Sunday, July 13, 2014

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.