Is the shortage of skilled workers increasing companies' participation in continuing training?

Analyses on the basis of BIBB's Training Panel

Christian Gerhards, Dr. Sabine Mohr, Klaus Troltsch

In international comparative terms, German companies remain behind expectations when it comes to the continuing training of their employees. In light of the clearly impending shortage of skilled workers and rising requirements with regard to activities and skills, there ought, however, to be an increasing demand on the part of firms for company-based continuing training to act as an important instrument for the securing of economic efficiency and to cover training needs. In the present paper, a recent company survey conducted by BIBB will serve as the basis for highlighting both this correlation and further possible factors exerting an influence on the willingness of companies to provide continuing training.

Stagnating participation in continuing training as the shortage of skilled workers increases - a paradox?

In light of Germany's economic effectiveness and the high level of qualification of those in active employment, the fact that both the country's employees and companies occupy only a mid-table position in terms of European participation in continuing training may at first glance seem to be one of the more paradoxical results produced by continuing training research (cf. BEHRINGER et al. 2008). In addition to this, participation in continuing training in Germany has actually fallen over recent years rather than merely stagnating (cf. BEHRINGER/SCHÖNFELD 2010; STEGMAIER 2011). This is even more surprising in light of the increasing shortage of skilled workers currently being revealed across a range of branches and occupations and given the fact that the relevant research literature views company-based continuing training as a compensatory strategy which enables companies experiencing recruitment problems to cover their internal training needs.

For this reason, the present paper will address the question of whether companies which do not succeed either sufficiently or at all in acquiring appropriately qualified workers to fill their vacancies take recourse in providing continuing training to their employees or whether they pursue the alternative of recruiting external specialists to conduct internal training courses. Our hypothesis is that companies facing recruitment problems display higher participation in continuing training than companies not experiencing such problems.

Factors which favour company-based continuing training

Company-based continuing training is determined by a multitude of very different influencing factors. In general terms, we can say that companies invest more in the continuing training of their employees if:

  • they are in possession of appropriate human capital - e.g. measured in terms of the number of highly qualified employees as a proportion of the workforce - which renders company investments worthwhile from their point of view (cf. BELLMANN/LEBER 2005, 2010);
  • they also focus on company-based training and the imparting of company-specific knowledge in other operational areas of activity, such as in the provision of training to their own young workers (cf. BELLMANN/KREKEL/STEGMAIER 2010);
  • sufficient financial, infrastructure and personnel resources are in place, aspects which most studies measure in terms of number of employees (cf. BEHRINGER/SCHÖNFELD 2011);
  • they are in possession of appropriate instruments which enable them to determine their own in-company training requirements and
  • hey are having problems in recruiting skilled workers and in filling their job vacancies (cf. DÜLL/BELLMANN 1998).

Against this background, the aim of the following remarks is to investigate problems in filling vacancies in terms of the effect these exert on the continuing training activities of the companies. An additional issue and a question accorded a lower degree of consideration within relevant continuing training research will be to investigate whether continuing training is influenced by the deployment of management instruments. The starting assumption here will be that company management instruments such as performance-related pay, target setting agreements or company profit sharing by employees have a positive effect on participation in continuing training.

Database and methodological approach

The basis of the following investigation into continuing training practice of companies is the BIBB Establishment Panel on Training and Competence Development (BIBB Training Panel).1 The BIBB Training Panel is a regular annual survey which collects representative data on the training activities of companies in Germany. A disproportionate sample stratified according to company size, branch, territory and company providing training is taken from the statistical population of all companies with at least one employee subject to mandatory social insurance contributions. Data is predominantly collected via computer-aided personal interviews (CAPI). Over 2,000 companies took part in the first wave of the survey in the spring of 2011. This represents a response rate of approximately 30 percent. Participating companies were surveyed on important areas of company activity, in particular activities undertaken in the field of company-based initial and continuing vocational education and training and in human resources recruitment. General company information and data relating to staff structure, market position and company work organisation were also collected.

Within the scope of the following evaluations, company-based continuing training acts as a dependent variable and is defined in the following terms:

  • as the promotion of participation of employees in internal or extra-company courses and other forms of continuing training such as quality circles and information events or the support of self-directed learning via special programmes,
  • under the proviso that employees are given time off for all or some of the training or that costs of training have been paid by the company in whole or in part.

The proportion of company jobs remaining unfilled in the year 2010 due to a lack of or applicants or absence of suitable applicants serves as the indicator for the shortage of skilled workers. This represents a major difference to comparable studies, where only the evaluation of the companies is used as an indicator. Further variables in the model forming the object of investigation are general prevailing company conditions, participation in training and the human resources structure of a company. These are viewed in terms of the number of employees of a company, the presence of trainees and the proportions of employees according to selected vocational qualifications respectively. The aim is also to measure the effects on continuing training participation emanating from the skill requirement of the company and form selected management control instruments such as performance-related pay, target setting agreements or profit sharing.

Problems in filling vacancies and participation in continuing training

According to the results of the 2011 BIBB Training Panel, 57 percent of companies in Germany carried out continuing training measures in the year 2010.2 Since the aim of the present paper is to investigate the correlation between company-based continuing training and personnel recruitment, account will only be taken of companies which recruited new staff or wished to recruit new staff to the company in 2010. The rate of participation in continuing training by these companies was 68 percent.

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The Figure shows the continuing training participation of these companies according to the magnitude of problems experienced in filling vacant positions - measured in terms of the extent of unfilled vacancies. This reveals that participation in continuing training by companies with major problems in filling vacancies (55.1%) is very much lower than participation by companies which have no problems or only slight problems in filling vacancies (69.9%). Company-based continuing training does not thus appear to be an instrument which can compensate for problems in filling vacancies. In fact, if the two groups of companies with the lowest and greatest problems in filling vacancies are contrasted, higher participation in continuing training by companies is shown to be accompanied by successful recruitment of new staff.

In order to examine this correlation more precisely, a multi-variate model is used to investigate whether an effect between the extent of problems in filling vacancies and participation in company-based continuing training can be statistically demonstrated if additional explanatory factors are introduced onto the model. The table presents the results of a logistic regression (cf. "Binary logistic regression"). Information provided by the companies surveyed on whether continuing training measures were implemented or not implemented in 2010 serves as the dependent variable.

Binary logistic regression

A binary logistic regression is a multi-variate analytical procedure which expresses the influence of factors on a dependent variable in terms of probabilities. A positive influence compared to the respective reference group is indicated if the value shown is greater than 1. A negative effect is indicated if the value is between 0 and 1.

The first point which should be emphasised is that the findings of the descriptive evaluation are confirmed and that it is possible to identify a negative correlation between recruitment problems and participation in company-based continuing training. Companies which have major problems in finding workers on the external labour market do not come to the conclusion that they should invest in the continuing training of their employees. Instead of this, the recruitment of new employees exerts a positive effect on companies' continuing training participation. Continuing training measures for the induction of new employees, which represent an obviously worthwhile investment in company-specific human capital from a company perspective, are likely to play an important role in this regard.

In addition to this, the results largely confirm the expected effects of further influencing factors on participation in company-based continuing training. The training needs perceived from the point of view of the companies surveyed are shown to be highly significant as well as exerting the strongest effect in overall terms on participation in continuing training. As requirements increase, there is a significant rise in the probability that companies will provide continuing training to their employees. Financial and organisational incentives to raise employee motivation such as performance-related pay, target setting agreements or profit sharing also have an extremely positive effect on company-based continuing training. The explanation for this is that such company instruments for the raising of employee motivation mean a greater level of demand for continuing training opportunities on the part of the employees to which the company reacts by increasing its provision.

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Further important determinants of continuing training are company size, participation in training and the qualifications structure of employees. This confirms the results of comparable studies (cf. BELLMANN/KREKEL/STEGMAIER 2010; DÜLL/BELLMANN 1998). The fact that companies providing training are more likely to offer continuing training than companies not providing training may be interpreted as the expression of a specific training culture within the company which dictates that an investment is made in training in order to acquire and secure skilled workers. The investigation into the influence of the company qualifications structure leads to the result that companies with a high proportion of employees not in possession of a vocational qualification are more likely to be inactive in terms of continuing training, whereas a high proportion of employees with an academic qualification strongly increases participation in continuing training. This once again confirms the conclusion that "company-based continuing training is characterised by strong selection and segmentation with regard to qualifications, and this tends to lead to a consolidation or enlargement of existing inequalities rather than a reduction" (cf. BRUSSIG/LEBER 2004, p. 49).

Participation in continuing training rises in line with successful recruitment of skilled workers

Our initial hypothesis was that, against the background of the impending shortage of skilled workers, companies are increasingly experiencing problems in staff recruitment and are investing in continuing training measures for their employees on the basis of their existing training needs. The results of the evaluation, however, indicate a trend somewhat to the contrary. The more successful companies are in filling vacancies, the more likely they are either to assume the costs of continuing training measures or to give their employees time off to take part in continuing training. A possible explanation for this is that the reason why companies are so successful in the recruitment of skilled workers is that they are viewed as an attractive employer both for their own staff and new skilled workers by dint of the fact that they participate in continuing training. Continuing training thus appears to be an instrument which mainly comes into effect in the event of successful recruitment of skilled workers rather than as a consequence of recruitment problems.

One of the main issues which remains, however, is how companies will react in future to the decreases on the training place and labour market caused by demographic developments and which role will be accorded to the expansion of continuing training provision for employees compared to other measures such as changes to company work organisation. These developments should be the object of further investigation within the scope of the BIBB Training Panel over the coming years.

BEHRINGER, F.; MORAAL, D., SCHÖNFELD, G.: Betriebliche Weiterbildung in Europa: Deutschland weiterhin nur im Mittelfeld. Aktuelle Ergebnisse aus CVTS3 [Continuing vocational training in Europe: Germany continues to occupy only a mid-table position. Current results from CVTA3]. In: BWP [Vocational Training in Research and Practice] 37 (2008) 1, pp. 9-14 - URL:www.bibb.de/veroeffentlichungen/de/publication/download/id/1313
(last updated 08.12.2011)

BEHRINGER, F.; SCHÖNFELD, G.: Betriebliche Weiterbildung in Deutschland - Ein Vergleich mit den EU-Mitgliedsstaaten auf der Grundlage der vier Kernindikatoren aus CVTS3 [Company-based continuing training in Germany - a comparison with EU member states on the basis of the four core indictaors of CVTS3]. Bonn 2010

BEHRINGER, F.; SCHÖNFELD, G.: Die dritte europäische Unternehmensbefragung zur betrieblichen Weiterbildung (CVTS3) [Third European Continuing Vocational Training Survey (CVTS3)]. In: BIBB (Ed.): Data Report to accompany the Report on Vocational Education and Training. Bonn 2011, pp. 300-306 - URL: http://datenreport.bibb.de/html/dr2011.html (last updated: 08.12.2011)

BELLMANN, L.; KREKEL, E. M.; STEGMAIER, J.: Aus- und Weiterbildung - Komplemente oder Substitute? [Initial and continuing training - complements or substitutes] In: Report - Zeitschrift für Weiterbildungsforschung [Report - Journal of Continuing Training Research], 33 (2010) 1, pp. 41-54

BELLMANN, L.; LEBER, U.: Berufliche Weiterbildungsforschung. Datenlage, Forschungsfragen und ausgewählte Ergebnisse [Continuing vocational training research. Status of data, researjch issues and selected results]. In: Report - Zeitschrift für Weiterbildungsforschung [Report - Journal of Continuing Training Research], 28 (2005) 2, pp. 29-40

BELLMANN, L.; LEBER, U.: Betriebliche Weiterbildung. In der Krise bleibt das Bild zwiespältig [Company-based continuing training. The picture remains ambivalent during the crisis]. In: "IAB-Forum": the magazine of the Institute for Employment Research at the Federal Employment Agency. (2010) 1, pp. 16-19

RUSSIG, M.; LEBER , U.: Verringert informelle Weiterbildung bestehende Qualifikationsunterschiede? Aktuelle Ergebnisse einer Betriebsbefragung [Does informal continuing training reduce existing differences in qualifications? Current results of a company survey]. In: WSI Mitteilungen [Institute of Economic and Social Sciences Reports], 57 (2004) 1, pp. 49-57

DÜLL, H.; BELLMANN, L.: Betriebliche Weiterbildungsaktivitäten in West- und Ostdeutschland - Eine theoretische und empirische Analyse mit den Daten des IAB-Betriebspanels 1997 [Company-based continuing training activities in West and East Germany - a theoretical and empirical analysis using the data from the 1997 IAB Establishment Panel Survey. In: Mitteilungen aus Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung [Labour Market and Vocational Research Reports], 31 (1998) 2, pp. 205-225. Nuremberg

STATISTISCHES BUNDESAMT [FEDERAL STATISTICAL OFFICE]: ]: Berufliche Weiterbildung in Unternehmen - Dritte europäische Erhebung über die berufliche Weiterbildung in Unternehmen (CVTS3) [Continuing training in companies - Third European Continuing Vocational Training Survey (CVTS3)]. Wiesbaden 2008 - URL: http://www.destatis.de/jetspeed/portal/cms/Sites/destatis/Internet/DE/Content/Publikationen/
Fachveroeffentlichungen/BildungForschungKultur/Weiterbildung/WeiterbildungUnternehmen5215201079004,property=file.pdf (last updated: 08.12.2011)

STEGMAIER, J.: Betriebliche Aus- und Weiterbildung in der Krise [Initial and continuing company-based training in crisis]. In: BWP [Vocational training in Research and Practice] 39 (2010) 6, pp. 4-5 - URL: www.bibb.de/veroeffentlichungen/de/publication/download/id/6474 (last updated: 08.12.2011)

STEGMAIER, J.: Betriebliche Weiterbildung [Company-based continuing training]. In: BIBB (Ed.): Data Report to accompany the Report on Vocational Education and Training. Bonn 2011, S. 298-300 - URL: http://datenreport.bibb.de/html/dr2011.html (last updated: 08.12.2011)

Head of the “Qualification Panel” Programme at BIBB

Dr., Research associate in the “Qualification Panel” Programme at BIBB

Research associate in the “Qualification Panel” Programme at BIBB

Translation from the German original (published in BWP 1/2013): Martin Stuart Kelsey, Global Sprachteam Berlin

  • 1

    The survey is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and carried out by BIBB in conjunction with TNS Infratest Social Research.

  • 2

    In contrast to this, the CVTS Survey for 2005 arrives at a significantly higher continuing training rate of 69.5% (cf. Federal Statistical Office 2008). The Establishment Panel Survey conducted by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) produces a significantly lower corresponding rate, the figure for 2010 being 44% (STEGMAIER 2010, 2011). The main reasons for the differences between the various surveys are differences in the respective statistical populations and reference periods. The CVTS Survey only covers companies which have at least ten employees. The IAB Establishment Panel Survey only records continuing training measures carried out in the first half of the year rather than relating to the whole of the calendar year, as is the case with the BIBB Training Panel.

  • 3

    The categories relate to the number of unfilled posts as a proportion of the total number of positions at a company. In the first category, the proportion of unfilled posts is between 0-10 percent, in the second category between 11-30 percent and in the third between 31-50 percent. Companies with more than 50 percent of unfilled posts are included in the fourth category.