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July 9, 2013

Searching for some German engineering: Indiana might look to Germany’s vocational system for help closing skills gap

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS —

Monday’s meeting between Ammon and Pence took place at the main campus of Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, and was followed by a luncheon featuring Ammon talking to a group of business, education and government leaders. 

Ammon said the dual system of vocational education in Germany has helped reduce youth unemployment by giving high school students the real world skills and education they need to find well-paying jobs while reducing the number of students with dead-end college degrees. 

Germany offers vocational training for high school students in about 350 different occupations. About 75 percent of the cost is picked up by private employers, while the rest of the expense is paid for by the federal and state governments in Germany. 

The dual education system in Germany dates back to 1969 and was developed as a way to address the nation’s skills gap, Ammon said. 

Ammon also said there has been a trend toward “over-academicization” both in the U.S. and in Europe as countries work to improve their workers’ skills. 

“The simple truth,” Ammon said, “is not everybody can become a neuroscientist, a lawyer or a financial wizard.”  

There have been efforts in the past in Indiana to improve vocational education in high school, but the legislation signed by Pence that went into effect July 1 creates a new structure for evaluating how well schools are doing. 

The regional works councils will be made up of employers and educators who will be charged with evaluating vocational opportunities for high school students in each region to see if they’re driven by local employers’ needs. The new law gives those works councils the authority to develop an alternative curriculum, which is subject to the approval of the State Board of Education.

— Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com

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