The 2012/12/28 at 07:58
Marie Luginsland, in Germany
Chambers of Commerce from Germany, Austrian and Luxembourg have found a common cause in the fight against European youth unemployment and for the improvement of professional training in Europe. In mid-November, they made a declaration in the form of a credo: “We cannot accept that young people feel that they are unlucky in Europe. This topic is the responsibility of us all, whatever our country of origin.” The three Chambers of Commerce refuse to see youth unemployment as the mere consequence of the financial crisis. In their opinion, the situation results primarily from a mismatch between the level of young graduates and the level required by businesses.
A key role for the CCIs
These Chambers of Commerce have officially declared themselves in favour of intensifying European cooperation in professional training for young people. The “Luxembourg declaration” calling member countries to adapt their professional training to the needs of businesses, was presented in mid-December to Berlin during a congress gathering the managers of the AHK (German Chambers of Commerce Abroad), the President of the DIHK (federation of German CCIs), as well as Ministers of Education from southern European countries, Slovakia and Latvia. These are countries hard hit by youth unemployment, also linked by the fact that professional teaching is entirely provided in school establishments and taken charge of by the State. Hans Heinrich Driftmann, President of the DIHK, attributes the quasi-full employment rates of young people in Germany, Austria and Luxembourg, to “the success of professional training in work-study programmes but also the important and institutionalised role played by the CCIs and businesses in professional training”. According to Hans Heinrich Driftmann, the Berlin congress highlighted an interest of participating countries, but also that of Europe and other member countries, in the work-study training model.
A memorandum was signed by the German Minister for Education and six other European ministers, envisaging the joint setting-up of work-study training structures in Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Slovakia as well as Latvia. In addition, this memorandum foresees the creation and development of participative authorities in which social and economic partners, including Chambers of Commerce and Industry, will play a role. “German CCIs like Austrian and Luxembourg Chambers are ready to place their savoir-faire and experience in this domain at the disposal of other European countries,” declared Hans Heinrich Driftmann, specifying that in September this year, cooperation agreements on work-study programmes had already been settled bilaterally between German Chambers and their Spanish counterparts, followed in November by Italy. In addition, there are already cooperation arrangements between German and French structures.
Understanding the Luxembourg declaration:
1 - The CCIs from Luxembourg, Germany and Austria request that member countries of the European Union
-reduce school dropout rates and implement all necessary to prepare pupils for training
-enhance professional training on the European level so that it is a third pillar equal in value to general training and higher education. Greater permeability with university studies should be allowed.
-ensure the mobility of apprentices in Europe. The CCIs commit to supporting these efforts by creating networks that will help SMEs to organise overseas stays for their apprentices.
-integrate businesses and CCIs in the enhancement of vocational training and its quality. This supposes that the State will give up certain responsibilities that will be entrusted to the CCIs and to businesses. The positive experiences of Germany, Austria and Luxembourg demonstrate that in other European countries, businesses and Chamber bodies may also become protagonists and owners of the in-company training system. The “business, State and CCI” tripartite model has proven that it can successfully fight against youth unemployment.
2 - Work-study training
German, Luxembourg and Austrian models are based on professional training generally lasting three years, alternating between the business where the young apprentice has been hired and the vocational school where theoretical lessons are given. This system is tightly linked to the Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Businesses express their opinions on course content and above all, when exams are held, examiners from the business world stand alongside teachers to decide on whether a degree is to be awarded at the end of an apprentice’s studies. For example, in 2011, 850,000 young Germans followed work-study training programmes, and 365,000 of them were awarded diplomas by a CCI.