• Vocational Education © Wood Powell
  • Vocational Education © Wood Powell
  • Vocational Education © Wood Powell
  • Vocational Education © Wood Powell
  • Vocational Education © Wood Powell
  • Vocational Education © Wood Powell
  • Vocational Education © Wood Powell
  • Vocational Education © Wood Powell
  • Vocational Education © Wood Powell
  • Vocational Education © Wood Powell
  • Vocational Education © Wood Powell


The signing of a Joint Declaration of Intent on June 5, 2015 established a new milestone in the history of German-American relations. This Declaration outlines the shared belief on both sides of the Atlantic in the importance of promoting education and training as a factor in individual development and achievement, economic development, and social growth, as well as a means for strengthening the ties between Germany and the United States.

The signing event, which took place at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, D.C., was the culmination of efforts between the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Labor, and Education and their counterparts in Germany to include the Federal Ministries of Education and Research, Economic Affairs and Energy, and Labor and Social Affairs.

The rising cost of college tuition, the gradual retirement of thousands of highly skilled workers and engineers, combined with the increasing demand for high tech manufacturing has created a unique opportunity in the USA: many young adults are searching for an alternative, more lucrative career path and manufacturers have a "skills gap" to fill. Germany, a country long respected for its high tech manufacturing expertise, is priming its Industry 4.0 with young, highly-skilled talent to the point of creating one of the lowest youth unemployment rates in the industrialized world. Aspects of the German VET system can and do provide a blueprint for manufacturers in the USA looking to up-skill their workforce and gain competitive advantage.
The Transatlantic Outreach Program (TOP) will offer a unique study tour in summer 2020 for technical college + community teams. 

An evolution of the inaugural study tour for technical college educators in 2019, this 2020 opportunity is intended to transport a "community" - via teams of three members each - to Germany to examine youth apprenticeship and workforce development practices. With this opportunity we hope to achieve several goals:
  • Encourage specific stakeholders within communities across the U.S. to coalesce around the youth apprenticeship topic,
  • To provide an educational and engaging learning environment during the two weeks abroad designed to facilitate multiple layers of collaboration and learning,
  • To experience, observe, and learn “best practice” apprenticeship examples in Germany,
  • To improve understanding and awareness in order to launch and expand youth apprenticeship pathways back home.
If this sounds like an interesting opportunity for you and your community, we welcome you to begin the application process:

The application deadline was March 16, 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all TOP study tours for summer 2020 have been cancelled.
Parallel to working with K-12 social studies and STEM educators to provide information about the various education and career pathways available in Germany, the Transatlantic Outreach Program provides small groups of workforce decision-maker and opinion-leader VIPs with the opportunity to experience a "360 view" of the German "dual" vocational education and training (VET) and apprenticeship system in person.

Tentative Program Highlights of the information tour:
  • Perspective on the German "dual" VET system from each of its major stakeholders. These include local, state, and federal government agencies, trade unions, chambers of commerce, private industry partners, SMEs, STEM (MINT) focused primary schools, community colleges, apprentices, and trainers.
  • Particular emphasis on the German VET system from the perspective of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) also known as the Mittelstand.
  • Particular emphasis on the challenges of training minorities with a migratory or nonnative background.

Information Tour Goals:
  • To Educate: enable participants to observe every facit the German VET system in action.
  • To Network: encourage participants to network within the group as well as with partners in Germany.
  • To Empower: motivate participants to become promoters of education and training within their respective spheres of influence.

For more information, contact the TOP Managing Director. The status of the 2020 VIP study tour, scheduled to take place in fall 2020, is yet to be determined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The VIP TOP Study Tour was a unique experience because of a number of critical factors: the group included only individuals with deep, relevant experience and innovative ideas; the itinerary provided a 360 degree view of the vocational training system covering every aspect and perspective; and the visits offered sufficient time to engage with students, employers, teachers without a filter. It is no trivial task to organize and deliver this type of experience.

Going forward, the NYC group is already meeting and planning both tactical activities and some broader strategic efforts to grow and enhance work force development and career preparation programs here at home. I have identified a number of areas for improvement in our model. Perhaps more importantly, there are elements of our program that can be challenging to implement, and the German model has given me confidence to continue the work even when we are at odds with traditional practice.


The experience with TOP-VIP was truly exceptional from every vantage. The trip provided exposure to leading contacts from business, education, and industry that was informative and highly engaging. The travel and logistics were all well organized and thought out. And the composition of the group of participants provides a variety of thought leaders that created a remarkable level of enthusiasm and brain-storming around the topic that carried through every visit,
meal and road trip.

Perhaps most remarkable was the level of candid exposure we all gained to the German apprenticeship system itself. The experience offered a clear set of goals and opportunities that leaders in the U.S. can certainly learn from and aspire towards. And while it was clear that there are a new set of unique issues beginning to create new challenges to this centuries-old system, even the lens into these challenges offered a priceless perspective into how we in the U.S. should be thinking about and structuring our workforce development pipelines and feedback loops with employers. The experience will no doubt play an outsized role on my thinking related to workforce development for years to come.


The tour was first-rate in every aspect. It was extremely well-organized, well-led, and encompassed all the major features of apprenticeship training in Germany. I hope that these tours continue in the future as now is a critical time for U.S. policy-makers and state and local program officials to learn about German education and training systems and see firsthand the value of these systems to participants, to the economy, and to society.

The tour was professional development at an advanced level. I had the chance to revisit the “dual system” and to ask questions about what has changed in the two decades since I was last in Germany. I had the chance to learn about the “dual studies” program that is becoming more popular in Germany and to brainstorm with experts from the U.S. and from Germany how this might be of interest to us. And last but not least, I once again had the opportunity to be wowed at the level of engagement from German businesses in training, and to think about how best to plant seeds in the minds of U.S. business and industry leaders of the wide range of benefits they receive in the course of training apprentices.


My trip to Germany left me with important knowledge and insights that we’ve been acting on here.  Shortly after returning, I asked my team to totally rethink our approach to Career and Technical Education, sharing what I learned from my German experience.  I am pleased to share that we have revamped our offerings to prepare students for the high-wage, high-growth jobs/industries in the metropolitan area.  We’ve opened 8 academies across the city that prepare our students for careers in Information Technology, Hospitality, and Engineering and Construction.  We have industry advisory boards for each field that help us determine the coursework and provide internships (many of which are paid for by the state government) for our students.  Next year, we are on track to open new academies in Public Service (police, fire, and EMT), Renewable Energy, and Healthcare. 

We are also in the process of redesigning our high school experience so that our young people are engaged in more real-world projects and activities, and can receive credit for their internship experiences.  We have quite a few other things planned for the future, but I want to be clear that the trip to Germany catalyzed my thinking about this issue in totally new ways.  I keep telling my team that we need to figure out how to get them to see what I’ve seen to push our work even further.  I’m also trying to get us to send a few graduates to university in Germany, so we’re looking at adding German language programs.


My TOP trip to Germany was a wonderful experience. As a long-time student of the German apprenticeship system, I thought I knew much of what there was to know – thought I understood it pretty thoroughly. But there’s no substitute for real exposure of the kind provided on the TOP trip. Visits were eye-opening, the people we met were informative, TOP staff were ever helpful – and it was a terrific group.

The Transatlantic Outreach Program trip to Germany was an amazing experience and gave me an opportunity to develop a deep understanding of the dual apprenticeship program and to have in-depth conversations with a terrific group of professionals from a variety of sectors. We heard first hand from business and educational leaders working in the dual apprenticeship program and also talked with students in the program about their experience and future plans. This trip will help inform the work that we are undertaking to create stronger career pathways for all our career and technical education students.

This is truly an out of the country experience that school officials need to see in order to restore the American working class, along with revitalizing the local economies of America.