Spain’s new dual vocational training: public lies, private business and savings for large companies

14 September, 2021

Dual vocational training

A week after the publication of the law establishing the new vocational training, the public news media promise us that “for the first time in history vocational training will no longer be the poor relative” and the government hypocritically repeats that the new training will create jobs. This is not true. But they leave workers no other option. The new vocational training transforms the entire labor market and no worker is going to be able to stay out of it. That is why enrollment applications have grown by 51% and it is already clear that in many autonomous communities there will not be enough places this year. Not by miscalculation, but by design. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Table of Contents

The new vocational training will not increase jobs but establishes general, specific and continuing training for workers tailor-made for each company

The Minister of Education, Pilar Alegría, presents the new vocational training after the council of ministers.
The Minister of Education, Pilar Alegría, presents the new vocational training after the council of ministers.

A week ago the government approved the new vocational training plan, accompanied by an extraordinary endowment of 2,000 million euros on account of European funds to implement the generalization of dual training. In the end, it is a matter of handing over between 20 and 40% of the training hours to companies, which is what the big corporate managers were asking the government for in order to “get involved” and hire young people.

Actually the goal of government and business, explicit in the recovery plan submitted to Brussels, is that every job will require specific training.

The big lie here is pretending that this will create jobs. Increasing the number of graduates under the new vocational training will not create new jobs by itself as we are promised. What determines investments in new companies and higher production is not the formal training undergone by individual workers, but the opportunities to make higher production profitable.

What the government is playing at is pushing for a 50% increase in job openings for the new graduates of this training, which is far from being the same thing. Because increasing job offers is not the same as requiring graduates in a specific role and hiring them preferentially.

This is why the new vocational training merges with lifelong learning. From now on, with or without new jobs, the worker will be required to have specific training for each job he or she applies for. That is why the new system will reduce the unemployment figures: those who do not have specific training for the job they aspire to will have an even more difficult time. Everyone shall study.

Do you want to look for a job in another field because you can’t find a job in the one you studied or because your company closed down? Do a new module or enter a vocational training program (FP3) and see if you get lucky. The whole system of the new vocational training is thought in that logic. The new vocational training even offers a home food delivery training for riders. Even the most precarious and poorly paid job is going to require a degree and thus at least a year spent in training.

With youth unemployment at 38% it does not seem difficult to predict or explain the success of the new vocational training. When in the public sector (Post Office) 150,000 people apply for 3,400 jobs it is to be expected that companies offering very precarious positions will also be able to choose among candidates for a job. And if they have someone specifically trained on the job, preferably in-house, this person will have more options. This is all the “engagement” we can expect managers to have with the new vocational training.

The dual system of the new vocational training creates employment “corrals”

Students of the dual vocational training in the company Atlantic Copper
Students of the dual vocational training in the company Atlantic Copper

But there is one more twist. The goal of the regional governments is to include even small and micro-SMEs in vocational education and training (FP2). If they don’t include them en masse the numbers won’t work out for them either because all training will be dual from now on. They will be able to have one apprentice in dual training for every two workers on the payroll. The idea is to generate a constant flow of apprentices in workshops and offices no matter how small these companies are.

The foreseeable outcome of this is not very promising. If companies are building up their own databases of resumes of young people they know and have trained, few job offers are going to go out to employment agencies.

The new vocational training system thus creates employment corrals: it’s not just that those who hold a specific degree have an advantage over those who don’t, it’s that your real job opportunities in a given function will depend on the company you join. Once the system is generalized you’re not going to get many job opportunities outside of it. More incentive to pursue… another vocational training course in something new or complementary.

The “success” of the new vocational training: not enough openings for the demand

Project of the private campus EUFP Albor in Cordoba. The investment is justified by the conditions of the new vocational training.
Project of the private campus EUFP Albor in Cordoba. The investment is justified by the conditions of the new vocational training.

The expectation is therefore not more employment but more pressure on workers who will be required to be trained no longer in the trade or position, but according to the ultimate need of the company that hires them.

Thus it is not surprising that the mere announcement of the new vocational training has raised enrollment applications by 51%. And “suddenly”, the places offered have become insufficient.

According to the CCOO trade union, more than half of Madrid students will be left this year without a place in a higher grade of vocational training. In the case of high demand degrees, such as those of the health care sector, the percentage of rejected applications exceeds 90% in some cases, according to the union. In other autonomous communities the situation is similar: in Málaga alone almost six thousand students have been left unable to study vocational training in public high schools.

It does not seem to be an innocent mistake. It doesn’t look like they miscalculated the demand for seats. Quite the opposite.

A new field in which to accumulate at the expense of working families

Evolution of the vacancy offer before the establishment of the new vocational training.

The message is clear: the young person who is left out of the new vocational training is going to be left out of the labor market. For working families there is no choice. For the autonomous governments the patch is clear: to resort to their friends in the private sector. In fact, the tendency to hand over an increasing part of the places to private companies, especially those linked to the catholic church, has been underway for years.

If we leave aside the increase represented by the irruption of basic vocational training (FPB) from the 2014-2015 academic year, the public sector lags far behind. Between those years, public intermediate and higher vocational training added up to an increase of 53,591 students. The private network, double: 105,358 boys and girls

Administrations yield ground to private versus public vocational training. El Diario de la Educación.

And indeed, no matter where we look, the new vocational training is translating into a proliferation of public-private “concerts” with religious bodies and private companies. But this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The transfer of money from the state to the companies through the “concerts” will only amount to 550 million euros, but the accounts are made so that big private educational companies will share among themselves an additional 5,000 million euros directly and indirectly on account of the recovery funds.

Thus, with the expectation of public aid, public-private partnerships (concerts) and scholarships, new campuses for the new vocational training are springing up all over Spain. Investments look very safe thanks to state money and the absence of sufficient public places. Because seen from the point of view of working families, if there are no public or subsidized places, they will have to tighten their belts and get money from wherever they can to pay for a private school.

But that’s just the helping hand that public administrations are giving to the launch of this new business. The real business starts later: a course of the new vocational training in the private sector costs €5,000 on average. And while the autonomous governments, such as the Andalusian one, guide the vocational training teachers to seek dual vocational training agreements with the micro-SMEs that surround the centers and towns which are having a hard time and can hardly hire many of their apprentices, the large private companies, linked by capital and board members to regional and multinational industrial and service groups, will offer dual courses in companies with greater hiring capacity.

For young workers and their families, the new private vocational training is more than just the place to go when there are no openings in the public sector, it is the expensive toll to pay for a little more opportunity.

The consequences of the new vocational training program for working families

(Spanish) Regional administrations are guiding public education teachers to create curricula vitae for the new vocational training program with the micro-SMEs in their environment. It’s the only way they can get the figures right, but it also gives a significant advantage to the private sector and makes subsequent placement of students much more difficult.

Summarizing what we have covered so far, we can say that the new vocational training will reduce unemployment figures – at least in the first period – by making vocational training practically compulsory and recurrent throughout life. But it will not in itself create jobs.

As companies enter the new vocational training, fewer job offers will be made public. You train in the company and for the company. As soon as you get out of it, recruitment possibilities are reduced. The famous “commitment of the companies” is not going to mean more jobs but real corrals, enclosures, of employability within the companies.

This in turn drives the system, because if you don’t find a job in what you trained for, you must try your luck with another training. In other words, the new vocational training does not correct the precariousness, in fact it feeds on it.

And since in reality your chances of getting a job with minimal prospects are going to depend mostly on the situation of the company in which you did the dual training, the incentives to pay 5,000€ per year to a private one linked to big companies which hire regularly are going to go beyond the absence of sufficient places in the public offer.

That is, the new vocational training is designed to demand and impose a greater effort for workers and their families. It will be the workers who will pay an increasing part of the cost of adapting companies to industrial and technological changes. They will pay for it in hours of training effort but also in hard cash for private companies. Capital was not going to miss the opportunity to force a transfer of income from labor like this and the state was not going to deny it to capital.

The ultimate consequences of the new vocational training and the real reason for the “commitment” of the companies

Evolution of wages in Spain in 2018. The plunge in average wages reduces the total wage bill collected by workers, which become concentrated around the minimum wage, while improving the compensation of the corporate petty bourgeoisie.
Evolution of wages in Spain in 2018. Sinking average wages reduces the total wage bill collected by workers whom it concentrates around the minimum wage, while improving the remunerations of the corporate petty bourgeoisie. The new vocational training will reinforce this trend already underway by making it cheaper for parents to be replaced (laid off) with their children in companies.

But in the current Spanish context the new vocational training has an even more perverse consequence.

With today’s low firing costs, each increase in the minimum wage works as an incentive to replace workers with years of experience who need retraining (the parents), with young workers who receive the minimum wage (their children). If we add the Social Security discounts for hiring young people and that on-the-job training reduces to the extreme the cost of replacing one worker with another, the result is that the new vocational training, under the conditions currently prevailing in Spain, forces parents to incubate their children so that will replace them for a lower salary.

This is the reason for the pressure and the vaunted “commitment of the companies”. It is not a reform “for the youth” nor a way to create jobs, it is a structural change from which the bourgeoisie expects a drop in the total that capital pays for labor. The new vocational training makes it cheaper to fire workers with permanent contracts to replace them with others, some younger, with lower wages. That’s the whole secret.