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Press Release from 2022-09-20 / Group

KfW Research: Only 40% of the workforce undertakes further training

  • Engagement in continuing education depends on level of education and income
  • Digital skills are second most important training content
  • Pandemic has boosted digital learning, with half of all events in 2021 held online

Human capital is the key resource of the German economy, underscoring the importance of further vocational training for individual labour market success. Digitalising and transforming the economy towards climate neutrality, in particular, constantly places new demands on professional skills. A representative survey by KfW Research shows that 40% of the workforce engaged in further vocational training in 2021. Although that was an eight percentage point increase on an identical survey conducted in 2015, it still means that not even half the workforce is participating in continuing education measures. The coronavirus crisis has severely impeded continuing education activity. Of the workers who did not undertake further training, 29% attributed their inactivity to the coronavirus crisis. Among those who did participate, 41% reduced the level of training activity for the same reason.

The current survey by KfW Research shows that participation in continuing education in Germany remains heavily dependent on socio-economic factors. The higher a person’s level of education, the more actively they participate in further training activities. University graduates had a continuing education rate of 59% in 2021. The rate was still above average among master tradespersons and specialists, at 47%. Among those without educational qualifications (recognised in Germany), the continuing education rate was just 29%. On balance, that means continuing education does not help to address skills deficiencies from previous stages of learning. Rather, the educational gap widens further in the course of people’s working lives.

In addition to a worker’s level of education, their financial position and migration background also influence the extent to which they undertake further training. The continuing education rate is 60% in households with a net monthly income above EUR 5,000 and drops steadily to 26% in households with incomes below EUR 2,000. Workers who migrated to Germany and their direct offspring have a below-average continuing education rate of 31%. In this group, lack of access, information and/or motivation to undertake further training appears to play a role, as do language barriers.

Despite the still unsatisfactory situation around continuing education, positive trends can also be identified. The coronavirus crisis propelled the continuing education landscape into the digital age without warning. Whereas eight in ten events were still being held face-to-face in 2018, half of all continuing education measures were exclusively online in 2021, and a further 25% took place in a hybrid format. Digital topics are becoming increasingly important. Around 53% of all training events involved IT skills, computer literacy, the use of digital media and similar topics – a five percentage point increase on 2015. Digital skills have now become the second most frequent training topic. Occupation-specific technical content remains the core theme of continuing education activities and is taught in 91% of qualification measures.

The main reason workers refrain from undertaking further training is time constraints, which was mentioned by 37% of respondents. High costs, lack of face-to-face offerings, insufficient digital infrastructure and lack of support from employers also play a role. The quality of training offers also has room for improvement. The continuing education sector is fragmented, confusing and, despite improvements, not sufficiently digitalised. Minimum standards for the certification of educational providers and measures, reference frameworks for the validation of learning contents and levels, and greater involvement of universities and vocational colleges could significantly improve the quality of continuing education.

“In Germany, only four in ten workers undertake further training – that is still too few. Besides, participation in further training is skewed in favour of those who already have higher skills. In light of the new requirements profiles that are emerging from the green and digital transformation, systematic and good continuing education across the population as a whole is indispensable, particularly against the background of demographic change”, said Dr Fritzi Köhler-Geib, Chief Economist of KfW. “In my view, the following adjustments need to be made here: Scope for learning needs to be created by improving childcare options in facilities and households and providing effective digital training offers, financial support needs to be expanded, and the quality of continuing education must be improved by setting standards and through the stronger integration of universities and vocational colleges.”

Further information can be obtained at:
www.kfw.de/fokus (available in German only)