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My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part One: The magic years 1989-1990

December 8th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week (on Friday) our institute will have a special event “Klausurtag” to reflect on the development of our patterns of work. This event is supported by a particular pilot activity inspired by the Learning Layers (LL) project. Our LL team has created together with the developers of the Learning Toolbox a specific stack “Klausurtag” to share information and to work with specific issues raised in the last year’s event or to take further issues that are discussed this year. As I cannot participate due to health issues, I have chosen a special program for me. Last year it became apparent that our young colleagues are interested to know more about the history of our institute – and not only of the facts that are written down in history documents but more about the lived practice in research – in projects, networks and communities. As an oldtimer with a special relation with our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (shortly ITB) – I have decided to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”.  In this first post I try to cover my first encounters during the years 1989 and 1990 – which in many respect were ‘magic years’ for Germany and for me.

My study visit in October-November 1989: Five weeks travelling around Germany

My contacts with ITB started in 1989 when I had got grants from the DAAD and my university to carry out a five weeks’ study visit program involving German research institutes in the fields on vocational education and training (VET), industrial sociology and industrial relations. This study visit was part of my effort to prepare the grounds for similar approaches in the newly created Work Research Centre of the University of Tampere. In this respect I tried to collect impressions from several neighbouring research approaches and inform myself of similarities, differences and synergies. During this trip ITB in Bremen was my first station and remained as my major cooperation partner. Yet, I found that at that time there were several evaluative measures going on in which many of my counterparts were involved. From that point of view the visit was well timed. However, the most impressive experience during the trip was the possibility to follow from close distance the erosion of the DDR-regime – which culminated in the opening of Berlin wall three days after I had returned to Finland.

Talks in ITB and on ITB projects: Berufspädagogen, Berufsbilder 2000, CAPIRN, Landesprogramm AuT

In ITB my two-day visit was hosted by Gerald Heidegger. With him we discussed firstly the general picture of the relatively new institute – its commitment to vocational teacher education and to interdisciplinary research in VET and the importance of the guiding principle ‘Gestaltung’ (social shaping of work, technology, work organisations and vocational learning). On the more specific talks on different projects of that time I can recall the following impressions:

  • Pilot project “Qualifizierung der Berufspädagogen für alle Lernorte” (discussions with Peter Gerds and Helmuth Passe-Tietjen): This project was a smaller local pilot the sought find flexible solutions that enable career shifts between teacher/trainer/training manager positions. I do not remember the details of the approach and of the boundary conditions under which it worked. Nevertheless, the programmatic to address all learning venues with an integrative approach made an impression.
  • Scenario project “Berufsbilder 2000” (discussions with Gerald Heidegger): This project explored the prospects for skilled workers (Facharbeiter) in the context of computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) – an early predecessor debate of the current one on ‘Industry 4.0’. The project explored several branch-specific technologies and drafted different policy scenarios for the use of semi-skilled vs. skilled workforce. Here the specific point was to highlight the policy choices and the ole of social shaping (at the organisational level and as the contribution of skilled workers).
  • Industry culture project CAPIRN (discussions with Klaus Ruth): This project and the subsequent network initiative focused on different policy choices in designing CNC-tools – whether they are designed for lowly skilled workforce (little prospects for social shaping and users’ own programming) vs, skilled workforce (more options for social shaping and users own input). The first comparative studies had already ben carried out and the network was expanding to new countries.
  • Landesprogramm Arbeit  und Technik (discussions with Ludger Deitmer): As I had interpreted it, Germany was in a transition from one generation of socio-technic innovation prohrams (with focus on ‘Humanisation of Work’ (Humanisierung der Arbeit – HdA) to a new focus on social shaping of ‘Work and Technology’ (Arbeit und Technik – AuT). In this transition Bremen was playing a pioneering role and had appointed an expert commission to outline a regional innovation program. Ludger, who had been supporting the expert commission gave a report on the shaping of the forthcoming program and the way it is expected to implemented.

Discussions on cross-cutting themes and on overarching expert hearings and evaluation studies

Already in the themes discussed in ITB I could see a set of cross-cutting themes coming up whilst some other themes came up in further institutes. Likewise, in several institutes I was informed of overarching expert hearings and evaluation studies to which my counterparts were contributing. Without going into details (and recapitulating particular talks) I try to give a group picture of such talks and different positions or contributions:

  • Kollegschule NRW (KS), Doppelqualifizierende Bildungsgänge Hessen (talks with Kalrheinz Fingerle, Gerald Heidegger, Arnulf Bojanowski, Antonius Lipsmeier): At that time Finland was discussing reforms in educational structures. The integrated framework fo upper secondary education – as piloted in the Kollegschule in Nordrhein-Westphalen wasone of the interesting models. I got a lot of materials and reflections why such reform concepts fell between mainstream institutions and how the curriculum innovations with ‘integrated’ qualifications tended to lack the ‘grounding’ in occupational work. Therefore, Gerald emphasised the importance of such pilots that are based on apprentice training (instead of other vocational paths).
  • Bundestag Enquete-Kommission “Zukunft der Arbeit”: (talks with Gerald Heidegger, Burkart Lutz): The above mentioned scenario project “Berufsbilder 2000” was one of the projects invited to the expert commission of the German parliament to explore the future of skilled work in Germany. It appeared that the industrial sociologists saw the risk of polarisation as the likely option, whilst VET researchers emphasised the role of social shaping of work, technology and work organisations.
  • DFG-Denkschrift “Berufsbildungsforschung” (talks with Burkart Lutz, Laszlo Alex, Wolfgang Lempert): The German Research Council had set up an expert commission to examine the status and resources of research in VET – in the universities and in non-university institutes. The general picture was that the more policy-related research was concentrated in bigger public R&D institutions (BIBB, IAB) and in university affiliated institutes (MPI Berlin, SOFI, ISF) whilst the research in pedgaogics of VET (Breufspädagogik) was fragmented. Here, the former mentioned instititutes were recommending cooperation to create centres of excellence based on inter-university cooperation, whilst the university representatives wer expecting ‘natural growth’ of some top institutes.
  • Modellversuchsforschung (talks with Heiz Holz, Dieter Weissker, Peter Dehnbostel, Brigitte Wolff, Gerhard Zimmer): In BIBB I had discussions on the current stand of pilot projects (Modellversuche) and related accompanying research (Begleitforschung). The coordination unit was supporting thematic clusters (Modellversuchsreihen) of pilot projects in order to promote synergy and learning from each other.
  • HdA- & AuT-Begleitforschung (talks with Gerhard Bosch, Rainer Lichte, Else Fricke, Eva Kuda, Norbert Altmann, Ingrid Drexel, Christoph Köhler, Frieder Naschold): In the institutes that were affiliated to trade unions and/or specialised in industrial reations and labour process research I had several talks on the experiences of the eatrlier HdA-program and the related accompanying research (with which the researchers had note always been in good terms with the social partners). Now I couls see that in the successful cases the researchers were moving from observational into co-shaping approaches (e.g. regarding the introduction of apprentice training models alongside automation). In this way resewarch teams were supporting workers’ participation and social shaping of work processes.

I guess this is enough of  my impressions on the discussions. At the same time when I was approaching Berlin, my last station, the old regime of DDR came to dead end and had to give up. After a rupture period the political process took the course to unification.

Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1st to 3rd of October 1990 in Magdeburg

Almost one year after I had another opportunity to visit Germany by participating in the conference “Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung” 1990 in Magdeburg. This conference was initiated by the founders of ITB in the 1980s (before the ITB was founded) and it served as a joint forum of researchers in VET and active practitioners with interest in research. In addition to plenary sessions the conference had several regular domain-specific sessions (Fachtagung) and another set of thematic workshops (which may vary from one year to another). The conference of the 1990 was originally given for Stuttgart but it was relocated to Magdeburg – as a sign to build good neighbourhood relations between the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) and the German Democratic Republic (DDR) which was in transition. However, shortly after this decision had been made, it appeared that the two German states will be unified during the conference dates. Thus, the conference was started in Magdeburg, DDR and finished in Magdeburg, BRD. And the announced main theme ‘Key qualifications’ was overshadowed by questions, challenges and anxieties regarding the rapid unification.

The big picture of unification – and the instant implementation of the legislation of BRD in the ‘new Federal states’ dominated the plenary sessions. They were expected to make a rapid transition from the school-based and company-affiliated vocational education system into the dual system of apprenticeship. This was a major organisational, administrative and educational challenge. At the some of the educational solutions of DDR that were valued by West-German educationalists, were given up. These issues were discussed openly and the participants from West tried to to show very cleatrly their solidarity to their Eastern colleagues who were implementing changes with very tight schedules.

From the specific sessions I remember that I followed firstly the discussions in the Fachtagung “Metalltechnik” chaired by Prof. Hoppe from ITB. Then I moved to Fachtagung “Wirtschaft und Verwaltung” in which I followed the presentations of Dr. Benteler on the Modellversuch at Klöckner Stahl (rotating clerk-apprentices through different production units of the steelworks to give them an organisational overview) and of Dr.Rischmüller on Modellversuch WoKI on the training of clerk-apprentices at VW in Wolfsburg.

The highlight for me was the possibility join in the International workshop initiated by Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) and to give a presentation on Scandinavian reforms in VET. In the relatively heterogeneous program of the workshop (with rather conversational presentations) my comparative view attracted attention and I got an invitation to the Soviet-European exchange seminar in Moscow (organised by the Soviet Academy of Educational Sciences and Cedefop).

– – –

I think this is enough of these ‘magic years’. I think I have made it clear, why I use this expression – both regarding the political processes and my individual experiences. I had started the journey to familiarise meself with the German VET and working life research. Very soon I was received as a contributor from Scandinavia to enter the European arenas of exchanges and cooperation in VET research. In the next phase on this career path I continued my cooperation with ITB.

More blogs to come …

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