Information about the project

The Unions4VET project

Since 2015, the DGB and bfw have a jointly operated coordination office to promote international trade union cooperation in vocational education and training. The coordination office is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the Unions4VET project. The funding is part of the Federal Government's strategy for the internationalization of vocational education and training .
The aim of the coordination office is to initiate and support international exchange and cooperation between trade unions from different countries in order to improve the quality of vocational training and to strengthen the role of trade unions in vocational training policy. The guiding principles for good training are 20 quality standards that the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has compiled in a European Quality Framework for Training.

The coordination office has 3 main areas of action:

  1. promote networking
  2. initiate and promote bilateral projects
  3. strategy consulting
  1. The coordination office promotes a vocational training dialogue between the participating trade unions on a bilateral and multilateral level in order to transfer knowledge, experience and examples of good practice, to promote mutual learning and to develop joint approaches, strategies and political positions for improving the quality of vocational training. The focus is on "quality standards in vocational education and training" and "good governance of vocational education and training".
  2. The coordination office initiates and supports bilateral pilot projects for the joint development and dissemination of instruments for improving quality in vocational education and training and for capacity building of trade unions. Examples include the development of a concept for trainee mentoring and a train-the-trainer course together with the Greek trade union institute INE-GSEE, or workshops and reciprocal study visits with the Italian partner trade unions CGIL, CISL and UIL in Piedmont, Tuscany and Veneto to get to know each other's vocational training practices in the two countries. Since 2020, the BMBF has been funding such projects through the WiSoVET program . The coordination office advises interested trade union organizations and educational institutions on applying for funding from the WiSoVET program and supports them in networking with trade unions in partner countries. 
  3. The coordination office advises the federal government on the strategic orientation of international vocational training cooperation with partner countries. In doing so, it actively contributes the interests and perspectives of employee representatives in the partner countries and thus strengthens the role of trade unions in international vocational training cooperation.

In addition, the coordination office contributes its expertise and experience in the form of publications and inputs to workshops and conferences in the exchange on international vocational training cooperation and actively participates in the theory-practice dialogue with scientific actors.


Federal Ministry of Education and Research

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) works together with different partner countries in an international cooperation in vocational education. The aims are to promote economic development and to improve social stability in the respective countries.

In order to achieve this aim, vocational education and training is promoted by specialists in the non-academic field and it is intended to implement national standards in VET. The objective is to enable young people to become more employable through alternating, practical training at the vocational school and in the works. The requirement for skilled labour in the regional and national economies is to be covered by involving regional enterprises in apprenticeships.

Cooperation in vocational education and training at a bilateral level opens both opportunities and benefits in various fields for the German economy. Service providers have the opportunity to export their offers of initial and advanced training abroad.

German companies (which perhaps import goods for their own production) profit from well-trained labour.
The basic principles of cooperation in vocational education and training were formulated by the German government in its strategic paper “Collaboration in vocational education and training from one source” in July 2013. These principles include the inclusion of social partners, learning at work, implementing national standards, deploying qualified personnel in vocational education and training and institutionalised research and advice in VET.

The BMBF’s Website

Information on the two other strategic projects, SCIVET and VETnet, which are funded in the context of the bilateral BMBF vocational education and training cooperation, can be found here.

German Trade Union Confederation

The German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB) is responsible for executing the Unions4VET project together with bfw - Unternehmen für Bildung. The German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB) stands for solidarity in society. It is the voice of the trade unions towards political decision-makers, parties and associations at federal, state and local levels. It coordinates trade union activities. The eight member unions in the German Federation of Trade Unions negotiate with employers to improve tariff policies and they represent their members in the enterprises. At an international level, the DGB works in the European Federation of Trade Unions (ETUC) and in the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and represents the German trade union movement at international institutions, such as the EU and the UNO. Vocational education and training and apprenticeships are central policies of the DGB and its member trade unions. As part of the ETUC, the DGB has been involved in determining 20 quality standards and criteria, which define good vocational education and training from a trade union point of view.
The DGB works in European policies for VET on the basis of these criteria. The Unions4VET project, together with different trade unions from Europe, Costa Rica and South Africa, develops strategies to improve the quality of vocational education and training and to promote trade union involvement in the control of vocational education and training.

Website of the German Federation of Trade Unions

bfw - Unternehmen für Bildung

The Charitable, Further Training Works Educational Institution of DGB GmbH (bfw) is one of the leading education service providers in Germany. As a charity for further vocational training, the company has been committed to securing jobs with a future and to covering the need for skilled labour through qualification, advice and mediation for more than 60 years now. Around 1,800 people are professionally employed in some 200 educational institutions and training shops throughout Germany. They provide qualifications to around 45,000 each year. bfw offers holistic educational service from one source – for job-seekers, students, trainees and workers as well as for companies, public-sector institutions and municipalities. bfw is present throughout Germany, although it has its roots in the regions.

Website of the bfw - Unternehmen für Bildung.