Workplace learning in Europe and the United States
Copenhagen was the site of the Trans-Atlantic Technology and Training Alliance (TA3) 21 international symposium and meetings hosted by two Danish member technical colleges, TEC in Copenhagen and EUC-Syd in Sønderborg. The focus was workplace learning, a subject of renewed interest in countries that don’t have it and that are now reexamining it in light of today’s and tomorrow’s economy.
The events enabled places re-considering workplace learning to learn from countries where apprenticeships are part and parcel of their systems of education—notably Denmark, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Among the 24 EU countries that offer some form of apprenticeship that involves over half of learning. Community colleges in the U.S. operate at the edges with coop programs and internships but few have full-blown apprenticeship programs, in part because so many students have full or part-time jobs and in part because of insufficient business commitment. At the secondary level in career and technical education, the demands of academic rigor, STEM, and testing constrain not only the time available for occupational programs but pedagogy.
The Copenhagen symposium explored ways that different institutions and different countries balance the requirements of a more demanding workplace with the value of experience and how they integrate “learning by doing” into their curricula—the methods, strengths and weaknesses, benefits, and future. View the agenda here. Click on links in agenda to download speaker presentations.
Keynote speakers included:
- Roland Østerlund, former director of Denmark’s Vocational Education and Training System, who explained the Danish system and some of the issues it facing today;
- Robert Schwartz, professor at Harvard and co-author of Pathways to Prosperity, discussed the potential of apprenticeship programs in the U.S. for improving the image of vocational education, reaching less advantaged populations, and bettering their career opportunities;
- Vibe Aarkrog, Associate Professor, Aarhus University, described the pedagogical advantages of the dual system;
- Hanne Shapiro, Danish Technological Institution, presented an overview of EU countries and forms of workplace learning; and
- Ursula Scharnhorst, Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, described the Swiss system, highlighting the structure, demand, stakeholders, and balance among knowledge, know-how, and attitudes.
Click on names above to view presentations by each keynote speaker.
During the afternoon sessions, a range of other speakers from Denmark, Germany, the U.S., Northern Ireland, and Wales provided a variety of experiences with workplace learning from the perspectives of colleges, businesses, and research. Panels included Kevin Jones, Vice President of Austin Polytechnic in Chicago, Stephan Szuppa, Siemens Professional Education in Germany, Marie Foster-Gagne, President of West Virginia University-Parkersburg, David Jones, Principal of Deeside College in Wales, and John Quinn, Director of Southern Regional College, Northern Ireland.
TA3 members met at TEC on Tuesday, heard presentations by Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Anita Brown-Graham, Executive Director of North Carolina’s Institute for Emerging Issues, and discussed new projects and pressing issues.
The theme of the next TA3 international meeting, to be hosted by Ivy Tech, will be in Indianapolis June 1-4, 2014 will on “STEM, STEAM, and Dream.” The symposium will explore ways to balance technical education, humanities, and the arts and possible impacts on employment, productivity, and innovation.