Austria – Country of Masters
Not only do universities in Austria enjoy an excellent reputation, but dual education is also an internationally recognized model of success. It features about 200 apprenticeship professions which are not only continually evolving but are also being expanded and complemented in order to meet the demands of the future. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that many young people in Austria decide to undergo apprenticeship training, also in times of demographic change and growing academization. According to apprenticeship statistics compiled by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, more than 34,000 apprentices began their training in 2018, a rise of two percent from 2017. There are good reasons for this. Such a decision enables young people to stand on their own feet early on in their lives, unfold their potential in their dream jobs and earn money themselves. Their future prospects are very good thanks to a strong economy and a good business climate.
Dual education: Model with good perspectives
A crucial factor for the good prospects for young professionals is the dual education system. Apprentices acquire practical skills in their professions by working in companies. This is complemented by theoretical instruction in vocational schools, usually blocked over several weeks. This not only ensures the quality of apprenticeship training, but companies can also systematically and practically train their specialists. In particular, the broad range of career perspectives at the end of the training period makes this approach "Made in Austria" very special. The master school is a popular choice in addition to on-the-job and continuing education. Professional and business training qualifies people to establish their own company or assume management positions in a firm. Moreover, since 2016 Austrian master craftsmen are considered to be equivalent to graduates of bachelor studies.
Engineers also have outstanding career prospects. There are two other types in Austria in addition to the conventional graduate engineer. Students at higher technical college (Höheren Technischen Lehranstalten - HTL) enjoy a unique and extremely business-oriented five-year education ending with a secondary education certificate and vocational education and training (VET) diploma which is recognized as university-level education throughout Europe. After three years of engineering practice, the person is granted the official title of engineer. This is complemented by another engineering degree which can be obtained by attending a four-year technical education program at a technical school.
Regardless of which educational program a person pursues in order to become an engineer, the Austrian system also entitles regular apprentices to be further qualified at universities. Within the context of the initiative called "Apprenticeship with higher school certificate" (Lehre mit Matura), they can also obtain their higher education entrance qualification by taking additional courses, for example in mathematics or another foreign language alongside their education program. There is also the option of attending secondary vocational schools offering school-based vocational training at a higher level, which not only qualifies pupils for entry into their chosen profession but is also accompanied by a general university entrance qualification.
The digital working worldrobotics and electromobility
In the meantime, many companies have set up their own continuing education and professional development programs in order to prepare their employees for the digital working world. The spectrum of opportunities rages from subsidized stays abroad, extra instruction in natural sciences and information technology and specialization in future-oriented fields such as robotics and electromobility. These additional qualifications are immensely important. Professional requirements are evolving due to the digitalization of the economy and increasingly complex value chains. The boundaries between different fields are disappearing, and courses of study are becoming more interdisciplinary. Specialists in automotive mechatronics have been focusing on the IT infrastructure in vehicles or robots on assembly lines for a long time. Electronics engineers turn to iPads just as much as to soldering irons. Carpenters work with 3D printers and programmable wood saws. Painters use digital application to mix colors, and to plan and calculate large projects. Computer scientists require a good understanding of industrial processes, and thus increasingly work in network industrial halls.
However, it is important to note that industry and the business community are not the only ones promoting the future viability of the dual education system through additional qualifications and continuing education measures. The political community is also pressing ahead with modernizing apprenticeship training within the context of the digitalization of handicraft businesses. This involves introducing completely new occupations in addition to new teaching contents, increasing the amount of theoretical instruction or integrating important digital aspects in training. Thirteen new apprenticeship occupations have been created in Austria, for example e-commerce merchant, who is prepared to fulfil all the demands of digital commerce in all its facets.
The dual education system: an export hit
Optimal job perspectives for young people and highly qualified skilled employees for companies: the transparent dual education system is, without doubt, an important foundation for the good economic development in Austria. As a result, there is extensive international interest in this education model. There are many pilot projects in dual education, implemented especially by our Eastern European neighbors and abroad. In many countries school education is considered to be lacking in practical relevance, and the unemployment rate among youth is correspondingly high. The export of Austria's tried and tested system is not a sure-fire success. Ultimately, not only the education system but companies as well have to adapt to new requirements. They have to be actively involved in education. Initially this costs a lot of time, energy and money. But the investment will pay off.