Vocational education and training

What we do

Student at a vocational training centre in Ruanda

In its partner countries, Germany supports the development of vocational education and training systems that are practically based and geared to the needs of the labour market. There is a special focus on disadvantaged groups such as women and young people, people living in poverty, indigenous peoples, religious and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, those working in the informal economy and sexual minorities. Often these groups are not able to play an equal part in social and economic development.

The wide variety of approaches and instruments are inspired by the dual system of vocational training operated in Germany, whose successful features are:

  • close cooperation between government and industry
  • learning on the job
  • social acceptance of mandatory training and examination standards
  • education and training for teachers working in vocational education
  • research into vocational education and training.

The German system of vocational education and training cannot, however, simply be replicated in our partner countries. The needs of each country must first be analysed and strategies and their implementation must build on existing structures and capacities.

Multi-level approach

In its development cooperation, Germany takes a multi-level approach to promoting the reform of vocational education and training systems. This has been successful for many years:

At the policy level, German experts assist the governments of partner countries in drawing up reform strategies and drafting the appropriate laws and regulations. Occupation profiles are revised. Qualification and examination standards are drawn up. Policy advice covers education funding models and the development of information systems for the labour market. Promoting a close dialogue between government, industry and civil society is another important aspect of cooperation.

At institutional level, Germany promotes the construction and modernisation of educational facilities and centres of technological excellence. Support is provided for cooperation between vocational training colleges, training centres and enterprises. Training institutions are also advised on the use of new media to improve learning efficiency.

One of the aims is to reach those working in the informal sector. The BMZ works closely with non-governmental actors in development cooperation in Germany and local non-governmental organisations, many of whom already have good access to the target groups.

At implementation level, Germany promotes training and skills upgrading for teaching and administrative staff. Workshops and classrooms are extended and modernised with German assistance, and teaching and learning materials are provided. Curricula and teaching and examination materials are revised to comply with the occupation profiles and quality standards outlined at policy level.

In some countries, advisory services on vocational education and training focus on one specific sector. Often the focus is on a growth sector where there is a lack of skilled workers, for example health, energy or water, or in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT). In Brazil, for example, new occupation profiles are being developed for jobs in the energy sector, and training and services are being developed for the fields of wind power, photovoltaics, solar thermal applications and energy efficiency.

Dual, practically based tertiary education

Workbench with vices in a training workshop

Tertiary education that is practically based and responsive to labour market needs is the place where vocational education and university education can come together in an innovative way. It combines academic education at a higher education institution with hands-on training in a business.

This approach can open up new opportunities for many partner countries, making young people more employable and thus improving their prospects on the labour market. It also helps to enhance the image of vocational education and training. And it makes for more intense cooperation with the private sector, whilst also supplying the highly-skilled personnel required.

The BMZ project "Increased job opportunities for Palestinian youth", for example, is supporting the establishment of a faculty for dual study programmes at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem. Three courses are currently available: in electrical engineering, business administration and information technology. Since the project began in January 2015, over 80 Palestinian partner businesses in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have signed up and have been involved in launching the new dual study programmes. In the first year, the businesses provided places for around 120 students.

Digital technology

Vocational education and training is important in enabling people to benefit from digital transformation. The BMZ is using the spread of digital technology as an opportunity to improve access to vocational education and training and also to improve the quality of that education. Information and communication technologies enable people to engage in learning anywhere and at any time. That opens up a whole range of new possibilities for especially disadvantaged groups, such as women and girls, persons with disabilities, people outside the formal education system, refugees and migrants.

Since 2015, for example, the BMZ has been engaged in Tunisia in supporting training in the IT sector as part of the Initiative for economic stabilisation and youth employment. The aim is to offer young people in Tunisia economic opportunities. So far, over 8,000 young people have received training as web developers and they have developed over 1,000 smartphone apps for the national and international market. The project is supported by Microsoft and also by companies within Tunisia. The aim is to develop the digital economy into a growth sector that will provide jobs over the long term.

Upskilling in the informal economy and for the informal economy

Trainees in Ghana

In many developing countries, young people's only chance of finding work is in the informal sector. The sector does not generally offer working conditions that could be described as decent. Training for young people opens up options for them not only within the informal sector but also in formal education and the formal economy.

In Ghana, for example, the BMZ is supporting efforts to enhance the quality of apprenticeships. Most young people in Ghana receive their training in the form of traditional on-the-job apprenticeships in informal enterprises. Under the "Ghana Skills Development Initiative", they can now access long and short-term training courses that meet national vocational education and training standards and in which their traditional training is complemented by theoretical knowledge and a general education in subjects like mathematics and English. Through these courses, the young people can gain official recognition of qualifications gained through their traditional apprenticeships.


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