The Germans have a word for everything – usually a long, hard-to-pronounce word. Now the country that gave us Götterdämmerung, schadenfreude, and Fahrvergnügen brings us . . . “bildungsurlaub.” The ungainly word roughly translates as “training vacation” — and captures a concept that seems worth emulating or at least taking seriously.
German law entitles workers to six weeks of paid vacation. But according to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, it also provides for — I just love saying it — a bildungsurlaub, five paid days off per year to participate in an approved training course.
As the Journal explains:
Workers could take a Chinese course in Beijing or enroll in a computer course in a seaside town. Training doesn’t have to be directly connected to their job, as long as it is approved by the state.
Approved programs . . . include visits to historical sites such as the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald or tours of underground bunkers in Berlin. Social volunteering courses, like training to become a life coach, are other options. It is hoped that employers, employees and society will profit from the knowledge and experience gained on training leave.
Employers can say “nein” to requests, and employees must foot the bill themselves — both of which might explain why very few workers actually participate. But I can’t help thinking this notion — or some variation of it — is a powerful idea.
What do you think? Is this a practice more individuals and organizations should consider? Would a bildungsurlaub fit into your Weltanschauung?
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