German firms have problems with college graduates

In 1999, under the so-called Bologna accords, Germany introduced four-year bachelors degrees in their higher education system.  In the past, students in higher education spent 5 or 6 years earning a masters degree.  Now (like the US) they can get a BA in four years.  How is the system working?  Well, it sounds eerily familiar:

In a new survey conducted by the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), only 63 percent of German firms said job applicants with a bachelor’s degree fulfilled their expectations. This compares to 67 percent in 2007.

At the same time, 15 percent of the companies surveyed complained of lack of practical experience in the potential new recruits – twice as many as in 2007.

“There was always criticism that students don’t get enough practical experience during their degrees,” Kevin Heidenreich, the education specialist at the DIHK who carried out the survey, told Deutsche Welle.”It’s not just the economic or the technical degrees, but also the humanities subjects.”

Heidenreich said schools often did little to help students think about the future. “Some schools ignore the fact that 90 percent of graduates end up working in companies,” he said. “Sometimes you get the feeling that a lot of teachers are just training up professors.”

In some ways, German employers have it a little better than the US, in that their “dual system” of education provides rigorous skills training for those not bound for college. But the German problems underline the need to rethink higher education.  We are still using the model from centuries past that was designed to enable children from wealthy families to get a little polish before joining the family enterprise.

The unmet challenge in higher education is how to redesign the experience so that it does a better job of preparing students for work, while still providing the students with the ability to develop a broad, informed perspective on the human condition.  We’ve thought about this for quite a while.  Any ideas?

You can read the full story here.

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