Historically, Germany has set the standard for career and workforce education (CWE) around the world. Its dual vocational system and its apprenticeship model have served as benchmarks for many countries. However, in recent decades the nature of work has changed dramatically due to new technologies and a more dynamic global economy. In this context, can the German system still serve as the benchmark for others? What can we learn from other nations, such as Finland, that have been also recognized for the quality of their CWE system? What are the implications for local systems?
In a Comparative Study of CWE Systems course, we address such questions and implications across the continuum of career and workforce education. The course is designed to facilitate a comparative understanding of CWE systems by examining and comparing promising developments in the United States, Germany and Finland. The course includes a two-week study abroad in Europe to facilitate core understandings through experiential discovery and discussions in the context of the host country’s education, work, economy, and societal connections. The course can be taken as part of a program of study in related areas such as Adult Education, Higher Education, Educational Leadership, or as a stand-alone course for advanced professional development purposes.

In short, the course addresses emerging developments in the world of work; new directions for workforce development at the national, state, and local level, and implications for improvements on specific educational components (e.g., CTE, adult education, higher education) in the CWE system drawing from promising practices and policies in the United States and abroad. These are issues that anyone playing a role in the CWE system, be it researchers, educators, policymakers, teachers, or employers must address, debate, and resolve in the midst of new challenges brought about by the global economy.

Specifically, the goals of the course are to facilitate the development of essential understandings on the changing nature and organization of work; identify a comparative framework for workforce development systems, and establish design implications for workforce education at the national, state, and/or local level.

A two-week study abroad in Bremen, Germany, provides the opportunity to develop first-hand knowledge and understanding of the Germany’s system for comparative purposes. The study abroad component includes:

  1. presentations and discussions to clarify the CWE system
  2. meetings with employers, policy makers, researchers, and educators
  3. tours of local workplaces
  4. exploration of the local culture

The study abroad component provides the grounds for understanding how the CWE system is shaped by education, work, economy, and societal context connections.