Publications and recommendations from science, social partners, and think tanks

Vocational training and continuing education in the digital world of work

From trade unions to think tanks to cross-stakeholder platforms: we present different opinions, recommendations, and calls for action with regard to rethinking (and reconsidering) approaches for education and qualifications in the digital world of work.

G Metall: handout on professional development 4.0

The IG Metall has published a handout on the topic of professional development 4.0: learning in a world of digital transformation” (in German). According to the handout, roughly every third company providing vocational training addresses digitalisation and Industry 4.0 as part of its curriculum. The Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation, too, came to the conclusion that digitalisation is getting a raw deal in the vocational training sphere. Ironically, today’s apprentices bring with them many digital competences that are meaningful to companies in the digitalised world of work. They are technophiles who know their way around social media and can be additionally motivated if modern learning media are used. In their handout, the IG Metall describes the vocational training practices in five companies that are very well positioned with regard to professional development and digitalisation. Both the trainers and the apprentices present their concepts in reports, interviews, and surveys.

Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs: “Digital world of work” platform

Digital transformation creates new requirements for companies and demands certain competences. In this context, the companies are facing the challenge of recognising the needs and enhancing access options and services offered for low-threshold advice. The “Digital world of work” platform headed by federal minister Andrea Nahles and president of IG Metall Jörg Hofmann considers continuing professional development a factor for success and sees digitalisation as an opportunity for companies. To this end, it has compiled recommendations for action for professional development within the framework of a working group on the topic of “employment and further training”. Stakeholders of the platform include representatives of social partners, companies, and research entities.

The platform offers the following recommendations:

1.     Improvement of services offered regarding information and advice by means of low-threshold independent services on site:

Employees are to be empowered to obtain further qualifications not only once they are unemployed but must instead have the opportunity of taking advantage of high-quality independent advice at any time. The objective here is to establish new chances of employment, career development, and promotion.

2.     Development and application of instruments for identifying qualification needs, for planning, and for monitoring:

Companies should consider further training measures part of their corporate strategy.

3.     Utilisation of potentials offered by new learning formats:

Digitalisation also brings new forms of continuing professional development with it. The latter are independent from location and time, cost-effective, and achieve extensive coverage.

4.     Development of a new professional development culture:

Managers should develop a new professional development culture that encompasses working conditions conducive to learning, motivated employees, and investments in personnel development and continuing education.

5.     Strengthening the prevention approach:

Competences should be strengthened at an early stage as a means of prevention. Especially groups of older or low-skilled persons should be given access to further training and qualification measures.

6.     Development of a professional development strategy:

The government should, both on the federal and the Bundesland level, develop a qualification and continuing professional development strategy and involve industry and trade unions in the process.


Stiftung Neue Verantwortung: innovative professional development concepts

Philippe Lorenz, Work 4.0 expert of the Stiftung Neue Verantwortung think tank discusses the new challenges presented by the digital world of work in his essay “Innovative Weiterbildungskonzepte braucht das Land” on innovative professional development concepts for the country’s future. He elaborates on the key activity of the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) regarding the future of work and the study “Wertewelten Arbeiten 4.0” on Work 4.0 values as published by the ministry. For example, the ministry issued the so-called Law to Strengthen Continuing Vocational Education and Training and Unemployment Insurance Protection (AWStG) in the summer of 2016, which strengthens the chances of older and low-skilled persons of accessing further training options.

In addition, the author addresses the shortage of technical competences for the digital economy. Digitalisation causes professions and business models to change. That requires a different level of qualification of the workforce. Employees can no longer rest on the pillow of their vocational education but must instead obtain additional qualifications for their future activities through further training measures. Especially the looming shortage of skilled workers owed to demographic change makes this a vital aspect.

As his final item, Philippe Lorenz takes a closer look at Denmark: Germany’s neighbour to the north already practices an end-to-end continuing professional development system. State and privately funded supporting organisations offer certified courses of study that address the needs of the local economy. In Denmark, roughly 200 new vocational training courses are offered and obsolete ones removed from the catalogue every year.