Today we visited Berufskolleg Kleve. Coming into this week, I had no real notion of what a berufskolleg was. Today I learned that it is a sort of mix between what Americans know as community colleges with what we know of as high schools. The institution is quite comprehensive, with such a wide variety of offerings and purposes that it is best summed up by the slogan of Berufskolleg Kleve: Our diversity is your opportunity.
Some of these functions include providing a form of postsecondary education to teens between the ages of 16 and 19. By this point, German teens are expected to have a fairly good idea of their career goals and to choose a pathway. This can take the form of continued studies in a specialized high school type establishment, with a focus such as business & economics or life sciences. Berufskolleg Kleve houses several of these schools, including one general education school. All of these schools are for students with higher education aspirations.
One the other hand, the berufskolleg also offers programs for students interested in more hands-on careers, such as refrigeration and plumbing, cosmetology, and electrical engineering technology. There are even different types of vocational programming tracks that students can choose, including attendance at a vocational program that is 100% school-based or participating in what is known as the Dual VET (vocational and technical education) program, or apprenticeship model.
With this model, students are splitting time between in-class learning for theory and on-the-job-training for practical experience. These students then must pass a class at the end of the training period to ascertain their knowledge levels.
We had the pleasure of being graciously hosted by the staff and faculty of the school and being treated to presentations about various programs by students and staff. We got to visit and even attend classes to get a feeling for the spectrum of activities going on.
We were even served a ridiculously luxurious meal that was prepared by the culinary students and served by the hospitality students.
In the afternoon, we visited the agricultural campus of the college and learned about the many ways the college is also involved in agricultural programming and research. Everyone’s favorite part was seeing all of the dairy cows and baby sheep.
We finished our day with yet more traditional, rich German food and the company of many wonderful friends.