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Invited Paper - Faculty Professionalization in Industry Sponsored Projects in Austrian Vocational Education and Training Schools

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2013 ASEE International Forum


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 22, 2013

Start Date

June 22, 2013

End Date

June 22, 2013

Conference Session

Track 1 - Session I - Student Development

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Invited - Student Development

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Page Numbers

21.41.1 - 21.41.9



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Paper Authors


Eleonore Lickl HBLVA for Chemical Industry

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Former Secretary General of the International Society for Engineering Education IGIP, currently teaching at the Vocational and Technical College For Chemical Industry in Vienna, Austria and at the University of Teacher Education Styria in Graz, Austria.

Since 2011 she is editor-in chief of the online journal The International Journal of Engineering Pedagogy (iJEP). She is also writing in Austrian media related to chemistry, and food and biotechnology.

She graduated as "Diplom-Ingenieur" from the University for Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in 1980 in Food Science and Biotechnology and recevied her PhD from the same university in 1982. She has worked in industry and research in Austria, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Taiwan before she started to teach in 1989.

Her interests are all areas of engineering education, esp. in professionalization of engineering faculty in general. She trains professionals starting to teach in Austrian VET Schools in the STEM sector, her expertise is also in teaching first and second year students in chemistry and chemical engineering, and recently her research interests also include pre-school didactics in STEM field and the professionalization of kindergarden personnel in STEM.

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Faculty professionalization in industry sponsored projects in Austrian Vocational Education and TrainingSince the end of the 1990s Austrian VET college student can work on industry sponsoredprojects in their last two semesters of study. As the term capstone project is not used in Austria,these projects are called diploma projects, their final examination has also the term diplomaexamination.The Austrian school system has a strong branch in the vocational and technical field, wherestudents from 14 to 19 years old are trained in Upper-Level secondary technical and vocationalColleges. Additionally in the VET system beside VET colleges also VET schools can be chosen,but they do not end with a graduation. Figure 1 gives an overview about the Austrian educationsystem starting from the age of 14.Fig. 1: The Austrian Educational System (source: WKO1)The VET colleges (in German called BHS, Berufsbildende Höhere Schulen) are classified in theISCED 4A level according to ISCED 2011. ISCED is the international classification used toensure cross-national comparability of data about education systems on the basis of uniform andinternationally agreed definitions by UNESCO. ISCED 3 is defined as Upper secondaryeducation, ISCED 4 as Post-secondary non-tertiary education (ISCED 1997)2. ISCED 2011 hasrevised the classification in the fields of education and training3. As in Austria the vocational andtechnical training starts in this type of educational program (“BHS”) with the age of 14 which israther specific and not internationally a standard age for the start of an engineering education, theclassification by UNESCO is fundamental for the graduates (with the age of usually 19 or 20) ifthey want to work in other countries. All graduates of these programs can apply in Austria for thetitle of an engineer if they have worked for at least three years in the technical field of theireducation. The title of an engineer is a professional title, which is granted by the FederalMinistry of Economy, family and Youth4, but the education system lies in the hands of theFederal Ministry for Education, Art and Culture. The graduates of VET colleges are also entitledto study at any university or university of applied sciences. This title system is an Austrianparticularity, formerly the professional title was called “little engineer” (in German abbreviatedas “Ing.”, Ingenieur) in differentiation from the “big engineer” who had graduated at a technicaluniversity (abbreviated as “Dipl. Ing”, Diplom-Ingenieur). Meanwhile, most technicaluniversities had changed their curricula according to the Bologna system with a Bachelor /Master /PhD program5, although they still allow their Master graduates to use the title of “Dipl.Ing”6, 7, so within the next decade the Austrian title system will loose its importance.Nevertheless, for the graduates of any ISCED classification it will be important that industry andtrade is familiar with classification system.Student enrolment in VET programsIn 2011 in total 42,000 young students graduated in Austria with a certificate that allowed themto study8 , they had finished either a Secondary academic school – upper level (in German AHS,Allgemeinbildende Höhere Schule), or a VET college. More than 56 % of them graduated from avocational and technical college with a diploma examination. Were in the 1980s more graduatesfrom the AHS, now classified as ISCED 3A, turned this into an overload of graduates from thevocational training since 1989. In comparison, in 1960 graduated more than 10,000 students, atthat time only 32 % graduated from a vocational and technical college9.At present, more than 300 VET colleges are distributed all over Austria, with a number of almost138,000 students10. Disciplines of engineering colleges are civil engineering, interior design andwood technology, electrical engineering, electronics, mechanical engineering, mechatronics,materials engineering, media technology and media management, information technology,chemistry, chemical engineering, food technology, IT and computer science, industrialengineering, operations management, art and design and others11.Curriculum of VET collegesThere are several types of Austrian VET colleges12. The reformed curriculum of 2011 includessubject courses with a total of 100 to 110 hours, depending on the engineering program13. It hasto be mentioned, that in the Austrian education system for everyone at a VET college about 15hours of mathematics and applied mathematics and 10 hours of physics and science arecompulsory, in addition to the engineering program. In total, 175 hours are basis of the reformedengineering syllabus.Not all discipline have their syllabus reformed at present, some have still curricula from theNineties. The syllabus which has been used until now14 included about 55 hours of engineeringsubjects, plus 16 hours of mathematics and 10 of science, a total of 185 hours was necessary tofulfill the syllabus. As mentioned above, the vocational training is combined with an educationaltraining (mother language, English, geography, history, political education, economy and justice,and sports). All projects discussed here had been under curricula of 199714.According to the curricula for the various disciplines of higher technical and vocational colleges,additional to the required theoretical and practical subjects internships of eight weeks in industryor trade are compulsory. As the curricula ask for expertise, methodological skills, social andpersonal skills and language skills, these skills can be acquired during an internship13.FacultyIn 2011, the personnel in the vocational and technical colleges are given as 22,600 of whichmore than 8,000 are teaching engineering subjects8, 10. These teaching personnel are mostlyacademics trained at technical universities, who had been working in industry or trade at least forfour years before they had started to teach at a VET college, and before they had started theirpedagogical study. Not the entire teaching faculty in technical universities worldwide has theprerequisite of several years of industrial experience. The focus on the curriculum of theseteachers of technical subjects lies on pedagogy15, but lies on practical work in laboratories,building yards and others16, 17. The curriculum dates from 2008, according to the federal status ofAustria nine versions are in use18.Diploma projects for groups of students are supervised by one or more members of the faculty inparallel, mostly combining experts from different fields. To rely on the quality of the projects theAustrian ministry for Education has published standards already in 199919 (for schools and forcolleges). Didactic guidelines said  differentiation according to the individual possibilities, demands and needs of the student within the learner group,  acquiring new knowledge and realizing connections and structures with the help of examples (learning by examples)  ability of autonomous learning and knowledge management (learning to learn and to use what has had been learned),  connection between theoretical-conceptual learning and learning through action and experiments.Student focused approachFaculty were mentioned in that ministerial guideline for diploma projects only marginal: as far asthey should support the projects they are interested in (and the students are interested in); theirrole lie in the subject competence as background, but mainly in providing assistance withstructuring of planning and decision-making processes, to help with methodological expertise, towork on intergroup dynamic processes and to help with evaluation and reflection.ProjectsIn 1999 the Federal Austrian Ministry for Education and Culture published a report aboutprojects on Austrian VET schools and colleges, to “show the performance of the schools andcolleges to an interested public”20. 40 % of the 471 reviewed projects had partners from industry.Students had studied the disciplines building construction, chemistry, IT, electronic, electricalengineering, interior design, wood technology, food technology, manufacturing systemsengineering and others while doing their projects.In 2002 another review showed that in the teaching period 2001/2002 42 teaching institutionswith 1336 projects had been evaluated. 66 % of these projects had a practical impact, in 44 % ofthe project an external partner were involved21. This is quite interesting because at that time itwas not so clear if the teaching institutions (and their students who were not yet graduated andhad not finished their education) should have a deeper involvement with industry and trade. Theministry therefore wanted to make a statement that VET schools and colleges are not onlyeducational institutions but also partners of the economic sector. No statement is made of theinvolvement of teaching personnel."Practical" teaching instruction is one focus (of four) stressed by Dorninger, where working inlabs overcomes remote techniques and simulations. Industrial Certificates, f.e. in IT, are alsowanted22, 23.HTL innovativMore than 4000 projects are registered with website of HTL innovativ24 as diploma projects ofstudents of Austrian VET colleges. They include many specializations; most prominent figuresare projects in Electrical Engineering / Electronics, Mechanical Engineering / Mechatronics,Informatics (Electronic Data Processing and Organization) / Information Technology,Construction Engineering / Interior Design & Timber Technology, Chemical Engineering / FoodTechnology and Material Engineering. Some 40 % of the registered projects had partners fromindustry, trade, public authorities, local administrations, private partners and others.Other initiativesJugend InnovativAlready in 1987 an Austrian school projects contest competition had been started, which is nowAustria’s biggest nationwide school contest for innovative and original ideas with more than6,000 projects so far and more than 26,000 students participating. Engineering and science isincluded, but also business, design, sustainability, and tech&society project areexcepted25.Committed students (from the 10th grade upwards) get the opportunity to translate theirinnovative ideas into projects and to present them to a broad public under the umbrella of JugendInnovativ. Prizes are awarded to the best and most innovative contributions, and financialsupport is granted to all the projects submitted. In 2012 the winning team participated in the 24.EU-Contest for Young Scientists in Bratislava, Slovakia; other teams were awarded at the 27.Chinese Adolescents Science & Technology Innovation Contest in Yinchuan, or at theStockholm International Youth Science Seminar, Sweden.Sparkling ScienceThis research program was launched in 2007 by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Science andResearch. It is another unique path of promoting young talent from schools and colleges - thisprogram is open to all types of Upper level secondary education, not only VET colleges. Fundingis reserved to projects under which students are actively involved in the academic workingprocess. These junior researchers are important in stimulating the research approach, they areinvolved in designing the concept for and implementation of research projects, they conductsurveys, collect data, interpret them together with academics and present the results at schools,universities and even at academic meetings. The topics range from Green Chemistry, nano-materials, robotics, and climate change26. At present more than 209 projects have been funded,with 45,000 students and 1,000 teachers from 358 schools partnering, Sparkling Science allowsalso projects with partners in other countries, Spain, Italy, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Serbia,Poland, Japan, Cameroun, and Turkey. As the Austrian students speak German as mother tongue,the competent use of English is intrinsic in all international projects.Project Area number completed by 2012Science 61 32Social science 41 19Information technology 27 17engineering 26 19teaching-learning research 27 11humanities 15 7medicine and health 12 8Tab. 1: Sparkling Science area 2007-2012Relying on these materials the professionalization in industry sponsored projects of the coachesis obvious. All coaches are teaching personnel, academics from technical universities with atleast four years of working experience as said. Austrian VET colleges don’t do research, but dueto the projects of their students the coaches are involved in what one could call training-on-the-job.Although no effort is made to support the coaches in an institutional way, the project work issuccessful since more than 20 years.Seal of Approval “Young Science”Young Science27 is given to Austrian schools and colleges for their commitment to work togetherwith research institutions. It is said explicitly that the professionalization of students and teachersare valued. This initiative was started in 2012, 30 % of the awardees were VET colleges.JUNIOR CompaniesAnother initiative values JUNIOR Companies, where students of VET colleges start a projectwhich ends in a product, the project also includes an involvement in the open market – theproducts should be financially successful. The categories of the award are sustainability,organisational culture, sales and marketing, but also innovation. In 2012, more than 1,800students were coached by 200 teachers28, 29.Future diploma projectsFrom the year 2016 on changed graduation examination rules will take place at the AustrianUpper level secondary technical and vocational colleges (as well as at the Secondary academicschools upper level, ISCED 3A) with emphasis on e. g. project work, including presentation anddiscussion (also dislocated in co-operation with companies and other institutions), and therefore,on the professionalization of the coaches of industry sponsored projects30.The diploma thesis is the hands-on product of a team of at least 2 (up to 5) students with adefined length, where a co-operation with external partners, such as businesses, public interestbodies or other areas is welcome, it is never a study of references and literature.A graduate of an Austrian VET collage has to be educated according to the Directive2005/36/EG31 which manages the recognition of professional qualifications, which states the apostsecondary education of at least one year is equivalent. The diploma thesis should thereforebe equal a standard graduation project of a Short Cycle Higher Education programmes of auniversity30.ConclusionAs faculty of Austrian VET colleges is actively involved in project and diploma project worksince more than 15 years a solid basis on project finding, project management, coaching studentsand co-operating with industry and trade has been led. Student could find their way from aschool or college environment to a workplace and career life in industry or trade. Theprofessional qualification of the faculty members had been proven by many thousand successfuldiploma projects, projects of student of Austrian VET colleges of 18 or 19 years of age.References1 WKO Österreich, Institut für Bildungsforschung der Wirtschaft, 2009.2 Science Teaching in Schools in Europe, Policies and Research, Eurydice, 20063 (last visited 2013-02- 15)4 Ingenieurgesetz 2006, BGBl. I Nr. 120/2006 (Engineering Act 2006, Federal Law Gazette I nr. 120).5 Unidata,499528&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL&E1aufgeklappt= 8&E2aufgeklappt=17 (last visited 2013-02-15)6 (last visited 2013- 02-15)7 r.pdf (last visited 2013-02-15)8 Statistik Austria ex.html (last visited 2013-02-15)9 Michael Bruneforth & Lorenz Lassnigg (eds) Nationaler Bildungsbericht Österreich 2012, vol. 1, 2013, Leykam.10 Statistical Guide, Key facts and figures about schools and adult education in Austria 2011, BMUKK.11 (last visited 2013-02-15)12 Verordnung der Bundesministerin für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur über die Lehrpläne der Höheren technischen und gewerblichen Lehranstalten; Bekanntmachung der Lehrpläne für den Religionsunterricht, Lehrplan 2011 BGBl II Nr. 300/2011 / Regulation of the Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs of the curricula for higher technical and vocational schools, Notice of the curriculum for religious education in these schools. curriculum 2011. Fed. Law Gazette II nr. 30014 Verordnung des Bundesministers für Unterricht und kulturelle Angelegenheiten über die Lehrpläne für Höhere technische und gewerbliche Lehranstalten; Bekanntmachung der Lehrpläne für den Religionsunterricht an diesen Schulen. Lehrplan 1997 BGBl II Nr. 302/1997 / Regulation of the Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs of the curricula for higher technical and vocational schools, Notice of the curriculum for religious education in these schools. Curriculum 1997.15 Schüller, P., Ausrichtung der Berufseintrittsphase für LehrerInnen technischer Fächer am internationalen Curriculum der Ingenieurpädagogik im österreichischen technisch-gewerblichen Schulwesen. In: Lickl, E. Kraker, N. (eds) Österreichisches Ingenieurpädagogisches Symposium 06, pp. 181, 2006, Graz.16 Pahr, G., Fachpraxis als integrativer Faktor (Werkstätte, Bauhof …). In: Dorninger, C. (ed) Der achtfache Pfad – Methodik und Praxis der Ingenieurpädagogik, pp.141-147, Manz, 2007.17 Mezera, K., Neulehrerausbildung an HTLs in Österreich – Ausbildung zu Ingenieurpädagogen/-pädagoginnen. In: Dorninger, C. (ed) Der achtfache Pfad – Methodik und Praxis der Ingenieurpädagogik, pp. 148-151, Manz, 2007.18 Lehrgang für Neulehrer/innen des fachtheoretischen Unterrichts an berufsbildenden mittleren und höheren Schulen, Curriculum 2008, Pädagogische Hochschule Burgenland, Pädagogische Hochschule Kärnten, Pädagogische Hochschule Niederösterreich, Pädagogische Hochschule Oberösterreich, Pädagogische Hochschule Salzburg, Pädagogische Hochschule Steiermark, Pädagogische Hochschule Tirol, Pädagogische Hochschule Vorarlberg, Pädagogische Hochschule Wien.19 Rundschreiben 1999-60, GZ 17.600/101-II/2b/99 ; Standards für Technikerprojekte an technisch-gewerblichen Lehranstalten, Wiederverlautbarung der aktualisierten Fassung: Rundschreiben Nr. 44/2001, Geschäftszahl: 10.077/5-I/4a/2001 ; Grundsatzerlass zum Projektunterricht / Ordinance governing the principles of project- centred teaching20 Ingenieur/Technikerprojekte an technischen und gewerblichen Schulen im Schuljahr1997/98, bmuk 1999.21 Ingenieur/Technikerprojekte an technischen und gewerblichen Schulen im Schuljahr 2001/2002, bm:bwk 2003.22 Dorninger, C., Projekte in der Ingenieurpädagogik. In: Lickl, E. Kraker, N. (eds) Österreichisches Ingenieurpädagogisches Symposium 06, pp. 205-217, 2006, Graz.23 Dorninger, C. Ingenieurpädagogik – unterschiedliche Arbeitsumgebungen in einer Ausbildung. In: Dorninger, C. (ed) Der achtfache Pfad – Methodik und Praxis der Ingenieurpädagogik, pp.37-43, Manz, 2007.24 HTL Innovativ (last visited 2013-02-15)25 Jugend innovativ (last visited 2013-02-15)26 Sparkling Science (last visited 2013-02-15)27 Young Science (last visited 2013-02-15)28 Junior Company (last visited 2013-02-28) and29 (last visited 2013-02-15)30 Diplomarbeit an BHS und Bildungsanstalten, Richtlinie, BMUKK, 201131 Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on the recognition of professional qualifications. http://eur-,467972:cs,457343:cs,456959:cs,412521:cs,& pos=5&page=1&nbl=5&pgs=10&hwords (last visited 2013-02-15)

Lickl, E. (2013, June), Invited Paper - Faculty Professionalization in Industry Sponsored Projects in Austrian Vocational Education and Training Schools Paper presented at 2013 ASEE International Forum, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--17246

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