Cross-cutting competencies 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-cutting competencies 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-cutting competencies be delineated from occupation-specific competencies? Can occupation-specific competencies 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-cutting competencies at the various VET learning venues.