dual training system

Dual Vocational System



scrape apprentice characterize
plaster competent structure
scrap time off substance
mason humility cabinet (2)
bully survey (2) accomplish
gifted modesty regardless
stucco soft spot confidence
harass apply (2) to set apart
ceiling as a rule demand (2)
root (2) adopt (2) easier said than done
fun renovate find his place
tedious motivate look forward to





Master and apprentice have characterized German trade since the twelfth century.

So plaster Sebastian Rost and his apprentice, Johannes Schroeter-Behrens, are part of a long tradition.

Today, they are visiting the construction site at a Berlin opera house. Enormous pieces of plaster and stucco from the auditorium weigh up to 300 kilograms.

In a few weeks, they have to be back up on the ceiling.

An apprentice must be satisfied with doing simple tasks. In the building next door, many historical rooms are being renovated.

Scraping off old paint is tedious, so the right attitude is important.

Johannes Schroeter-Behrens, Apprentice: “I’ve always liked plaster. It’s a good substance for bringing a space to life, no matter what it’s condition.

When it looks nice again, I get a sense of freedom. You stand in the space and think, ‘Wow. Now you can look at the ceiling.’ And if there’s a really nice painting on it, that’s even better.”

Schroeter-Behrens has a soft spot for beautiful old things.

Before he became an apprentice, he was studying history and archeology and was working at his university.

Now he’s 30 and he’s started a completely new chapter in his life.

Sebastian Rost has been taking on apprentices for twenty years. He’s seen the good and less gifted come and go.

Sebastian Rost, Plasterer: “The most important lesson is to learn to listen, stand back and not think, ‘I can do it all now.’ They don’t get bullied or harassed.

But I think it’s important they definitely approach things with a certain humility.”

Training is an opportunity to learn, regardless of age.

That takes modesty. Also when it comes to pay. The average monthly pay for an apprentice is less than 800 euros, before taxes.

Sebastian Rost’s apprentices accepts that.

Schroeter-Behrens experiences what vocational education is in Germany every Friday. That’s when the somewhat older apprentice climbs into his somewhat older car and drives across Berlin.

He heads for the Knoblesdorf Vocational School in the northwest of the city. It’s the other part of the dual-training system: learning theory in the classroom.

About 2,000 trainees attend classes here.

They’re masons and surveyors, cabinet makers and mechanics. Here they learn the theoretical basics of their jobs.

Birgit Heiber is a construction engineer, and has been teaching here for 25 years.

Birgit Heiber, Vocational School Instructor: “We’re working on the super-structure; in general, what’s special about the companies.

We then move on to handling materials, for example, because if I know why certain things are the way they are, then I’ll have more confidence when I’m working.”

The combination of theory and practice, learning and applying, makes Germany’s vocational training system a dual one.

It’s also what sets it apart.

Companies and government vocational schools work in cooperation, a partnership found in few other countries.

Professor Alfred Riedl of Munich’s Technical University researches technical education.

At the moment, Germany has 1.4 million apprentices; one reason for its low youth unemployment rate.

Professor Alfred Riedl, Munich Technical University: “They are able to do their jobs in the theoretically considered and practically competent way.

They’re also flexible as a result and can change firms.

Within the German system, once they’ve qualified, they’re in demand as a rule, even outside the company where they trained.”

People from abroad have noticed that giving people a future with a model that includes theory and practice, seems to work.

More and more countries are expressing an interest in the German system.

But adopting it is easier said than done.

Professor Alfred Riedl, Munich Technical University: “Germany’s dual vocational training system is supported by a high level of acceptance that’s rooted within the society.

Companies are willing and eager to take part in the training people. And it takes time for that to develop.”

The apprentice plasterer has found his place in Germany’s dual-training system. He may not be the youngest apprentice, but he’s certainly a happy one.

Johannes Schroeter-Behrens, Apprentice: “It was a good decision. It’s fun and I’m looking forward to doing something new . . . and that motivates me.

That makes getting up early, not so bad. You come home early in the evening and say, ‘today, I really accomplished something.’

Now I’ve got time off. That’s great.

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1. Are apprenticeships with mentors and proteges a recent phenomenon or do they have a long tradition?

2. Apprentices begin their program by performing simple, mundane tasks. Is this correct or wrong? Do they have a low, medium or high wage?

3. Did Johannes Schroeter-Behrens become an apprentice right after secondary school? What was he doing before he started his apprenticeship?

4. The trainees only learn practical skills on the job. True or false?

5. Who is Ms. Birgit Heiber? Why is classroom and theoretical component of skilled trades important?

6. Are businesses, industry, government and schools completely separate and independent of each other?

7. What does the university professor say about the dual system and unemployment?

8. Johannes feels positive and optimistic about his apprenticeship program and career outlook. Yes or no? What does he say?

A. How are mechanics, electricians, plumbers, electronic technicians trained and qualified in your city?

B. What do you think of Germany’s dual-training system?

C. Are young people enthusiastic about skilled trades or do they shun them in favor of going to university and working in offices or with computers?

D. Have things changed from the past?

E. How will things be in the future? What will happen in the future?

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