The German system of workforce training is often held up as a model the United States should emulate, so we listened with interest recently when the head of the Federation of German Industries addressed the topic.
Hans-Peter Keitel, president of the Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie (BDI), spoke onJuly 16, at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, an event co-hosted by the German Embassy. The Euro crisis was, of course, the issue of the day, but Germany's comparative economic strength and competitiveness also featured prominently as points of discussion. (Video and audio)
Keitel gave much of the credit for Germany's advantages to the economic reforms adopted in 2003-2005 by the left-leaning SPD/B-90/Green coalition under Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. This "Agenda 2010" restructured the until-then rigid labor market rules, reformed welfare, and cut taxes. In addition, relations between business and labor are generally good. Germany's export-oriented economy has also proved a strength, Keitel said.
What about the importance of education and training, Keitel was asked. Keitel, the former chairman of the huge construction firm Hochtief AG, responded:
There is a big tradition in Germany, what we call the dual apprenticeship or dual education -- not the academics, but the workforce is trained in school...and in the industry. And therefore there is really a skilled workforce.I can tell you from my own experience, which is only construction -- some believe this is not high tech, I believe it IS high -tech -- but just construction. If we talk to our American colleagues, they are a lot better trained in, let's say, project management. They have all the skills for project management: for monetary, for controlling, for everything.If it gets to the real skills in how to build a building, there's a big advantage in Germany.
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