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Tackling youth unemployment: looking to Germany for inspiration

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

Unemployment has become an increasingly frightening dilemma faced by Canadian Youth. The national average for youth unemployment is nearly 15%. When you include unpaid interns and discouraged youth who have given up on seeking employment this number almost doubles and these numbers are even higher in Atlantic Canada. Canada's youth are among the most educated in our history and as such it will take a great deal of innovation to resolve the current problem we face.

As discussed in yesterday's blog, upon graduation youth are often blamed for having a skills gap when it comes to applying their education (theoretical training) to their job (skills training). It is absurd to realistically expect universities to provide skills training to suit the unique needs of the thousands of businesses in this country. Businesses have cut the amount of on the job training provided to young workers but there is some common ground.

The Canadian Federation of Students is urging the federal government to look to the German dual vocational model of education for inspiration. Under this dual vocational model students spend 2.5 days completing in class theoretical training and 2.5 days doing job training. The German government has partnered closely with both workers unions and business to ensure that this program is effective. The government provides a stipend for students studying under this system and the company the student is working with also pays the student.

Because the student is receiving income from both government and business they are able to make a living wage while receiving both an education and practical skills training. This program has proved effective in significantly lowering Germany's youth unemployment rate which has a positive impact on the nations economy. Businesses have a high retention rate of the students that work for them during the program and approximately 75% of the money paid out to the student worker is recouped in productivity. This creates a win-win-win situation for students, government and business. 

Under the dual vocational system students take standardized tests on their work job training skills to ensure that businesses are teaching transferable skills so that the graduates of this program are able to achieve gainful employment with other companies in the field. This allows students to have a certain degree of social mobility.

The request is to investigate this model not to adopt it outright. This may be effective for some parts of Canada but further research is necessary to figure out how to implement a strategy. There are obvious fields of study most notably the trades where this could easily be implemented but also in professional studies programs such as applied nutrition or public relations, and even in liberal arts programs such as journalism.

It is absolutely crucial that we develop a new strategy to abolish unpaid internships in favour of a more equitable solution. The German model and similar programs expand on our notions of cooperative programs to create a program that works for all parties involved. 

This is not to suggest that all education should be dictated by corporate interests but that there are means of achieving a better solution for bridging the skills gap and providing oppurtunities for gainful employment for students.


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