The German vocational education and training system (VET) is highly acknowledged due to its combination of theory mainly taught in specialized schools and practical work embedded in the real-life working environment of a company. The main characteristic of this dual system is the cooperation between companies and publicly funded vocational schools. The OECD specifically highlights the strong practical relevance of vocational training and the associated smooth transition from school to working life as a solid foundation for those trained in the VET system [1]. Nevertheless, the attractiveness of VET decreased during recent years and the young generation tends to follow general higher education programs in Germany. This may be one of the reasons, why the number of profession-aspirants decreased in the last years [2]. Several strategies are in place to counteract this development, targeting the young generation, companies, and vocational schools. Concerning the quality of the vocational school, this depends on the teachers to an extended degree. Hence, the professionalization of future teachers is an essential and crucial factor. Teacher education for VET teachers in Germany takes place in universities. There, future teachers are trained to design differentiated, action-oriented lessons. So far, this is rarely done in an interdisciplinary manner. The aim of the study program is that the students can help their future trainees to adequately master their everyday working life and to empower trainees to lead a sustainable lifestyle and to transfer those values [3]. Current challenges for vocational education are not only the increased diversification of jobs on the labor market but also a new focus on inclusive education, sustainability, and digitalization in teacher education [4]. Students are aware of the discrepancy between the material taught in school and the issues of interest, the real-life working requirements to the apprentices in the companies [5]. This difference might lead to unrealistic expectancy from vocational trainees regarding their training professions, reduction of VET prestige, and may be one of the reasons why the drop-out rate in 2018 raised to 25% in Germany [6]. To overcome the outlined challenges, we currently have implemented and evaluate a novel approach to teacher education at Technical University Berlin. In Cooperation Laboratories (Co-Labs), the university and several companies provide an integrated learning environment during the first phase of teacher education [7]. Based on the hypothesis that Co-Labs support the acquisition of professional knowledge and skills by designing teaching-learning situations and school tasks through practical cooperation, we developed a curriculum with distinct skill progressions. In this program, students gain experience with operational requirement situations in companies, identify up-to-date occupation-specific competencies, which they later integrate into their lesson plans and receive feedback from a multi-professional team of experts. In our talk, we outline current challenges for VET from an internationally comparative perspective and show how universities can contribute to the professionalization of vocational education teachers with the Co-Lab approach.

Published in: London International Conference on Education (LICE-2020)

  • Date of Conference: 23-25 November 2020
  • DOI: 10.2053/LICE.2020.0002
  • ISBN: 978-1-913572-22-8
  • Conference Location: London, UK