A World of Work 4.0 needs Continuing Training 4.0

Friedrich Hubert Esser

Dear readers

Employees continue to learn within the work process once they have completed training. This concept is at the core of the efficiency and adaptability that qualified skilled workers are able to deliver on the labour market and thus also ensures the competitiveness of companies. The initial competencies which people acquire are no longer normally sufficient to see them through the whole of working life.

A must rather than an optional extra

The world of work is undergoing increasing digitalisation. As data quantities rise and half-life periods of knowledge shrink, there is one thing of which we can be certain. Continuing vocational training has long since ceased to be an optional extra and is now an absolute must! Nevertheless, aspiration and reality remain significantly divergent. Multifarious formats and the extremely heterogeneous structure of private sector and publicly regulated continuing training make it difficult to obtain an overall view of the numerous opportunities that are on offer.

Challenges relating to continuing training in the World of Work 4.0 are emerging especially clearly. The digital transformation is bringing about unprecedented structural shifts in work and services processes. For this reason, there is a need to supplement established provision by making use of the particular areas of potential offered by digital teaching and learning formats in continuing vocational training. Intelligent digital assistance systems are likely to play a major role in this regard. A creative mix of continuing training delivered both face-to-face and via a web-based “on demand” approach will offer a suitable pathway for enabling skilled workers to learn within the work process in future.

However, smart continuing training provision also requires qualified training staff. The key emphasis needs to be on supporting and controlling continuing training processes by combining tried and tested didactic expertise with new technology in a creative way. These are areas in which training and action are needed as quickly as possible!

Continuing Training 4.0

The recommendations that can be formulated in terms of shaping modern and effective continuing vocational training which addresses current developments in trade and industry and develops requirements-oriented provision in this regard include the following.

  • VET must continue to have its basis in well-founded training in future, and this preferably needs to take place in one broadly structured occupation.
  • In light of the rapid changes, provision of continuing training cannot remain a single format. Individual company processes which are aligned flexibly to customer requirements need demand-oriented services.
  • Adaptively designed continuing training formats must be fostered. Structures which are specific to individual sectors and regions are reliant on services which can be adjusted and developed further on an ongoing basis with the aid of digital technologies.
  • Stronger guidance infrastructure which is oriented towards regional networks should be supplemented by an infrastructure shaped by technology. The aim must be to achieve transparent structuring and intelligent linking of training provision in regional or national databases.
  • The occupational usability and recognition of continuing training measures needs to be apparent to employees and companies alike. In a regulated and formal vocational education and training system, recognition means that there are conditions of admission, an external examination and a state-recognised certificate.
  • And, last but not least, access for target groups with particular requirements should be improved by making the appropriate investments in guidance and assistance. Considerations regarding the monitoring of learning outcomes and the provision of support for individual continuing training participants should be included.


Prof. Dr. Friedrich Hubert Esser, President of BIBB


Translation from the German original (published in BWP 1/2020): Martin Kelsey, GlobalSprachTeam, Berlin