Working Paper

Training the ‘Workforce of the Future’: Insights from Work-Based Higher Education Programs in Germany and the United States

In the face of rapid technological change, industrialized economies around the world share concerns about a growing mismatch between employers’ needs and workers’ skills. Debates about how to effectively prepare the ‘workforce of the future’ have brought to the forefront different approaches to fostering collaboration between companies, individuals, and public actors in the education and professional development space. Pairing data on the evolution and design of Work-Based Higher Education (WBHE) programs in the United States and in Germany with insights from two in-depth case studies, we show how a shared idea - the ‘integration of theory and practice’- manifests in both countries. Focusing on the responsibilities and activities of companies and higher education institutions (HEI) across four dimensions - ‘Admission and Recruitment’ (A&R), ‘Curriculum Design and Renewal’ (CD&R), ‘Instruction and Training’ (I&T), and ‘Assessment and Examination’ (A&E) - we find that, in Germany, the influence of industry is both stronger and more regulated than in the US, where individual academic institutions have greater control of and more freedom in determining the specificities of collaborations. These differences result in diverging levels of comparability and standardization of programs which, in turn, influence both countries’ ability to train the ‘workforce of the future’.