The future is digital - also in companies
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The future is digital – also in companies


The digital revolution brings with it new competence profiles and a wide range of opportunities in education and training. The BMBF funds projects that support medium-sized and smaller companies in making greater use of new media.

Digital media formats will play an ever greater role in the future – in everyday working life as well as in vocational training.

Innovative examples show that the digital change has arrived in everyday work: plasterers work with 3D printers, roofers use drones for inspection, logisticians swap the clipboard for the tablet, system mechanics install smart home technology in houses. The challenges for the qualification of skilled workers are growing, at the same time the use of digital media in vocational training and professional development creates new opportunities for knowledge transfer. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research BMBF has launched several projects to improve the situation, especially in small and medium-sized companies.

Inventory of digital media in companies

What is the status of digital equipment in companies and the specific application of digital learning and work formats in vocational training and further education? This is the result of a representative survey that the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) carried out on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research together with TNS Infratest Sozialforschung in 3,000 companies. The study with the title “Digital media in companies – today and tomorrow. A representative analysis of the current situation” provides for the first time an overview of the current use of digital media according to sectors, company size classes and regions in vocational training and further education.

The most important facts in brief:

  • From a company size of 20 employees, the use of digital devices with internet access can be assumed without exception. The penetration rate for small and very small businesses is still 98 percent. There are hardly any regional differences.
  • Stationary desktop PCs with internet access, smartphones, laptops and tablets are the most common.
  • Digital devices are mainly used to obtain information and for external communication.
  • New technological developments such as data clocks or data glasses, on the other hand, are currently rarely used.
  • In the next three years, the majority of the companies surveyed see a further increase in the importance of digital devices for all operational activities. When using private end devices, the following applies: the larger the company, the higher the usage restrictions on the part of the company.
  • Social networks, video conferences and cloud services are the most widespread Web 2.0 formats, but are only used by a few companies, with the exception of social networks (44%). The larger the company, the more frequently Web 2.0 formats such as social networks, cloud services, etc. are used.
  • Classic, non-digital learning and media formats play the greatest role in training. This includes, in particular, specialist and textbooks, face-to-face formats such as group discussions, etc. Among the digital media, subject-specific learning software, information offers from the Internet and learning programs are the most important.
  • Overall, most companies express a positive attitude towards the use of digital media in the company work process and in training and further education.
  • A good half of the companies are convinced that the use of digital media increases the attractiveness of vocational training in their company and that digital media should be used more intensively.
  • In contrast, almost every second company (46 percent) is dissatisfied with the IT skills of its trainees and only rates it as sufficient. Less than a third (28 percent) rated the knowledge as very good or good.

to overcome obstacles

In the overall view of the inventory analysis, it becomes clear that “digitization” in the sense of a wide range of application options for individualization, flexibility and visualization of corporate teaching, learning and work processes can only be spoken of to a limited extent at the moment. In view of the emerging changes associated with the buzzword “Economy 4.0”, the companies still have too little information on how they can organize the change processes associated with the use of digital devices and media in an effective, pragmatic and company-specific manner. The BMBF supports companies in overcoming these hurdles.

Vocational training 4.0 – promoting new digital solutions

The BMBF places a special focus on promoting digitization in vocational training. The focus of the BMBF funding for Vocational Education and Training 4.0 is the program “Digital Media in Vocational Education”. In addition to open educational materials, other digital solution approaches are being developed and tested, such as ePortfolios. In order to promote new digital solutions in small and medium-sized companies, the BMBF has launched various funding projects. The special program for digitization in the inter-company vocational training centers (ÜBS) aims to modernize the equipment for the inter-company training of specialists and, for example, to enable the acquisition of 3D printers or so-called CNC machines.

The “Skilled Workers Qualifications and Skills for Tomorrow’s Digitized Work” initiative is about adapting training accordingly. Together with the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), 13 exemplary selected professions are used to examine how digitization affects work processes and qualification requirements and which new tasks the trainees have to fulfill and which changes have to be made.

From 2017, a new funding scheme is to promote the dissemination and transfer of good concepts for digital learning. The aim is to create a network for digital learning through which companies can jointly provide and use the necessary technical infrastructures and digital learning opportunities. The joint development of standards and procedures for quality assurance as well as the provision of high-quality qualification offers should also be subsidized.

The latest funding announcement “Inclusion through digital media in vocational training” from February 13, 2017 aims to break down barriers for people with disabilities in vocational training. The use of digital media is intended to make it easier for people with disabilities to take advantage of basic, advanced and advanced training offers.

Peter High
I've written for the Wall Street Journal, CIO Magazine, CIO Insight, Information Week and several other periodicals. I am also the author of Implementing World Class IT Strategy: How IT Can Drive Organizational Innovation.

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