Continuing vocational training is key to the employability of each and every individual and to the competitiveness of companies. Continuing education is becoming increasingly important in order to keep pace with constantly changing requirements - both technologically and organizationally. Companies and employees have already recognized this. At €41.3 billion, companies have invested more than twice the BMBF budget in continuing education for their employees in 2019. But each and every individual must also take responsibility for their own professional future. Depending on the benefits and interests, effort and costs must then be shared. The individual situation is decisive. For example, employees can contribute their time, companies can assume the costs, or they can be released from work for the duration of the training. Blanket regulations, for example in the form of statutory further training entitlements or leave of absence regulations, do not do justice to this.
Further training offers must be practical, demand-oriented and adaptable
Continuing vocational training must be geared to concrete needs, which can vary greatly from individual to individual and from company to company. The more practice-oriented, the more promising are further training offers. Providers of further training must take this into account and act close to practice. Increasingly, forms of further training are becoming established that are directly applicable in the workplace and are embedded in the work process. Progressive digitalisation offers completely new options and flexible solutions here. This diversity and flexibility are necessary in order to be able to react quickly and in line with changing qualification requirements. Standardised solutions often reach their limits. Any form of increased regulation and systematisation therefore restricts the continuing training market. Good and practical advisory services are crucial. This task can be performed, for example, by network managers within the framework of regional continuing education networks, who support SMEs in particular. They network regional players, identify needs and develop offers. Universities are also called upon to expand their offerings of continuing education and training and to consistently align them with the requirements of companies and employees, especially on a part-time basis.
Strong system of upgrading offers career path outside universities as well
The upgrading training system co-designed by the social partners offers standardised qualification paths that meet the needs of the respective sectors. Upgrading training courses thus offer excellent career prospects even without an academic qualification. However, the permeability of the education system must be further improved so that degrees are followed by new qualifications. This is particularly true between vocational and higher education. This includes, in particular, open and transparent access to higher education for those with vocational qualifications, but also the mutual recognition of competences acquired in the respective other system. But recognition must also be facilitated within the systems, e.g. with flexible, low-threshold continuing education programmes for semi-skilled and unskilled workers that can be connected to the workplace.
Further improving the framework conditions for continuing education
The responsibility of policy-makers for continuing education lies above all in framework conditions that are conducive to learning. This includes, in particular, a measurable improvement in the quality of early childhood education and schools, as well as the establishment of a solid study and career orientation in all types of schools. The ability and motivation to learn must be strengthened, thus laying the foundation for lifelong learning. Deficits in basic education (reading, writing, arithmetic and digital skills) have a detrimental effect on the entire further educational path. Employers are already engaged in workplace-based basic education projects to address these deficits. There are also starting points for political action in the design of the "Aufstiegs-Bafögs", existing bonus programmes and the creation of targeted incentives. The "National Continuing Education Strategy" launched in 2019 by politicians and industry must focus on this. State regulatory approaches with new quality standards, recognition or co-determination bodies and framework curricula, on the other hand, should be strictly rejected, as they impair the innovative strength and flexibility of independent training providers and strangulate the pluralistic continuing training market.