Mechanical building services craft training in Great Britain, France and Germany: Towards a more efficient model for industry

King, Derek Charles (2006) Mechanical building services craft training in Great Britain, France and Germany: Towards a more efficient model for industry. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The mechanical building services craft training systems in Great Britain, France and Germany set out with the same fundamental aim: to produce skilled trades people in sufficient numbers for the mechanical building services industry in each country. The vocational education and training (VET) systems in each European state however, have developed from differing ideologies and philosophies, and therefore encompass three quite different methodological approaches. What the three systems have in common is that their clients (trainees and employers) and those involved in their delivery (teachers and trainers) perceive quite major shortcomings and inefficiencies inherent in all three.
This thesis initiates research into the prospect of developing a more efficient VET model for use by the mechanical building services industries in the three states. This could in future enable the synthesis of a new, transparent, more cost effective and efficient delivery vehicle for craft training in the field, that could work equally well in all three countries. An important implication of this could be that the use of a similar such model may be possible right across the European Union and also in other industries.
Initially the thesis conducts a thorough investigation of the philosophies upon which VET systems in the three countries are based, and compares current practices using a methodology devised by reference to comparative education authorities.
When considering literature and primary and secondary information sources, the British VET methodology appears out of step with the other two states, based as it is on the relatively recently introduced competence-based philosophy. In most craft training programmes there is no compulsory general education content, and the assessment regime concentrates on observations of trainees' practical performance in the workplace. This contrasts with the more traditional assessment systems found in France and Germany where formal examinations in a wide range of subjects normally feature: Teaching methods and course structures tend also to be less formal in Britain to reflect an ethos of flexibility, open access and social inclusion. The French system is characterised principally by the inclusion of extremely large measures of general education and relatively minimal workplace training, whereas the German system is unique in its rigidity and dogged adherence to an extremely strict apprenticeship structure.
The issues drawn from the sources mentioned above are complemented by fieldwork eliciting opinions from teachers, employers and trainees involved specifically with mechanical building services craft training. French employers commonly claim that trainees spend too much time on general education at the expense of their craft, and there is a general perception of the system not being cost effective. In Germany criticisms are largely about the system's rigidity: access to apprenticeships, the assessment regime and course content are all seen in this light. In Great Britain employers often complain that the mechanics of competence-based training courses are incomprehensible, and teachers and trainees bemoan the large amounts of paperwork necessary to record assessment evidence.
The thesis concludes that a VET model to deliver transparent and more efficient craft training in mechanical building services is a viable aim, but to achieve this further research work will be needed. In the light of findings and debate detailed in this thesis, future fieldwork must be more directly focussed on the pertinent issues and a substantial widening of samples of opinion is required.

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