In Europe most vocations are learned via the Dual System Education. “Dual” because it combines the practical “learning by doing” at the place of employment with the classroom style learning at a vocational school.
The dual system is known for its efficiency when it comes to developing a highly competent workforce and considered a key factor in the typical strength of economies like Germany, Switzerland and others whose high tech industries and advanced infrastructure rely on comprehensively educated professionals.
Here in the United States, the field of professional watchmaking offers itself perfectly for a dual system approach of vocational education. There is a high demand for watchmakers in the high-end retail segment due to strong and sustained sales over the past two decades. Further, the nature of work in that specific field requires a highly educated professional who is able to master all watch service related processes with a high degree of autonomy. Therefore learning the profession parallel – in a real life setting under an experienced mentor as well as in a vocational school – is by far the most efficient option available.
We launched the Dual System program with a few hand-picked students at the Lititz Watch Technicum in February 2015.
Over a period of three years, the dual system students learn the full spectrum of traditional watchmaking. Every three months, they spend a two week block at the Lititz Watch Technicum for intense formal training during 12 hour days including Saturdays and Sundays. These vocational training sessions add up to a total of more than two thousand hours over the course of the program, and provide a solid base of skills and knowledge for the student.
The learning at the school and at the place of apprenticeship complement each other. While the training at the school teaches the profession in a formal lab setting, the place of apprenticeship provides the real life application and reinforcement of the knowledge and skills acquired at the school. That makes the dual system more efficient than our two year full time program which relies exclusively on lab learning.
The dual system program is tuition free for individuals that are considered qualified. From a qualifying candidate we expect a good technical comprehension, well developed problem solving skills, solid manual dexterity and some familiarity with the watchmaking profession. Furthermore the mentor in question must have the necessary technical expertise, cultural sensitivity and pedagogical awareness to develop the student to a full-fledged watchmaker in a professionally run workshop.
After successful completion of the program the students graduate with a Lititz Watch Technicum diploma as well as SAWTA certification.