smart world

Educating for a Digital Future

Bosch Industrie 4.0
The bridge to the future is further education, says Germany's labor minister.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Many traditional business models are crumbling under the onslaught of disruptive business practices in the digital age. Employers and employees alike are going to have to adapt, starting today.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • According to an OECD study, today in Germany one person in every five is barely able to read a short text with simple vocabulary.
    • Today employers are investing most in the skills and development of employees who are already better qualified than their peers.
    • Employers and unions in the metal and electrical industry have already begun to build part-time education into the work and wage structure.

  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

We are witnessing a fundamental transformation of the world of work, which is not only changing large factories in urban centers but reaches all of us in our everyday lives.

With the right approach, we have two great opportunities: digitalization, and also the refugees, to help us create a highly productive future with good jobs and well paid jobs, despite our aging population.

Training and education will play a key role as continuing education is the most effective form of insurance against unemployment. It creates opportunities for individuals and for business and society, making sure that we take everyone with us down the road into the future – that everyone will be useful.

A new law takes effect on August 1 to strengthen the preventative orientation of unemployment insurance, called “Unemployment Insurance Protection and Education and Training Strengthening Law.”

It creates stronger instruments for professional development, by making employment market policies both preventative and enabling. That helps us to determine which skills we need for the digital employment world and how to develop them, expand them and keep them fresh, questions which will matter more and more in the future.

We need to foster the basic skills of low-qualified workers and people who've been out of work for a long time.

If refrigerators can recognize, for themselves, that the milk is running out, and automatically order more, then work in the food and groceries sector has to change too.

If self-driving vehicles take over the streets, then work in the logistics sector will become more about driving processes than driving trucks.

When product developers can try out their new designs immediately with the aid of 3D printers, it will also be clear that most of us will take on new tasks and change professions and industries more frequently. New patterns of work are emerging, and professions will appear that we can’t even imagine today.

That’s the point which continuing education brings us to. It’s best if we don’t wait until someone is out of work before support mechanisms like unemployment insurance kick in. It would be better if we supported people to get the correct training with foresight and in a timely manner, such as in transition phases or on return to work after an educational phase, also when there’s the desire to rise and develop.

It’s also important to recognize in time the threat of qualifications losing their value and take appropriate countermeasures. That’s what’s behind the idea of having lifelong career and further education counseling, which the Federal Employment Agency has just tested very successfully in a pilot project.

Today employers are investing the most in the skills and development of employees who are already better qualified than their peers. We have to take drastic action and provide more support to those who have so far had too little access. We need to foster the basic skills of low-qualified workers and people who’ve been out of work for a long time. Because, without a solid foundation in basic competencies – reading, writing, arithmetic and basic IT skills, there is little chance of gaining employment.

According to an OECD study, today in Germany one person in every five is barely able to read a short text with simple vocabulary, and is only take in information in very limited quantities. The road to qualified work is often long and requires motivation and commitment. We want to keep people on the straight and narrow with performance bonuses, as well as higher qualifications which may taker several years to reach.

The vital interest in lifelong competency training is something we all share – businesses and each person for themselves, as well as society as a whole. Therefore, the costs of counseling, continuing education, time off to learn and wage supplementation should also be shared more fairly.

Many businesses and social partners have recognized the importance of continuing education for themselves and engaged in an exemplary manner. Employers and unions in the metal and electrical industry have already begun to build part-time education into the work and wage structure. In our further education campaign, we’re looking for close relationships with social partners, because it is in collective engagement that we stand the best chance of success and using digitalization for more and better work.

A study commissioned by the labor ministry says it is realistic that in the German economy there will be another quarter of a million jobs by 2030, if we – as businesses and as a society – invest correctly in digitalization, above all in people, in their knowledge and ability.

The new employment insurance law that comes into force today is a first step in the direction of a new culture of continuing education. We’re better integrating existing policy tools, and further expanding them. Further steps must follow. The first goal is high-quality professional development and continuing education counseling, and in the medium term, a right to continuing education for all.

 

To contact the author: gastautor@handelsblatt.com

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