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November 8-- Southeastern Technical College VP for Student Affairs Barry Dotson traveled to Germany in October to take part in the Transatlantic Outreach Program.

The program is a non-profit, public/private partnership between Federal Foreign Office of Germany and certain German businesses, established to encourage intercultural dialogue, and to provide the opportunity for North American educators to experience Germany in person.

Nine education professionals from the District of Columbia, Georgia, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Washington were selected to make the trip.

{mosimage}“We toured German educational institutes to learn about their secondary and postsecondary system of education with a specific emphasis on the Vocational Educational Institutes within the country and the business apprenticeship programs,” said Dotson.

At those institutes, Dotson discovered the importance of the country’s work-based apprenticeship program. The German Chamber of Commerce works with technical and vocational institutes to ensure that students are given appropriate apprenticeships and evaluated regularly.

Northwestern University Professor Harold Sirkin, writing for, wrote that “as a result of this system, few Germans find themselves unemployable. The youth unemployment rate, for example, was just 7.7 percent in February [2013], well below that of the U.S. (16.2 percent..).” Dotson agrees with the assessment.

“In our country, I still think we try to push some people to a four-year degree when really they just need some technical, vocational training in order to be able to get a job,” said Dotson. “In the German system, whatever track you choose, you have multiple paths that you can take that will lead you to college, career, or work.”

The tour spanned three cities, Frankfurt, Munich and Stuttgart, and brought the Americans into contact with high-ranking staffers from major German banks, schools and government ministries. The program was, however, also concerned with cultural exchange, so recreational events were spread throughout the trip.

“It is hard to pick one highlight—I enjoyed the cultural aspect of Germany as much as the educational aspect,” said Dotson. “The short visit to Oktoberfest, participation in the German-American Appreciation Day celebration in Stuttgart and dinner in an 800-year-old monastery were all learning experiences as well as the tours of the vocational educational institutes.”

Dotson returned from his trip with a broader appreciation for the work of technical colleges, a specific admiration of German education and a reaffirmed belief in the work of his own college.

“I don’t think you get any better than our system of education, but I did come away very impressed with the German system,” said Dotson.