BWP 1/2021

Core competencies

BWP 1/2021

Increasing emphasis is being placed on cross-cutting competencies within the context of coping with change in the world of work. But which competencies are involved, and where does their specific potential lie? The articles included in this issue discuss the interplay between core competencies and occupation-specific professional knowledge and skills and illustrate how core competencies can be fostered in company-based initial and continuing training.


Special Focus

Philip Heßen

“Individual responsibility and interplay within teams are the cornerstone of our success”

An interview with Philip Heßen, Head of HR Strategy & Transformation at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt

The world of work is undergoing upheavals and changes in the wake of the digital transformation. The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are also placing new requirements on companies and their employees. Particular significance is being accorded to core competencies in shifting times such as these. From 2016 to 2020, Philip Heßen was Head of the Human Resources Germany Division at the Darmstadt-based science and technology company Merck. In his current capacity of Head of HR Strategy & Transformation, he is responsible for the group’s global personnel strategy. In this interview, he provides insights into how working at Merck has altered over the past few years. He explains which core competencies are helping to overcome these changes and how this is being reflected in the company’s present and future HR strategy.
Agnes Dietzen

The tense relationship between occupation-specific and cross occupational competences

Discourses in vocational education and training and unresolved issues

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Cross occupational competences have long been seen as an opportunity to structure vocational education and training on a broader basis and in a more future-looking way. A plea for a core skills concept which would act as a starting point for educational debate and in which the main focus would be placed on the conflicting relationship between occupation-specific and cross occupational competences was published by Mertens in 1974 and still holds general sway. The article uses the following questions to shed light on this conflicting relationship. How can cross occupational competences be delineated from occupation-specific competences? Can occupation-specific competences be transferred beyond their direct action context, and how can they be imparted in initial and continuing training or be acquired at the company? The article states a number of key points relating to the debates and concludes by indicating the necessity of promoting cross occupational competences at the various VET learning venues.
Ursula Scharnhorst

Transversal competencies – necessary, desirable and difficult to achieve

The significance of transversal competencies has been stressed in general educational policy concepts and in competence catalogues since the 2000s. Transversal competencies are understood to be competencies which are viewed as central to the ability of individuals in modern knowledge societies to master and help shape private, social and work situations. The various descriptions and definitions exhibit a large number of commonalities, as a comparison between three international competence catalogues demonstrates. However, the transversality of competencies needs to be critically scrutinised on the basis of theoretical considerations and empirical findings. This article discusses the conditions under which competencies can be broadly transferred and used transversally and debates whether context-independent competencies are a realistic notion.
Rolf Arnold

The epistemological shift in vocational education and training – a plea

Even prior to the coronavirus crisis, experiences of so-called disruptive innovations were leading the debates surrounding skills to address the question of how to strengthen the ability of the relevant company-based stakeholders to evaluate and structure new and surprising elements “freshly” and in a way which is detached from their own experiences and competencies. This article makes the case for a significant strengthening of this core skill.
Anne Kittel, Lena Piel, Anita Radi-Pentz

Identifying and promoting core competencies for the digital shift

Results from the LidA project

The high speed of change being brought about by the digital transformation means that cross-cutting competencies in particular are becoming an increasing focus of company-based learning alongside specific professional competencies. This article investigates the question of how relevant core competencies can be identified in a practice-related way in future. For this purpose, it presents results from the project “LidA – Learning in the digitalised world of work”. More detailed consideration is given to the two major core competencies of “self-learning” and “sharing knowledge”. The article further outlines how core competencies can be fostered via individual staff learning pathways.
Elke Schwing

Keeping up to speed in the face of constant change

Importance of core competencies in company-based training at Roche

Ostensibly, digitalisation seems to be very closely related to technology. In actual fact, however, the difficulty with digitalisation frequently relates to the circumstance that people find it hard to deal with change. For this reason, one of the aims of the “personalised training” offered by Roche is to encourage trainees to recognise their own learning requirements and to acquire skills autonomously.
Luca Spliethoff, Inga Glogger-Frey, Stephan Abele

How do trainees work together to solve work problems?

Collaboration in the diagnosis of motor vehicle malfunctions

The growing complexity of processes and the increasing delegation of responsibility at skilled worker level mean that greater attention is being paid to encouraging the key cross-cutting competencies of collaboration and problem solving. The research project DigiDIn-Kfz2 is developing a procedure to measure the collaborative motor vehicle diagnosis process in order to understand the approach adopted by trainees when tackling work problems together. The objective is to use this as a basis for the creation and evaluation of learning videos which will support learners with collective problem-solving tasks.
Anja Hall

Foreign language requirements in the world of work

Results of the 2006, 2012 and 2018 BIBB/BAuA Employment Surveys

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Knowledge of foreign languages is becoming increasingly important in working life in light of economic globalisation and international interconnectedness. This article uses the 2006, 2012 and 2018 BIBB/BAuA Employment Surveys to show the importance attached to knowledge of foreign languages in today’s world of work, to highlight how these requirements have developed over time, and to identify the occupations in which such knowledge plays a particularly major role.

From research and practice

Peter Janßen, Jan Wegner

Continuing training for the digital world of work in the chemical industry

Certified course in “Digitalisation and networked production”

New competencies being imparted during training are a fundamental requirement for the digitalised world of work in the chemical industry. But how can production staff who have worked in their roles for many years be trained to meet these new needs? A course entitled “Digitalisation and networked production” has been developed for this purpose. This article describes the concept, the initial experiences gained from the conducting of a pilot programme, and the findings which have subsequently emerged.
Gesa Münchhausen, Gudrun Schönfeld

Digital learning at companies – implementation and challenges

Results of an additional CVTS5 survey

The digital shift has arrived at companies and is leading to changes in both work and learning processes. The additional CVTS5 survey used a telephone questionnaire and twelve company case studies to investigate which digital forms of learning are being deployed and the nature of the challenges created. This article presents the main results.
Judith Offerhaus

Fostering young scholars for the vocational education and training of the future

The BIBB Graduate Programme

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With its Graduate Programme, the BIBB is setting new standards in qualifying young scholars in vocational educational and training research. There are various possibilities of conducting doctoral research at this Federal Institute. The doctoral candidates research various current topics of vocational education and training; the Graduate Programme supports them through advice and consultation as well as a curriculum. This report outlines the goals, structure and current state of the BIBB Graduate Programme.
Julia Himstedt, Isabelle Le Mouillour

Vocational education and training in times of global crisis

A preliminary evaluation of the German Presidency of the EU Council

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Germany chaired the Council of the European Union from July to December 2020. Following the formation of the new EU Commission, one of the major tasks pursued during this period was to review the strategic framework for European cooperation in vocational education and training (“Europe 2020”) and to define fresh priorities for the next ten years. This article makes an initial assessment of how well this succeeded given the conditions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.


Markus Bretschneider, Stephanie Conein, Monika Hackel

Continuity and mutability of dual occupational profiles – the contribution of regulatory work

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“The vocational education and training system is in crisis!” The reasons for such statements are multifarious in nature, but they regularly cause and have caused existing structures and VET regulatory work in particular to be called into question. A memorandum produced by DIETER EULER and ECKART SEVERING in the autumn of 2020 was one such example. Against this background, the present article provides insights into the regulatory work conducted by BIBB and shows how consensual cooperation serves as a vehicle for the successful development of occupations in the field of tension between continuity and change. The article also clarifies how regulatory work recognises developments at an early stage, integrates them into training occupations in a timely manner, and structures these occupations in a way that enables training to take place over the long term and across a broad basis.
Hannelore Mottweiler

Organising wholesale and foreign trade transactions in Germany and abroad

The modernised training occupation of wholesale and foreign trade manager

The major tasks performed by management assistants in wholesale and foreign trade include the organisation and execution of commercial business at home and abroad. The present article looks at the modernisation of this particular training occupation, in which a greater emphasis is now being placed on management competencies. This is also reflected in a new occupational title. The chief focus is on the process-oriented organisation of wholesale and foreign trade transactions and on the increasing significance of e-business and project work. At the same time, the occupation has been further updated via the addition of future-oriented contents related to sustainability.

Profile of an occupation – pharmaceutical technician

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Pharmaceutical technicians control plants which produce tablets, ointments, powders and vaccines. The manufacture of vaccines is a complex and sensitive process which requires a particularly high degree of responsibility. This profile also presents trends which may expand the spectrum of tasks in future.

The Board of BIBB

Thomas Vollmer

Report on the Special Board Meeting of 17 November 2020 and on the Board Meeting of 15 December 2020

The Board’s third regular meeting of 2020 and an extraordinary session were both held under the chairmanship of Employer Representative Dr. Hans Jürgen Metternich. Consultations centred on issues such as the current situation on the 2020 training places market in light of the coronavirus pandemic, application of the modernised standard occupational profile positions, new designations for qualifications, the scopes of learning in advanced training regulations, and a new topic cluster relating to regulatory research which has now been included in BIBB’s research planning.