Technical education is what the country needs – but which?
- Posted by Gerhard Pramhas
- On 25. October 2018
Education policy: it’s on everyone’s lips, and is currently being commented on and analysed by the nation’s newspapers. I saw this as a good occasion to add my two cents to the topic and ask myself the question: What technical education does the country need?
Four ways to becoming a technician
In principle, the Austrian educational system offers us four paths to becoming a technician i.e. engineer:
1.) The apprenticeship
After finishing your nine compulsory years of schooling, you complete an apprenticeship, e.g. as a structural steelwork technician, or attend a technical college.
Advantage of this way: You learn the job from the ground up. When it comes to the practical implementation of what you have learned, no-one can surpass you.
Disadvantage of this way: You are good in practice, but you are no theoretician. You know the properties of the various steel grades and know exactly which are best suited for bending and which for welding work, but you cannot carry out a strength verification for a welded construction.
2.) Matura at a Higher Technical College (“HTL”)
Following the first eight years of compulsory schooling, you switch to an HTL and complete your Matura there after five years.
Advantage of this way: Your education still has a very high practical relevance. As an HTL graduate, you have actually held the tools in your hand and presumably also know how to handle welding equipment. You also have a pretty solid foundation of the theory. A simple strength calculation does not present an impossible task for you. The HTL is a very good basis for self-employment, for example at an engineer’s office. If in addition to this, you also complete training in the field of economy, e.g. a degree at a university of economics, then the world is your oyster.
Disadvantage of this way: Despite the great education, career-wise you are still limited to technical occupations. With “just” the HTL, you will have a hard time gaining access to management levels.
3.) Degree at a university of applied sciences (“FH”)
After successfully completing your Matura, you follow the path to a university of applied sciences.
Advantage of this way: With enough commitment and hard work, after just five years you will hold the title Master of Science. You receive the opportunity to get to know interesting companies as part of mandatory internships and, ideally, are recruited directly from the FH. You start working much earlier than your colleagues at a technical university.
Disadvantage of this way: The university of applied sciences becomes your downfall if you wish to complete a doctorate. In this case, you would have to catch up on several courses at the technical university. The FH gives you a good mix of knowledge consisting of practice and theory, but you don’t receive such a good practical education as an HTL graduate, nor such a good theoretical education as the technical university graduate.
4.) Degree at a technical university (“TU”)
Following your Matura, you choose the route of one of the three technical universities in Austria (TU Wien, TU Graz, Montanuniversitaet Leoben).
Advantage of this way: Here you receive the best theoretical education and can, if you wish, conclude a doctoral programme at any time. If you additionally combine this education with economics, you will quickly ascend to executive levels. You understand contextual relationships and are often the ideal generalist.
Disadvantage of this way: By the time you have completed your TU studies, your colleague from the FH has already gained several years of work experience and could potentially be your first boss. Financially, you don’t make up for the (usually long) years of study by the time you retire, your earnings throughout your lifetime may well be the lowest among all variants presented here, and at an advanced age, it is no longer so easy to find job placements.
Conclusion? Keep the 1-2-10 formula in mind
For the business location of Austria, all four forms of education are of equal importance. This is evidenced in particular by the wide-ranging international trade competitions. But I would advise every technician to consider the 1-2-10 formula, which I have already discussed in an earlier blog entry.