He goes on to describe how the demanding but fair German apprenticeship program works based on personal experience: "After I left school, first, three to five years of strict apprenticeship [work and school] was required. Your boss constantly looked over your shoulder and is rating you month by month.
“After that I got my 'Gesellenbrief' [apprenticeship diploma] after passing a very tough test, which gives you for the first time the right to work without supervision in your workplace. After the mandatory four years of practice, I applied for the 'Meisterbrief,' or master craftsman certificate. That takes one year and countless weekends and evening schools to prepare. During my test, about 85 percent of my fellow students failed to pass."
"My Meisterbrief was for Radio and TV, and this test covered everything about running a company, educating young people, and your own technical skills. After a daylong test in theory, I got 15 minutes to repair five TV sets.
"Only the Meisterbrief gives you the right to run your own business and train co-workers. The Meisterbrief is equal and more to the Ingenieur."
He concludes: "Whenever I applied for a job, both briefs were always a door-opener. You are not just full of theory, but practice as well."
So what does this mean in practice? "When you bring your car to a repair shop in Germany, only qualified people touch it. Sure, it may cost more, but I feel better."
The German vocational system is deeply ingrained in the country's culture. Years of study and training mean German workers are highly skilled and motivated. Employers understand this, and have reacted to the global economic slowdown in ways fundamentally different from their US counterparts. Kurzarbeit is a prime example.
Perhaps it wouldn't work in the US. On the other hand, we've got little to lose by at least trying it.
For more on Kurzarbeit and new ways of thinking about work, click here.
This story was originally posted by EE Times.