A new concept for advanced training in the construction sector

Marlies Dorsch-Schweizer

The advanced training occupation of “certified constructor” from 1994 has become obsolete in terms of its contents and is accorded little significance in company practice today. A preliminary investigation carried out by BIBB in the field of activity of construction has produced a recommendation that the relevant advanced training regulations should be updated. However, there is also a view that such a process should be allied with additional conceptual considerations aimed at increasing the attractiveness of this particular advanced training occupation. An initial concept has been drawn up for this purpose, the basic principles of which are outlined in the present article.

Starting position

Training in the construction sector takes place in the occupations of technical product designer and technical system planner, both of which underwent comprehensive modernisation in 2011. As of 2016, around 11,700 training contracts were in force in these two construction occupations.1 According to the 2012 BIBB/BauA Labour Force Survey, willingness to pursue continuing education is significantly higher in this occupational group than in all other training occupations. In the construction branch, however, this continuing education is essentially covered by higher education study or by technician training at trade and technical schools (cf. DORSCH-SCHWEIZER 2017).

During the period from 2005 to 2014, the average number of persons completing advanced training leading to the qualification of certified constructor was only just under 100 per year. Examinations are regularly conducted in just two chamber districts in Germany. Slightly fewer than half of the persons completing this qualification have previously completed other training programmes (e.g. industrial mechanic or tools mechanic) rather than a course of training in the construction sector (cf. ibid.).

The advanced training regulations in question were designed at the beginning of the 1990s for a field of activity that is located at the interface between skilled workers and technicians. However, the skills to be imparted in training in the construction occupations – particularly with regard to dealing with CAD constructions – now largely meet the demands in this area. The supposition must be that this is one of the reasons for the low numbers of persons currently completing advanced training qualifications. This meant that there was a need for clarification at the advanced training level regarding alignment of activities and functions within the companies and the content structure to be derived from this.

  • 1 BIBB “Trainee Database” based on vocational education and training data provided by the Statistisches Bundesamt [Federal Statistical Office] and the statistical offices of the federal states, survey as of 31 December.

Investigation in the field of activity of construction

For this reason, BIBB undertook an investigation of company skills needs at advanced training level for the field of activity of construction. Favoured training pathways were also identified. The aim was to examine the requirements for modernised advanced training regulations. The project received support and guidance from an advisory council made up of construction experts from companies, from a trade and technical school, from an institute of higher education, from the DIHK [Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce] and from the IG Metall trade union. It was based on a national survey, which centred on 22 company case studies comprising a total of 98 expert interviews (cf. DORSCH-SCHWEIZER 2017). Two of the main results to emerge will be presented as examples below.

A project-related hierarchical structure is usually in place, in which technical product designers and technical system planners are included below the level of technicians. In turn, the latter are localised below the engineers. The larger the company and the higher the number of employees involved in construction, the greater the delineation of these areas of activity aligned to formal qualifications will be. By way of contrast, these hierarchical levels will increasingly weaken if fewer workers are engaged in construction and if more significance is attached to aspects such as personality, commitment and occupational experience in particular.

The results of the BIBB investigation make it clear that there are actually many interfaces between the three hierarchical levels in the field of activity of construction. These statements are in accordance with the outcomes of the “Constructor 2020” project, which also found there to be no clean divisions between construction workers with vocational or academic qualifications. Although differences exist in the areas of deployment of constructors in possession of academic and vocational qualifications, these increasingly overlap (cf. ALBERS/DENKENA/MATTHIESEN 2012, pp. 56 ff.).

Although a large majority of the interview partners agree that the existing training and continuing education programmes in the construction sector are sufficient, a small number of respondents felt that opportunities for advanced training were inadequate and primarily call for additional alternatives to the technician qualification completed at a trade and technical school. However, the interviewees found it difficult to arrive at an assessment of the advanced training programme leading to the qualification of certified constructor because they were largely unfamiliar with this advanced training occupation. No general company requirement for a modernised advanced training occupation can thus be ascertained at this time.

Notwithstanding this, there are several specific statements which suggest that targeted advanced training in the construction sector is considered a useful step. Respondents thought that technician training imparts many contents which are not of use in construction. At the same time, the extent of construction training included in the technician qualification was seen as too low.

Recommendation for modernisation with new structural design elements

The outcomes of the investigation highlight a dilemma. Both the companies and the skilled workers delivering training have clearly come to terms with not having an advanced training occupation in the field of activity of construction. Nevertheless, there are arguments which speak in favour of modernisation. An updated advanced training occupation in the construction sector represents an opportunity in many regards:

  • for intermediate school or training qualifications,
  • for companies wishing to provide those in possession of a higher education entrance qualification who are seeking professional advancement with an alternative to degree-level study,
  • for those who have trained in workshop occupations (e.g. industrial mechanic) and wish to transfer to construction,
  • for those who have trained in workshop occupations (e.g. industrial mechanic) and wish to transfer to construction.

Following an evaluation of all arguments and results, the project’s advisory council arrived at a unanimous decision to recommend the modernisation of the training occupation. The objective is to develop specific advanced vocational training for the training occupations of technical product designer and technical system planner which will replace the existing provision from 1994.

Increasing the attractiveness of advanced training

Period of implementation, costs and permeability are also important criteria for an attractive advanced training qualification alongside the actual contents to be imparted. For this reason, a concept which could potentially take account of these requirements was developed within the scope of the investigation. This concept focuses on the advanced training occupation. Parts of the qualification may be completed during initial vocational education and training and be subsequently recognised for advanced training. At the same time, contents which may be accorded reciprocal recognition could be included in the advanced training and higher education regulations. In specific terms, this means that newly developed additional qualifications that are actually acquired during initial vocational education and training could be credited to advanced training. The contents of these would need to be adapted to the examination requirements contained within the advanced training regulations. This necessitates a new way of considering the interfaces between initial and advanced training regulations.

One important new approach in this concept would be cooperation with advanced training provision by institutes of higher education. In the federal states where training and employment are strong, agreements could be concluded to harmonise contents which are jointly imparted and mutually recognised. Credit transfer for a later course of study at an institute of higher education would be given to persons in possession of an advanced training qualification. The same recognition for advanced training would apply to students who subsequently drop out of their course of study (cf. Figure). This concept would represent an attempt to realise more permeable structures in both directions and to recognise the relevant regulatory necessities.

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Figure: Interlinking of initial, advanced and continuing education and training in the construction sector

Alignment to reference level 6 of the Deutscher Qualifikationsrahmen (DQR) [German Qualifications Framework] would mean that the advanced training qualification would enjoy equivalence with the technician and bachelor qualifications and would thus reflect the company reality of assignments of tasks. In order to increase the appeal of the advanced training occupation for both training occupations in the construction sector, differentiation into specialisms would appear to be necessary.
Some degree of endeavour will be needed to establish new advanced training regulations as an accepted and attractive alternative alongside recognised technician training. One aspect of this process could also be to give consideration to a new occupational title, since the previous designation is not viewed as being very meaningful.

ALBERS, A.; DENKENA, B.; MATTHIESEN, S. (Hrsg.): Faszination Konstruktion. Berufsbild und Tätigkeitsfeld im Wandel. Acatech Studie. München 2012

DORSCH-SCHWEIZER, M.: Fortbildungsbedarf im Konstruktionsbereich – Abschlussbericht. Bonn 2017 – URL: www2.bibb.de/bibbtools/tools/dapro/data/documents/pdf/eb_42468.pdf (retrieved: 11.12.2017)

Former Research Associate in the “Industrial and Technical Occupations” Division at BIBB


Translation from the German original (published in BWP 1/2018): Martin Kelsey, GlobalSprachTeam, Berlin