The visit to Madera on Tuesday by German Ambassador to the United States Peter Ammon was primarily about trade between America and Europe, and the economic development it can bring. He talked about good jobs, and told of modern, busy factories.
He also raised another theme that goes along with it: The need for people to be educated to prosper in the modern world.
The Germans handle this by operating a two-tiered but equal system of education. In that system, students who aren’t interested in academic subjects, but may be interested in mechanical subjects, can choose to participate in vocational training.
As a part of that education, they go to work in the field for which they are training, and get paid a training wage. They also take classes while this is going on — classes which provide education in subjects they may need to know in the vocations for which they are preparing themselves. Upon graduation, these students get jobs, make good wages and are highly respected. Ammon told a Madera District Chamber of Commerce meet-and-greet group that these students are the backbone of the high-tech work environment which has given Germany the lowest unemployment in its history.
The other tier is more purely academic. Both have equal status.
The United States at one time had more vocational education opportunities than it does now. Vocational schools worked with apprenticeship programs to train trades people to be electricians, machinists, plumbers, etc. But many of those programs have gone away because of a misplaced academic emphasis on trying to prepare everyone for college.
But not every student wants to go to college. Many would rather learn vocations for which they are suited than take classes which won’t lead to employment without further academic preparation.
The countries of Europe, and Germany in particular, seem to be ahead of us in their understanding of this concept.