Time for Life-Long Learning in German Companies. New Approaches and Institutional Requirements
It is the leading question of the project, to what extent and under which conditions new approaches in firms' training and working-time policies are able to foster Life-Long-Learning.
Previous research has repeatedly stressed the importance of extended vocational training in employees' labour market participation and employability. However, a large share of German companies do not provide training opportunities. Moreover, particular groups of employees, like female workers and low skilled workers, are clearly underrepresented in extended vocational training. Since these groups are already disadvantaged on the labour market, a lack of vocational training is likely to reduce their employability in the long run. As a consequence, risks of cumulating disadvantages arise. Current research has identified four main barriers, which restrict the distribution (among companies) and participation (of employees) in extended vocational training: (1) Short-term orientation in firms' HRM policies, (2) uncertainty of jobs and careers, (3) restrictions due to lack of time and financial resources, and (4) the persistence of early retirement policies. It is the main goal of our project to investigate how these barriers can be overcome. Therefore, we focus on innovative firm policies in the fields of extended vocational training and working hours. Particular attention is paid (a) to institutional arrangements that foster long-term oriented firm policies, (b) to working-time policies that are able to provide sufficient time for vocational training, and (c) to firm policies addressing particular groups of employees (like female workers or low skilled workers). The project will address the following three research questions: 1. Which new firm policies in the fields of vocational training and working hours with an explicit focus on demographic or life-course issues do we find? 2. What are the effects of these policies on the participation of different groups of employees (with regard to gender, skills, household context and life stage)? 3. What are the institutional preconditions of these policies at the firm, sector and state level? Theoretically, the project derives from transaction cost theory on the one hand and theories on social inequality on the other. The research design contains four elements: (1) Firm-level case studies, (2) employee surveys and qualitative interviews (3) analyses of representative firm data, and (4) workshops with experts in other European countries.