Elektrotechnik.  The business is small with only fifteen employees, but develops various prototypes for local and foreign entities including the military.  The owner, Dieter Siever, met with us to explain how his company utilizes apprentices with a focus on electronics and electrical engineering.  When asked how he trains an apprentice, he described the similar phases incorporated in Dr. Howe’s model.  His apprentice must also perform the various tasks of a project from start to finish.  This was a great demonstration of theory becoming practice.                

Todd Van Auken is Clinical Coordinator of the St. Petersburg College's Radiography Program in St. Petersburg, FL.
He is also a doctoral student in career and workforce education at the University of South Florida.
July 9, 2014 - Bremen, Germany. By Zachary Riffell.

Education is linear. At least, in the United States it is linear. At least in the United States education is linear. Understanding the German education system, including the dual track system especially, is complicated by this American understanding as Germans do not see education as a strictly linear process.

There are different levels of education in Germany to be sure, just as there are different levels in the United States. Perhaps the difference really lies in the American progression that assumes both a starting point and an ending point while the German system simply has a starting point. Individuals will eventually stop formal education at some point in Germany, but it is not an arbitrary point when the student reaches 18 years of age or grade 12 or a college degree.

When we participated in our first lecture with Prof. Dr. Michael Gessler, we reviewed the myriad components of the system. Dr. Gessler prepared a diagram that attempted to elucidate the complexities of the system here as best he could on a simple piece of paper. We saw many names and the places where programs overlap. We asked questions for clarification and felt we understood the ins and outs of the system that has evolved over hundreds of years. We were a bit naïve.

To be fair, we did not know the questions to ask because we did not know we did not understand the diagram. We were still trying to understand the system, and the society that spawned it, by drawing analogs between it and the American system. Few such analogs exist. I was unaware of this truth, and I flipped the paper over and attempted to create such a chart for American schools and found that it was quite easy.  My diagram was a straight line where some names of program overlapped. Termination points varied, but the path was mostly the same. If a student diverges from the initial path, they are now on a new path with a new termination point.

Dr. H.J. Strauch, Headmaster of the Wilhelm-Wagenfeld
Schule, and other school staff with the CWE group.
The German system does have a University where the purpose mirrors that of the Universities in the United States. Admission to the program requires participation in Gymnasium where students participate in traditional classroom instruction built around liberal education. These students do not participate in the dual track component of the German education system. This much we understood as we visited Wilhelm Wagenfeld Schule on Tuesday.

At the school we had the opportunity to sit with a group of Gymnasium students in their English class. These students were very articulate, bright students participating in the college-preparatory track of the German system. I asked two of them what they were going to do next. It was not a specific question, but after hearing their answers (and being surprised by them), I realized that I had a specific answer in mind. I expected to hear, “I am going to college to major in XXXXXX.” Instead, the young man told me he was going to go to Berufsschule in order to obtain an (and here he had to look up the word) apprenticeship.

He pointed to the nice diagram I had with me to make sure I understood where he was going next. With little to no tact, I blurted, “But isn’t that going backward?” You see, Gymnasium sits beneath University on the diagram I had in hand. Berfufsschule sits to the left of Gymnasium. Even if such a step were not backward, it was at the very least lateral.

Dual system students explaining their projects.
“No,” he replied, though the look on his face showed how confused he was with my question. “I am going here to get an apprenticeship and learn a trade.” This notion that all work is valuable and worth training is the very reason I am so fond of the dual-track system. I wanted him to know this, so I immediately said, “That’s great. Then you can go work.” Again, his face showed his confusion over my conclusions. “No, then I will go to University.” “Oh, Universitär?” I asked, pleased I knew a word (though my pronunciation made him wrinkle his face again).

Universitär, as I could see on the handy diagram, is the University of Applied Sciences (I will need to double-check this during the round-table discussion). It only made sense that he would use his apprenticeship to then pursue further studies in applied sciences. Right? “No,” he replied again.

At this point I just nodded my head and confessed I just didn’t get it. The problem is that I was looking at it from the standpoint of an American. In the United States, the certificate you receive matters. You keep pressing forward in hopes of “improving” the letters behind your name. In Germany, this kid (I use the term loosely here as he seemed to get much more about education than I do) wanted to learn how to do something. Where he learned it or what his certificate ultimately proved to be was not important. Learning a trade was not beneath him. He had intentions of going to University, but only once he had earned a trade and going to University would help him.

Growing up, I always just knew that you go to college. High school graduation was not enough. I did what was expected of me. In college I just took classes. With 6 semesters down, I went to a guidance counselor to ask what I was closest to graduating in. She told me English, so I graduated 2 semesters later with a degree in English. After graduation I built cabinets and waited tables because I didn’t know how to do anything else (and even at these I was pretty bad). Something tells me this kid, and many thousands more like him, will not have such a problem.
Zachary Riffell is Project Manager of Advanced Career at the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta, GA.
He is also a doctoral student in career and workforce education at the University of South Florida.

Welcome Get-Together in Oyten, Germany

The Hinrichs, Ivonne, Peter, and Anja, with Victor Hernandez.
Go Bulls!
Monday, July 7, 2014 - Bremen, Germany. To welcome the group, Anja Hinrichs and his family, Peter and Ivonne, hosted a grill out in the evening at their family home in Oyten. Oyten is a short car ride from Bremen and is located in the municipality of Verden, in Lower Saxony. Oyten is a small community surrounded by wheat crops and provided a picturesque stage for the welcome get-together at the Hinrichs' family home. Peter and Ivonne Hinrichs' home is open and warm, with a pool in the back next to a nicely landscaped yard backing out to a wheat field.

Anja is a doctoral student and assistant research at ITB in the Department of Learning, Teaching and Organization. Anja and her family were the most charming and friendly hosts and the group was treated to a sampling of beers to go with bratwursts and salad. The group had a wonderful time and was very appreciative of the opportunity to experience the warm hospitality of the Hinrichs' family.

Here are other pictures of the get-together:

Decoding the Germany System of Workforce Education

Dr. Michael Gessler, ITB Director
July 7, 2014 - Bremen, Germany. The CWE crew got introduced to the German workforce education system as part of the program supported by staff of the Institute of Technology and Education (ITB acronym in German) at the University of Bremen. Dr. Michael Gessler, Director of the ITB, welcome the group and got the program started with an overview of the German vocational and training system with an emphasis on the origins of the current architecture. In his introduction, Dr. Gessler provided some comparative indicators of economic development and the connection to vocational education and training. He then talked about the historical roots of the workforce education system to provide context for the current model. He closed with a description of the model in place today including the nuances involved by complex partnerships including federal, state, industry, and worker union parties.

Drs. Falk Howe and Michael Gessler.
The group took a break for lunch at a University cafe where we socialized with ITB staff and graduate students, and continued our conversation about the vocational system in Germany. In the afternoon, Dr. Falk Howe provided an overview of his work on about developing profiles of work process and producing multi-media learning materials for use in vocational education and training. His presentation triggered a lively discussion connecting the use of technology, the development of pedagogical tools, and issues around the identification of work processes. Dr. Howe is Director of the Department of Work-Oriented Educational Processes at the ITB.

Dr. Ludger Deitmer.
The first day of the program at the University of Bremen's ITB concluded with a presentation on strategies for supporting transfer of learning in companies conducted by Dr. Ludger Deitmer, Senior Research Fellow at ITB, and Deputy Director of the Department of International VET Research, Innovation and Industrial Culture. Dr. Deitmer described some examples of good practice on what constitutes a high-performance work organization, strategies to promote skilled workers, the management of training, and factors associated with the quality of training. In his concluding remarks he emphasized the cooperation of schools and companies as one of the keys to the success of the dual system of vocational education and training in Germany.

The first day of the program set the background context for understanding the basic architecture of the vocational education and training system in Germany including different options, its organization, and implementation issues.

See other pictures of the day below.

At the ITB

At Cafe Unique

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sonntag in Bremen

With the CWE crew at the Ratskeller.
July 6, 2014 - Bremen, Germany. By Todd Van Auken.

Sunday which translates to “Sonntag” in German was a marvelous day for exploring, adventure and leisure in the City Municipality of Bremen.

After recovering from the jet lag and excessive quantities of bratwurst and rich Gelato once arriving in Hamburg, our bodies were ready for the sights and sounds of Bremen’s historic quarter.  Just minutes by foot from the hotel, we were surrounded by centuries old architecture, statues and famous landmarks.

A wine barrel at the Ratskeller.
St. Peter’s Cathedral, which is over 1200 years old, is an impressive feat of early Gothic architecture.  The Town Hall or “Rathaus”, built in the early 1400’s, sits across from the cathedral.  Beneath the Rathaus is the Ratskeller where wines were once stored and sold.  It still houses Germany’s oldest barrel of wine dating back to 1653.  Some of the cohort enjoyed fellowship and gourmet food in the Ratskeller.  Outside of the town hall is the Bremen Roland Statue which along with the Rathaus is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.  The statue has symbolized trading rights and freedom since 1404.  Also nearby is the famous bronze sculpture of the Bremen Town Musicians. Visitors touch the legs of the mule for good luck.

The area is energized with street performers and musicians who draw large crowds while displaying acts of unique and sometimes strange talents.  There are also a variety of food vendors which adds a pleasing array of smells to the quarter.  Full from the meal in the Ratskeller, mental notes were taken as to which foods would be sampled later in the week.  Another “must-visit” for the sweet tooth is the Hachez chocolatier.  Suddenly after entering the store, the aroma of fresh German chocolate forced many of us to pretend that we were not as full so we could make room for a couple of truffles.

The "secret high street"
From here the group dispersed. Some walked off their meal by visiting Bottcherstrasse, a “secret high street” filled with merchants, craft workers and art.  Others partook in shopping and then rest back at the hotel.  A few highly motivated members of our group rented bicycles and experienced even more sites as they rode throughout the city.  Sonntag in Bremen was a wonderful day to end the week.

We must now rest in preparation for Montag and the academic program at the University of Bremen.  

Honing Their Craft: The Journey of Journeymen

Anita Lamoureux and Zachary Riffell with carpenter journeymen
in Hamburg.
July 6, 2014 - Bremen, Germany. By Zachary Riffell.

Bremen is a glorious contrast in eras. The streets and the buildings are a mixture of old and new: modern rails are laid in the cobblestone streets and modern facades sit in the shadows of their ancient counterparts. Even the people seem to mimic this juxtaposition as the modern dress of most citizens brings attention to the rustic uniforms that would have those unfamiliar with craft training in the country to assume that the people wearing them are performers.

For the second time on this trip we had the pleasure of running into journeymen. The two men we met today (as with the four we met in Hamburg) were journeymen carpenters enjoying some free time in the city center. I asked if they had been working that day, assuming that was the explanation for wearing the ridiculously warm-looking uniform on a Sunday to the city center. One candidly laughed and said, “Yeah, we’re working,” as he held up a beer. The uniform is the only clothing they have for the duration of their journey.

The uniform consists of a heavy jacket, bell bottom pants, and vest worn over a white, long-sleeved shirt. Each wears a hat, but the style of the hat is at the journeyman’s discretion (as is the fabric from which the others are made). All the clothing (except, of course, for the shirt) is black. They told us masons and anyone who works with minerals or the earth wears lighter colors.
Both of the gentlemen we met today spoke English, one exceptionally well. The four we met in Hamburg spoke very few English words, making the conversation difficult. Today was exhilarating because of the particular prowess of one of the journeymen with English (he spent a year in New Zealand which helped).

The journey begins after they complete their apprentice training. To embark on the journey they must leave their home and not return for 3 years and 1 day. They receive no financial support from their families in the process. Both were quick to praise the educational system that allowed them to work and train while attending school to learn academic skills that would benefit them, such as English. Neither one bemoaned the need to participate in traditional schooling while they were apprentices. This is an important truth for those in the States who would argue that students who want to pursue skilled craftwork as a profession must not want any traditional school.

Sadly, as with trades in the United States, not everyone respects the work they do or even the journey they are on.  They told me the reception they receive from people is mixed, though they were quick to say their families were very supportive of what they were doing.

I was so enamored of the meeting that I forgot to ask them about the blue stripes on their shirts. Most of the group in Hamburg had been wearing them, but they did not know the words to describe them. I think it has something to do with guild membership, but I will have to do my best to run into some more of them this week to confirm that suspicion.

Shortly after walking away from the carpenters I saw a journeywoman! She was wearing a grey, checkered jacket and vest over black pants. Using the knowledge I had just learned from the carpenters, I asked her if she were a mason (lighter colors work with minerals). She informed me that the lighter jacket and vest over the black pants meant food work (masons would be lighter over lighter). Her specific colors represented pastry chef.

It is great to encounter so many individuals on their way to earning master craftsperson status, especially on the eve of our studies at Universität Bremen. Perhaps we can learn just how their system creates students who want to learn a craft while also learning needed academics.  With any luck, there is a way to move beyond the artificial choice of skills or education.

Arriving and Exploring Bremen

Departing from Hamburg to Bremen.
July 6, 2014 - Bremen, Germany. The CWE crew departed from Hamburg on Saturday, July 5th. The group took a train to Bremen, and arrived in the afternoon with time to explore the city center for a bit. The city center is located a short walk away from the hotel and in the evening there were street performers and vendors providing food and entertainment for all. The town was buzzing with activity and the group had a quick introduction to Bremen.

Bremen is a Hanseatic city in northwestern Germany. A commercial and industrial city with a major port on the River Weser, called Bremerhaven. Bremen is the second most populous city in Northern Germany and tenth in Germany.

At the Ratskeller: Mable Baker,
Shetay Ashford, Anita Lamoureux,
Todd Van Auken, Meredith Bogush,
and Zach Riffell.
On Sunday, some in the group gathered for lunch at the Ratskeller (Wine Cellar). The Ratskeller is a restaurant located under the vaulted ceiling of the Bremen City Hall, which is recognize as a UNESCO World Heritage monument. The restaurant has booths called Priölken and may only be closed if more than two people are seated. The restaurant is named after its original function as a wine cellar. According to city of Bremen sources, the oldest German wine is stored in barrels at the Ratskeller.

Meredith Bogush, who arrived the day before, joined the group for lunch. Ansberto was on a mission to rent a bike, while Angelica was out and about on her own.  After lunch at the Ratskeller, Meredith received a very personable welcome by a marching band making the rounds in the city center. Watch the video clip below.

Zach and Mabel chocolate sampling.
The next stop was at the Hachez chocolate store across the street. The Hachez company, in business since 1890, produces a range of chocolate products notable for its unusual flavoring combinations. According to the company, Hachez is one of the very few chocolate makers who still maintain the traditional ways of making prime chocolates. Today, the Bremer Hachez company remains one of the world's foremost manufacturers of premium chocolate products.

Appreciating the Value and Role of Work and Workers in Economic Development

At the Museum of Work trying a unicycle.
July 4, 2014 - Hamburg, Germany. By Zachary Riffell.

Walking into the Museum der Arbeit (Museum of Work), there is no doubt that the building is dedicated to the worker throughout the process of industrialization. Big Bertha looms over visitors and dares them to ask what the machine could possibly be. The machine is a large press that was used for pressing war medallions, and visitors can immediately imagine that operating the monstrous machine might include some of the very dangers of war. Sitting in the shadow of Big Bertha is perhaps the most intriguing specimen: a striking flask made of blue glass. It is quite beautiful, but its beauty hides the ugly truth of the process of industrialization. The flask was not a beautiful decoration; rather, the flask was carried by those with tuberculosis so that they could cough their sputum into the flask instead of onto the factory floor.

"Big Bertha" and the CWE crew.
The flask represents the factory owner’s unrelenting desire to maximize profit, the drive to maintain productivity, but it also demonstrates the undeniable value of every worker. Replacing workers is expensive because of lost production time. Every worker was essential. Two floors up from the sputum flask, there is an audio recording that says, “The wide-ranging list of human needs is matched only by the jobs needed to fulfill them.” This statement seems to echo in the small little sputum mask, an object that was not needed before the advent of factories and even gave birth to at least a few jobs charged with creating it.

This was the greatest message of the museum: every human need gives birth to a job that is indispensable until the need is met. The floor above the sputum flask makes this fact abundantly clear with a demonstration of the evolution of the printing press. The need for books drove the invention of the printing press. People were needed to maintain and operate the press, but these jobs changed as technology changed. The human need for books only grew as more people were able to read, and the process for creating books necessarily had to adjust to allow for greater production.

It is on this floor that scholars will realize the role of the daily laborer in realizing academic goals. The creation of the printing press, and the many workers who labored on them, allowed more potential scholars to place their hands on books. This floor also showcases an array of typewriters, and again the impact on academic work is clear. Producing manuscripts was incredibly fast with a typewriter. Even then, however, individuals had to be very thoughtful with their words as mistakes were difficult to cover. As I type this post on a computer and make edit after edit, I realize just how industrialized even the role of academic study has become.

There was work before the industrialization of society, and work will continue throughout the rest of the technological revolution and whatever might follow it. The nature of that work has changed. The one component that has not and will not change is the value of each individual worker in society. It is a sobering reminder to think of the scarred fingers that assembled my computer and the sore backs that loaded coal into a boiler at the power plant to provide my computer with electricity just so that I might type this blog like so many other papers. The list of human needs is vast, and we must be grateful that there are people who hear the calling to help meet them.

The Role of Bikes in German Society

July 4, 2014 - Hamburg, Germany. By Ansberto Vallejo.

Here I am trying an unicycle.
Along with the general information provided by the Museum Der Arbeit (Museum of Work), on the organization of work in the context of the manufacturing industry, the CWE crew also toured the museum’s Das Fahrrad (The Bicycle) exhibition which is on display from May 2014 to March 2015. The Bicycle is a great timing exhibition since it illustrates the importance of how this technology contributes to Germany’s work, culture and social life. The bicycle is a critical component of German’s society as many rely on it as an alternative way of transportation to and from work, which lessens automobile traffic and it provides a safer and cleaner environment with less noise for many to enjoy the beautiful scenery. The Bicycle exhibition provides an array of bikes that covers 2,000 square feet and includes bicycles that represent a span of over 200 years including one of the first German bikes (unicycles) of the company diamond Eagle (1885). This particular bicycle was owned by those who were wealthy and provided them with a high status symbol.

Butcher's bike.
The Museum of Work volunteers were very helpful and provided valuable anecdotal information pertaining to each bikes role and purpose. For example, the bicycle pictured on the right is known as the butcher’s bike since the rider would travel to different towns and villages providing for and sharpening the knives or other tools used by butchers.

Now, if we could only convince Dr. Hernandez with riding bikes when exploring Bremen, I would strongly suggest tandem bikes (see picture of one below). Although, we would need a couple of tandems, this proposal would save having to do a head count at every stop.

Whether one utilizes the bicycle for transportation, leisure, sport, or for exercise, this machine has been evolving along with its purpose/role and some societies have learned to embrace it as an integral part of their way of life such as in Bremen where the city has designated bike paths and are respected by pedestrians and automobile drivers.

See other pictures below:

Shetay Ashford trying a unicycle.
Tandem bike.
Biking about town in Bremen.

Our Day in Hamburg

A "selfie" in Hamburg.
July 4th, 2014 - Hamburg, Germany. By Angelica Cruikshank.

The train has arrived, and our cohort has settled at the Ibis Hotel in Hamburg, Germany.  After much anticipation, the group headed to the Museum of Work in Hamburg in search for a better understanding of the workforce industry in Germany, before we are headed to Bremen next week.  Some of us were familiar with the train and transportation system at Hamburg while others were experiencing riding the train for the first time to the Barmbek Station were the museum is located. Once at the museum, the group was welcome at the main lobby by the Big Bertha.

Big Bertha is the ultimate factory machine, among many other machines and artifacts at the museum, dated from the industrial period of Hamburg’s history in the late 1800’s.  All these different types of machinery, from type writers, to printing, have not only endured the test of time, but also share the history of a city rich in manpower, and economic development, making Hamburg a printing media and financial center for the people in Germany and the world.

"Big Bertha"
Throughout the museum, the theme of labor force is accompanied by the supply and demand of goods, as well as materials, such as rubber and cacao, all pillars to the different industries not only in Hamburg, but also all over the world. Undoubtedly, our curiosity moved us onto the next level, and in the second and third floor, the museum helped us learn more about the initial tradesmanships or learned professions from the beginning of the 17th century. These transformational periods in time changed the worker performance, from organizational management to work safety to production more efficient.

In this context, apprenticeship and journeyman were stages of training in the industry that inspired and revolutionized other trades and professional careers as well, as evident by the exhibit.  In the second floor of the exhibit, there were also machine calculators, and printing through cylinder seals, as well as original samples of the wardrobe wore by blue collar and white-collar workers. These snippets explained the transitions that also helped shape professions such as bookkeepers and printing shop apprentices, as well as many other roles of the German workforce in Hamburg, which have evolved into what we know them to be today.

Working on book binding.
During our tour of the second floor exhibit, we met some Master printers, in printing and media, and apprentices, who were working on book printing and textbook binding right there at the museum.
In the third floor of the exhibit, professions took a different twist. The exhibits there presented us with a timeline dating from the 1600’s. Many of the main professions, as well as the education for such, evolved through time as industry demands changed workers roles and social reform, especially after WWII. These changes in education and involvement of the manufacturing industry were based in social need for the betterment of the workers and quality of the work.
Our experience left our group with a better understanding of how this approach was centralized on the wellness of the workers, rather than the profit of the stakeholders. It truly made me positively appreciate the approach of the German system.
Work from a social perspective.

For the last floor, our group was introduced to one of the systems of transport most used by people here in Hamburg and in Europe, the bicycle. This floor is completely dedicated to the evolution of bicycles as an invention and what has become later on, as a medium for transportation aside form the train and bus systems. After this experience, the term workforce has developed a new meaning, no longer is just earning a living.  After this visit to the museum, I have experienced with my own eyes artifacts that were invented 200 years ago, like the printer.

Now days we have our iPads, and Kindles to share the news, or our favorite magazine article.  The magic of invention could be felt during our visit, and each artifact represented a piece of progress through the hard work of many Germans, and maybe as American educators we can learn something about them. I know during the trip I was not the only one having a great time learning about history of Germany’s workforce, and of course about bikes.

See other pictures from my visit:

The workplace.
Pinting technology.
Workplace accommodations.
Trying out a bike.