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Did you know that job-related further training helps to maintain the professional status quo?

September, 2018

Job-related further training is often recommended to employees who want to develop professionally. This is illustrated, for example, by the Federal Ministry of Education’s programme "Aufstieg durch Bildung [Advancement through Education]". A study by ISS researcher Christian Ebner and Martin Ehlert (Social Science Research Center Berlin) has now examined whether individual participation in further training has a positive effect on the professional careers of employed persons in Germany.

The effects of so-called "non-formal" further training activities were analyzed. These activities include the many training courses, which are usually relatively short and do not lead to recognised educational qualifications. This includes, for example, software or language courses, presentation training and much more. Non-formal further training makes up the majority of employees’ learning activities. While there are clear indications of career improvements with regards to the much rarer formal further training (e.g. a “Meister” degree following an apprenticeship), the findings on the topic of non-formal further training are anything but clear.

Possible career mobility due to non-formal further training was examined by analyzing employees’ changes of occupation, firm changes, improvements and deterioration in the income hierarchy as well as becoming labour market inactive (e.g. unemployment). The empirical analyses were based on data from the National Education Panel (NEPS). The NEPS addresses educational processes, competencies and returns over the entire life span. The starting cohort 6 analysed here is a sample of the cohorts born 1944-1986 in Germany. The authors use the seven panel waves of 2009-2016, as detailed information on non-formal training courses is available here.

The results show that further training courses do not function as a stepping stone. Rather, it became apparent that employed persons who participate in further training courses tend to remain in their jobs. Participation in further training thus stabilizes employment careers. This means that non-formal further training has the function of a "safety net" and counteracts downward mobility and labour market inactivity. However, as a result of non-formal further training, there are also fewer career advancements, fewer company and fewer career changes.