From neighbours to partners – Polish-German cooperation projects of the BGZ in vocational education

Berlin is particularly closely connected with Poland. Through the EU accession of the neighbour country, new perspectives and requirements of cooperation arose. BGZ had the possibility to actively shape this historically turbulent time of EU expansion. From 2001 to 2007 BGZ implemented 50 German-Polish individual projects and put them together to form an overall concept. More than 900 Berliners participated and benefited.

The aim of the overall concept was to promote exchanges between VET managers of both countries to resolve issues of mutual recognition of qualifications build strong networks for the secondment, and implement the results of this exchange sustainably.

BGZ had a dual role as an implementing and coordinating body. It selected advocates and partners for the sub-projects, ensured communication, synergies and transfer between partners, stakeholders and types of action. Individual actions by different advocates and institutions also had their place in the overall concept. In conjunction with this, the BGZ initiated and activated the Berlin network with Poland.

 “We have successfully completed many projects with the BGZ and know what it means to cooperate with someone in complete trust. The BGZ has consistently wholly supported the interchange between the craftsmen, which leads to a benefit not only for Polish but also for Berlin trade. In fact, many friendships have developed over the years.”

Maciej Prószyński, General Director retd. in the umbrella organisation of Polish Skilled Crafts, Warsaw

The overall approach consisted of four types of combined actions. All important advocates in vocational training were involved: VET managers, who participated in the experience exchange in Poland, set focal points and set-up the internships; young people who completed internships in Poland; the Polish-German expert commission, which acted as a “Think Tank” and the German-Polish Forum, which provided information, exchange, publicity and new contacts.

1. German-Polish experience exchange for VET managers

The experience exchange lasted a week and took the participants to Warsaw, Poznan, Krakow, Katowice etc. In this area, there were 16 projects with around 500 participants from Berlin and Brandenburg.

The projects aimed to get to know the Polish VET system and prepare internships for young people from Berlin. Trainers and VET managers from both countries jointly developed recommendations and strategies for the modernisation of vocational education in both countries, and created a solid basis for further projects and economic cooperation. In addition, visitations of educational institutions and businesses, the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Economy and chambers and associations were conducted.

Trade-specific exchanges were carried out, in collaboration with the Berlin guilds for the automotive industry, bakers, butchers, painters, opticians etc. In addition, cross-discipline seminars were organized, e.g. to carry out the master’s certificate in both countries and to address the question of how skilled crafts as a career field can be made more attractive.

2. German-Polish internships for young people and students in Berlin

Internships for young people are now also common in the skilled crafts. Despite the close border, there was little interest in an internship in the neighbour country Poland. We wanted to change that. Together with VET managers in OSZs and guilds, which acted as multipliers after a seminar in Poland, a total of 19 internships for 200 young people from Berlin were organized. The internships lasted 3 weeks and were surrounded by several pre- and follow-up phases. In addition to learning new techniques in their own trade, the internships also strengthened participants’ technical, social linguistic and intercultural skills. Professions such as wood construction, scaffolding, office administration, IT, traders professionals from the retail and trade industries, painters, butchers and opticians, amongst others were represented.

Initially, the neighbouring country was strange for many young people ,- particularly the language. The positive response of almost all participants after the internship abroad has encouraged the BGZ to continue the youth exchange after the expiration of the BMBF funding, with Leonardo projects.

3. The German-Polish commission of experts in the skilled crafts

The German-Polish commission of experts was the “Think Tank” and the clip for the other three measures. The commission, which had an equal number of decision-makers, representatives of chambers and guilds, as well as experts from Poland and Germany, consisted of 14 members. For the workshops in Warsaw or Berlin, representatives were seconded by the Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Technology and Women’s issues, the Supreme National Authority for training and career promotion (AFBG), the Berlin Chamber of Small Business and Skilled Crafts. For Poland, representatives from the Ministry of Education (MEN), the ZPR the Polish Craft Association of Chambers of Commerce and the chambers Krakow, Olsztyn, Poznan and Bialystok were part of the expert committee.

The Commission’s task was to push forward fundamental issues in the German-Polish cooperation in vocational education in skilled trades. The Commission compiled opinions of and approaches to education standards of both countries, current certification opportunities in Poland, mutual recognition of professional qualifications, the impact of EU directives and regulations for future education assistance. The Commission assessed the results of the other measures, and determined the specific steps for the next exchanges.

4. The German-Polish Forum

To bring the results of the Polish-German vocational training cooperation to a broader scientific community, BGZ, together with the Berlin Chamber of Small Business and Skilled Crafts, organized the “German-Polish Forum”. Representatives from enterprises, guilds, OSZs and the administration were invited.

The platform provided transfer, publicity and sustainability of the outcome of the cooperation. Additionally, for the overall concept, it ensured the direct link to the business practice and the demands of the Berlin skilled crafts. Representatives of the expert commission gave lectures during the forum. Thus this assisted in promoting the results, putting them into practice in vocational education and training, and in gaining invigorated momentum from the praxis.

Over the project’s lifetime the forum was held six times and reached 160 participants.

Results of BGZ cooperation concept

The BMBF project is one of the BGZ’s most sustainable projects. We

 “For many years the BGZ has initiated projects which present a comparison of different educational systems within the EU countries. In this way they have succeeded in aligning different standards of competency and in bringing the educational systems closer together. Quality and sustainability have always been core issues. The BGZ is doing excellent work in shaping the European education area in cooperative partnership. And WIR is part of this partnership. We greatly appreciate the work of the BGZ as cooperative, competent, result-oriented and successful. We look forward to further successful cooperation.”

Tomasz Wika, Director WIR - Chamber of Crafts of Wielkopolskie Region, Poznan

A sustainable example of transnational cooperation on both sides of the Oder is the Oder partnership. “Borders separate – the Oder connects “ is the motto under which the countries of the Oder-partnership created an informal interregional network, in which they work project-oriented. The aim is to develop an efficient, liveable, politically and infrastructural linked economic area in Europe, which is also cooperative and dynamic in as many fields as possible.

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Implemented in:

Berlin and Poland (e.g., in Warsaw, Poznan, Szczecin, Grünberg, Krakow, Olsztyn)


2001 – 2007

Berlin partners:

Chamber of Small Business and Skilled Crafts, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Guilds (e.g. automotive, painters, bakers, photographers, butchers; hairdressers) Senate department for education, youth and sports, Secondary School and VET College of Higher and Further Training

Transnational partners:

ZRP Warsaw, Polish chambers and guilds (e.g. WIR Poznan, Olsztyn, Katowice, ZDZ Warsaw)


Grazyna Wittgen
Tel.:+49(0)30 809941-14


BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research), ESF

From neighbours to partners