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Public-Private Partnerships in VET: Translating the German Model of Dual Education

Around the world, governments, educators and businesses have expressed growing interest in German-style methods of vocational education (VET). In such countries, schools and firms share responsibility for providing technical and vocational education through apprenticeship training, a system often called “dual education.” Dual education’s appeal is two-fold. As an integral component of economic development, it serves to maintain a highly-skilled labor force meeting the needs of a technologically sophisticated industrial economy. As a mechanism for social integration, it has also proven to be an effective way to integrate young people into the workforce, keeping youth unemployment low. Dual education ensures a close fit between the demands of a dynamically changing economy and the skill profiles of those graduating from educational institutions. Little wonder that many countries have turned with renewed interest to the dual education system. However, actual implementation of the dual education outside the core Germanic countries in Europe has proven to be extremely challenging. While a number of national governments have devised grand planning documents calling for “upgrading VET,” “firm-school cooperation,” “practice-oriented vocational education” and “dualization,” successful examples of institutional transfer are rare, at least at the national level. However, in some countries, local partnerships embracing elements of dual education have formed. This paper discusses some of the characteristic patterns of such partnerships and the pathways leading to their formation. The paper focuses particularly on the US case.