Berlin Study Visit – notes by Michael Hallissy. Day 2, 13 January 2015

DSC_0143 DSC_0202 DSC_0179 DSC_0132On Tuesday morning we again travelled to OSZ and we met with Mr. Eiben who works with the full-time VET students. The purpose of this session was to learn more about this system and to meet the students. Unfortunately on entering the College we learned they had had a power outage and thus this limited what we observed in the classroom session.


Some basic facts on the full-time programme:

  • Full-time work placement
  • 8 weeks training in year 2
  • Who decided? General requirement


Format of the Course

  • Both practical and theoretical work is done in the college
  • Practical training takes place in the labs in the college



  • Practical work – networking in the lab
  • Telecommunications – telephony
  • Basic training in electro technical


  • Networking
  • Cisco certification
  • Client server technology

3 YR

  • Voice over IP
  • Placements at end of year 3



Programmes is structured over the 3 years

Students are prepared to enter work in Year 3

They are prepared in the College to succeed.


  • Practical exams organised in-house by staff
  • Many students in the full-time programme go from the College to University or Polytechnic

The students on the full-time course have to find their placement in the companies


Issues with placements

  • Staff help with finding placements if issues arise but students are expected to find placements
  • Database of companies held in the college
    • Minimum of 1 visit to the company by the tutor
    • Report on the visit by the college tutor
      • There is a contract with the company stating what the student will be doing [can we get a copy]
    • Placement contract contains
      • Duties and tasks
      • Ensure that the activity is part of their school work [Linking school to work]
      • If there was no contract in place then minimum wage rules would apply
      • The formal contract is important
      • There is a focus on having a legal framework to protect the students


Role of Supervision in the Full-time Training Course

  • A report is completed at the end of the work placement
  • Company has an input into the report
    • They report on what the trainee did and how they performed while in the company
    • This report is required before the student can sit their final examinations
    • Crucial to have the placement as it enables them to get the vocational certification and it allows them to sit the polytechnic examination
    • Reporting back from company to college – if the placement was successful they don’t ask but if there are issues they do try to find out what went wrong and go and meet the employer.
  • Supervisor visit is to find out if there are issues [at least once as mentioned above]
    • Daily student report on what took place – is this the student?
  • While on the placement students engage on practical projects – intensive reports later
    • They report on this back to their fellow students
    • Report is marked and it is important as noted above
      • Ask for reporting forms to be translated and we include these in the report – we can compare and contrast
    • If the company is happy they accept this. They measure competences of students on placement and they are keen to give them opportunities to engage in work. There is no mark on the report.
    • Company wants 100% attendance while the College is more flexible and has a 70% rate of attendance. Interesting difference – college more flexible maybe


Market Material

  • Marketing material is for parents because they need to attract students in
    • The Berlin document informs parents of what is expected of their children when on placement


Company Placements

  • Initiative of student is key. If they are motivated to find the placement then it is easy
  • This is a key learning goal – motivate them to find their learning place


Practicum – Terminology in Germany

  • 1st time for real work experience in a work place for the students
  • 1st time for students to see that what they learn in school is linked to the world of work



  • Students are given information in advance
    • Ask to get a copy of this information
  • Company knows how the students are doing in the college
  • Companies are surprised at the quality of the students coming into the company [why is this?] Is this down to how they are prepared and the fact they are prepared to succeed?]


Students have a Probation Period – first half year

  • Evaluate the student performance during this time
  • If they fail they have to find something else and leave the course


What courses are covered [curriculum]? [Ask for the syllabus]

  • Mathematics, Germany, Physics [ need to be at national level] as they need these for the Polytechnic examinations
    • Limit on the number of such classes in the College – There are just 4
    • Entry criteria – 3.5 out of 6 is typically the average course entry grade


Rationale for selecting Dual Training or Fulltime

  • Double qualification so they can then go on to take the polytechnic certificate when they are older
    • They are young and one of the motivations for them is to enter into a fulltime course
    • Not ready to find a dual training position
    • They would find a dual training spot currently as there are gaps but they are not emotionally ready to do this


Motivations for companies

  • Cheap labour – unpaid labour for 8 weeks
  • Try out if someone is suitable for later employment
  • Some companies pay a small amount
  • Some students receive social benefits
  • Government have another scheme to pay them while they are on working


What are the typical issues that can arise with a student in a company?

  • Social skill performances
    • Being late
    • Not able to speak to customers
    • Dress
      • When this occurs they meet the company on these matters
      • For example they currently have 60 placements and there are 2 issues
  • If the work placement is deemed to be not suitable then the student has a 2 week window in which they can change placements
  • Unlike the dual training facilities there may not be a person managing the process in the company
  • Focus is on giving people training experience
    • If companies that are not suitable then they are removed from the College database


Note the Key focus here is on work and not on training


Completion Rates

  • Most complete the practicum successfully
  • Theoretical exams could be an issue for students as they may not pass
  • They lose about 1/3 of students in year one but then it levels off [Year 1 is key]
    • October statistics – these inform the teaching budget


Positive impact for students

  • Self-esteem issues for full-time students in contrast to dual training
  • Many companies offer jobs after placements
  • Recognition from companies is a major positive
  • They also send some of the full-time students overseas (Leonardo Scheme)
  • 1/3 go abroad and work overseas (Dublin, Spain and Belfast)
  • Erasmus work placement guidelines inform this process
  • Stronger impact of these placements


We then observed a Linux Class but because of the power failure the students and their tutor were just chatting in the classroom. We spoke to the students about their expectations of the programme and where they intended to go or not on work placement. Many had not even considered this as they are still in first year.


We then visited Mr. Henze’s class where we observed the following:

  • Dual Training
  • Linux training
  • Netspace in Cisco


Once again Mr. Henze was attempting to teach this class without access to computers as the power was still out.


However in chatting to the students the following issues arose:

It seems there are some issues around the relevance of the Linux class for the students

  • Most students don’t seem very interested and why are they studying this topic?
  • What else are they studying? What courses are they studying?


  • They are already working and they are in college to learn new skills
  • Why do their companies send them to college?
  • Age Profile of those who participate in Dual Training


The students noted that Linux is a new course for them. Many don’t use it in their work while some are and they find the classes boring. This is an example of a real tension that exists between what to teach when one considers the wide spectrum of companies participating in the programme.


Afternoon Session


We visited a new training programme that focuses on preparing young people to work in the public sector. It is a partnership between the Charité, the Free University of Berlin and the Max Planck Institute.


  • We observed the group receiving training in Windows when we visited
  • We were informed that is a new learning method – students presenting their own work to others


Training Network in Berlin

  • Recruit them in groups – put them in a group and they will learn as a patchwork family
  • Coming from different institutions and they are treated as one institution
  • My questions:
    • This is a first year group
    • Who accredits this course?
    • Why was the programme created by the network?

All the students will be sent abroad – Ireland is a key destination for this group

    • They are dual students and they are now in a company location
    • The institution employs them
    • Rotation – 2 weeks in school and 2 weeks in the company

Common training sessions and specialisation of skills will take place in the workplace in the various institutions

    • Basic training
    • Supplementary training
    • Work in the environments (public institutions)


Year 1

Method – Train them in the theory in year one

    • 10 months practical training
    • Then into the work setting


Skills are assessed:

    • Skills Criteria available – what are they and
    • Can we get these translated?


Why are they learning computer learning here in the Charité?

    • In depth training in general basic IT training
    • Application driven
    • How do they get selected? They answered ads in the papers and applied for places on the programme. Then interviewed


Yr 2

    • they are integrated into the normal workforce in their sponsoring organisation
      • e.g. they work providing services in The Charité or the Free University
    • They get paid approximately 600 euro a month [this is good]


Microsoft accreditation covered in this course

  • Note the focus on certificates
  • ITTech (not sure if this is correct)
  • Language Certs in foreign languages (linked to going overseas)
  • Certificates in their portfolios
  • Cost of the portfolio – 10k euros


Why this approach and this programme?

  • Social commitment to the public institutions
  • Build up capacity within the system
  • Can’t guarantee employment within the public institutions due to staffing quotas etc.
  • However:
    • All get employment
    • The trainees have won international awards (high award) for the quality of their work
    • Free University takes the majority of the students
    • Charité hampered in taking new apprenticeships


Additional Qualifications

  • IT Specialist for System Integration
  • Additional Qualifications (z)
    • Travel to Ireland for 2 months
    • Work placement in Ireland
    • Focus is on networking certificate (Cisco)
    • Learn at home in their own time for these extra certificates
    • Self-directed learning is important
    • Tests as they go along


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