Gatsby staff recently undertook a study visit to Germany to explore technical education in North-Rhine Westphalia and Lower Saxony. We were joined on the visit by senior leaders from FE colleges in England and DfE officials engaged with technical education reform.
A key focus theme for the trip was employer engagement. In order to understand the ways in which employers are involved in the German technical education system, the group met with key stakeholders including government officials, labour market organisations and staff and students from several colleges.
One of the meetings which provided significant insight was a visit to Hanebutt; a roofing company located just outside of Hanover.
We were fortunate enough to be able to meet apprentices training to become roofers, and a former student who had completed a placement as part of full-time study and been employed on completion at the company’s offices. They, and the in-company trainer responsible for the pedagogical elements of their on-the-job learning, gave us an overview of the company’s training processes.
In the German ‘dual system’, apprentices typically start their training at 16-17 years old, completing apprenticeships of 2-3 years’ duration. Full-time programmes for young people are also offered for some occupations from age 16. Health and safety requirements are addressed in the classroom before commencing the practical period of the apprenticeship or placement; and students are then subject to the same policies as all employees, including receiving a one-day safety training course annually and following usual site procedures. Students are supervised by the Meister (Head Craftsperson) during their placement or apprenticeship.
Hanebutt supplies work clothes and safety gear for apprentices, and those on placement are loaned any basic equipment/safety clothing they need to supplement their own old clothing as work gear. As a reward for the completion of their probationary period, apprentices are presented with a tool belt engraved with the Hanebutt logo in recognition of their journey to professional status.
Learning is tracked through a daily activity log which all students must complete in order to be entered for their final examinations. Hanebutt offers additional theoretical preparation for exams to supplement classroom-based learning, especially for those who need further support. This is delivered by in-company trainers and Meisters to embed learning from the practical training periods.
Hanebutt reports numerous benefits from proactively supporting the development of its potential future workforce through its apprenticeship and training programmes. Classroom-based students on extended placements become productive members of the company’s team during the placement, and the company may offer employment to students on completion of their college programme. In addition, we met current apprentices who intended to apply for permanent roles on completion of their apprenticeships.