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What Are the Different Types of Vocational Training in Europe?

By Susan Abe
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Vocational training in Europe varies according to country. For the most part, however, vocational training in Europe is more deeply established in the culture and serves a higher percentage of the population than do similar services in the United States. Education is routinely divided into academic and vocational branches around the mid-teenage years in most countries' schools. This division is conducted in a variety of ways. Depending upon the particular country, students may voluntarily chose their type of continuing educations, be divided according to one or more examinations or a combination of the two.

The degree of student participation in vocational training in Europe also depends upon the specific country as well as the regional area of a student's country. Swedish, Germanic and English educational systems all have similar kinds of vocational training. Some areas have well-organized systems that involve the countries' state governments all the way down to the local municipalities that particular vocational schools serve. Private business is also a well-organized and highly involved partner in these ventures. Most types of vocational training in Europe share the same funding and school efficiency woes.

Scandinavian countries — Sweden, Finland and Norway — share a similar system of vocational training. Following completion of a lower secondary program, students enter an upper secondary program that is either academic or vocational in emphasis. Vocational programs generally require two years of schooling with an emphasis on the career sought. A student then spends two years of supervised apprenticeship in a company affiliated with the school as a vocational partner. Completion of an additional year of education allows a willing student the opportunity to begin university studies, if desired.

One of the most highly organized systems of vocational training in Europe is found in the Germanic countries. Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein provide a vocational training and apprentice program that serves over 66 percent of teenagers and young adults. Statistics indicate that over half of those age 21 or younger have completed an apprenticeship. Private companies — except for those that are very small — are required to offer apprenticeships. The vocational training requirements in the Germanic countries are similar enough to allow for vocational credit transfer between these countries.

In general, the countries of the United Kingdom have some of the smallest and least organized systems of vocational training in Europe. Some governmental programs have been introduced with the goal of increasing the number of apprentices. Recent university tuition increases may also help boost the number of students participating in vocational training.

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Discussion Comments

By Feryll — On Oct 16, 2014

One of the reasons our workforce in the United States is not as productive as other countries is because we put so much importance on four-year college degrees and we don't emphasis the importance of training people who don't go to college after high school. For so long, people in this country without college degrees have had to find non-skilled labor and eek out a living.

We are nowhere close to most European nations in terms of training our overall workforce, but I think we are improving. More and more people are getting associate degrees. I know several people who I graduated with who have gone on to computer schools and earned degrees. And they are earning good wages.

By Laotionne — On Oct 16, 2014

When I hear about apprenticeships I am reminded of the stories I have read about young boys leaving home and staying with a craftsman so they could learn a trade. The boys would usually stay in the craftsmen's homes and do chores in exchange for their educations.

Of course those stories are about a times long ago. It is remarkable that a place like Germany still has such a wide spread apprenticeship program today. Then again, maybe it is simply natural there, and I find it interesting because I live in the U.S.

By Sporkasia — On Oct 15, 2014

I agree with the first paragraph of this article where it reads that vocational training in Europe is more ingrained in the culture. I think in the United States vocational training has been looked at as a last resort for people who are unable to get into a four year traditional university for whatever reasons.

I have noticed that for my friends in Europe, a choice to pursue vocational training is just as accepted and respected as a choice to go to a university.

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