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We asked Katrin Fischer, CEO of Wirtschaft für ein weltoffenes Sachsen e.V. (Saxony open to the world), 3 questions on the intersection between vocational and civic education. Here are her answers:

1. What part do socio-political topics play in vocational education?

“In Germany, we differentiate between vocational education and non-vocational education in terms of both terminology and in practical implementation. Vocational education is understood as deepening and broadening the purely technical qualifications. The mostly fee-based services of the numerous traditional vocational training providers set their focus accordingly. Referring to a study by the Institute of the German Economy (IW), spending on in-company training increased by 16% between 2016 and 2019, but with an average of 18 hours per year. This is still vanishingly small compared to annual working hours. The main reason is not the lack of offers, but simply the lack of time within the thoroughly scheduled tasks in the daily working routine. As a result, socio-political topics, another essential aspect of lifelong learning, finds little or no space.”

2. How much further training on democracy and sustainability is offered to employees?

“In recent years, an increasing number of training courses on democracy and sustainability have been carried out by independent democratic education organizations. The projects, which are mainly financed by federal, state or municipal funds, are usually free of charge for companies and participants. And yet, measured against the current sociopolitical issues, the demand is far too low. In addition to the time factor, I believe two important aspects are to be mentioned here:

1) Civic education as a ‘nice to have’.

Due to the strict separation, also on the provider market, socio-political education is perceived as a ‘nice to have’ by the business community and by no means as a necessary component of lifelong learning.

2) People do not learn through training

Many HR managers still equate continuing education with seminars, studying technical literature and e-learning courses. Civic education, however, is not a lecture, but proactive discussion, the discourse of the employees among themselves, professionally moderated.”

3. Civic education at work – an added value for employers and employees?

“Absolutely. The shortage of skilled workers due to demographic developments in almost all industries has given this aspect a major boost.

First, there are classic arguments that apply to all areas of lifelong learning: People who continue their education feel valued and have a closer bond with their employer. Continuing education also motivates as employees see room for contributing with their own ideas. This leads to an uplift in performance and thus also to greater competitiveness. The range of topics is expanding: employees and, even more so, applicants start questioning the attitude and actions of companies in sociopolitical aspects such as sustainability, climate protection, fair supply chains and so on. These are all issues that a company cannot simply assert in its external communications, but must actually live by. This requires a change in thinking amongst the employees, and civic education makes an extraordinary contribution here.

The same applies to efforts regarding the diversity of many companies. The talents of the many are in demand, i.e. the expert knowledge of the older as well as the right of young people to have their say, the introduction of alternative approaches by employees from other cultural backgrounds – to name just a few aspects. This necessarily entails the involvement of new fields of learning, which can be excellently covered by civic education if it is given the time needed.”

THE CIVICS would like to thank Katrin for her time and valuable insights!

Author Sabrina Räpple

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