Companies that invest heavily in new information and communication technologies (ICT) often overlook skilled workers who have completed vocational apprenticeships, preferring to employ individuals who have a university degree or a similar qualification from a university of applied sciences.

An important reason for the lesser demand for skilled workers who have completed an apprenticeship in technology-intensive businesses is their outdated job profile, a lack of computer skills and insufficient foreign language skills. These are the findings of the latest study carried out by the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW), Mannheim, with infas Bonn, on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The survey considered how compatible vocational training programmes are with jobs in the service industry.

As part of the study, a survey was carried out amongst around 1,500 companies in selected service sectors. The survey shows that many companies view training programmes to be ill-adapted to the demands of employers, and call for the creation of new jobs. Around half of the surveyed companies claim that the content of vocational courses is insufficiently adapted to the needs of companies and that the rules for professional conduct used to determine training regulations do not correspond with the actual requirements in commercial practice. Vocational training was particularly criticised for its failings in the areas of ICT and foreign languages.

Although information-intensive service providers employ and train fewer skilled workers than businesses in other branches, they do not query the idea behind dual training programmes. Nearly all the interviewed companies accept their social responsibility to provide in-house training. More than two thirds of the firms consider their own training programmes to be an absolutely essential element of their staffing policies. Businesses rarely ever have actually had bad experience with workers from apprenticeship programmes. The recruitment of suitable candidates for training, and the appointment of qualified skilled workers, does, however, seem to be problematic. Dual training programmes therefore serve as an obstacle to the increased employment of skilled workers in the information-intensive businesses, particularly in terms of the training provided in the field of ICT and foreign languages.

In order to ensure the appeal of the dual training system, the content of courses as well as the technical resources and staffing in vocational training centres must be adapted to the requirements of these strongly expanding companies. This will also ensure that skilled workers and trainees are not excluded from the general development in the employment market and will prevent them from being forced into employment in stagnating or shrinking craft industries, manufacturing industries and traditional service sectors.

Analysis of the micro-census shows that with 60 per cent, the service sector employs a smaller proportion of skilled workers than the manufacturing industry, where 63 per cent of employees are skilled workers. This proportion is only 48 per cent amongst information-intensive and dynamically growing business-related service providers. The situation is similar when it comes to the proportion of trainees employed in these various sectors. Data from the ZEW service provider panel shows that service providers who invest more in ICT employ a lesser proportion of skilled workers than other firms.


Prof. Dr. Thomas Zwick, Phone: +49(0)621/1235-131, E-mail:





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