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27/ 2005
Bonn, 07.07.2005


Companies value older employees as a source of knowledge and experience - Very few firms feel older employees need additional training

Firms in Germany value the potential their older employees have to offer and feel that this potential is very important within their company. By contrast, few see a need to provide older workers additional training: Only 18 per cent of the 537 companies surveyed 01  by the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training ("BIBB") in the summer of 2004 felt there was a growing need to provide training for workers age 50 and over. Not quite 30 per cent felt training was necessary in some cases and more than 50 per cent reported they had little or no need to take action in this area.

The discussion about the changes taking place in the population assumes that the current demographic trend and the longer working life it entails will lead to an increase in the share of older workers. In light of this, the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training wanted to hear from firms how much they are affected by the ageing of its workforce, if and where they see a need to provide training for older workers over the age of 50 and how they support older workers through personnel development, workplace design and continuing training measures.

Further findings from the BIBB survey:

  • Only one in every three of the firms surveyed feels it is affected by an ageing of its workforce.
  • In those cases where a need to provide training for older workers is felt
    •  the need is considered to be large (52.7%) or very large (4.1%) first and foremost in the case of skilled workers. Among the firms surveyed, 34.2 per cent considered the need to provide training for semi-skilled and unskilled workers to be large; 12.8 per cent said this need was very large.
    • the firms surveyed cited the following training fields in particular: new information technologies (73.4%), new processes (65.3%) and new products (59.1%).
    • the retail trade, banking and insurance sectors were the most emphatic about the need for training - at all levels - followed by the skilled trades which see a particularly strong need for action in the commercial-administrative field and less in the technical-industrial field.
  • Courses of training for older workers are usually part of a broader range of training activities on offer. They include first and foremost training activities in the health care field (63.4%) and work structuring and organization (for example, deployment of older workers that reflects their strengths [62.1%]) and training to reduce physical strain (ca. 40%).
  • Special continuing training courses that are tailored to the needs of older workers are offered by 13.2 per cent of the companies surveyed. A total of 23.8 per cent organized the continuing training they offered to the learning needs and learning behaviour of older workers. There are plans to increase the training offered in these two areas in the future.
  • Personnel development has been limited largely to workers under the age of 40 to date. The current demographic trend however is making it necessary to rethink this practice. One out of every five of the companies surveyed is endeavouring to include older workers to a greater degree in personnel development activities.
  • A total of 81.1 per cent of the firms surveyed fosters the exchange of information on experience between older and younger workers. This includes work in teams that include people of various ages (72.2%) and having older employees look after entry-level workers (59.0%). Forty-two per cent of the companies surveyed offer continuing training activities that focus on how workers from different generations can exchange knowledge, know-how and information on their experience.

Further findings from the survey that BIBB conducted in conjunction with its Reference Company System ("RBS") have been published in German in RBS-Informationen, Volume 28 "Continuing In-Company Training for Older Employees". RBS-Informationen can be accessed on the Internet at .

For additional German-language information on the subject of continuing training for older employees, please see the BIBB knowledge map at .


01 This survey was conducted as part of the BIBB research project Continuing Training Concepts for Later Working Life - In the Context of Lifelong Learning. The firms surveyed belong to BIBB's Reference Company System.

Last modified on: July-28-05


Publisher: Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BIBB)
The President
Robert-Schuman-Platz 3
53175 Bonn

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