Deitmer Ludger

University of Bremen, Institute Technology and Education, ITB


This paper studies developments in the German building and construction sector under the perspective of current changes in industrial and craft trade occupations: What kind of skill changes are needed to improve teaching, learning and working through the use of digital media technology? By using data from a survey of apprentices and nine interviews With Vocational Education and Training teachers and trainers it provides a first picture of the state of art in this occupational domain. It attempts to systemize and cluster the challenges for high quality apprenticeships and for their teachers to support work related learning processes different learning and working venues, including VET schools, industrial training centres and the building and construction companies themselves.

Keywords: building and construction industry and craft trade; digital tools and media; initial and further vocational training and education; mixed method approach

1        Introduction

This paper is based on the work and emerging results of the Erasmus Plus funded Taccle 5 project: Extend European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators for VET teachers and trainers. It is to be presented at a workshop at the VETNET network of the European Conference on Educational Research, held in Hamburg in September 2019 as one of a series of three interlinked papers. This paper looks at continuing professional development in the use of technology for teaching and learning for trainers in the construction industry in Germany. The paper by Graham Attwell (2019) provides a general overview of the aims of the Taccle 5 project and expected outcomes. It also looks at the need to extend the EU DigiCompEdu Framework to consider the particular context and needs of Vocational Education and Training teachers and trainers. The third paper by Fernando Marhuenda Fluixa (2019) reports on the interim findings of a qualitative survey and study carried out through the project and examining the present training and professional development of VET teachers and trainers in five countries: Spain, the UK, Greece, Germany and Portugal.

2        The importance of the building and construction sector for the labour market and the number of apprentices in different occupations

The construction sector is one of the largest in Europe with an average of over 9 % of the GDP in the European states and provides 18 million direct jobs. It is not surprising that this sector is of structural importance for the labour market and the economy.

In Germany there are about 1.8 million people employed in the sector as architects, civil engineers, technicians, foremen, general foremen and a high number of skilled workers in more than 60 occupations. The occupations include road construction; pipe fitting and welding; well builders; specialised ground workers, and industrial and private house building with skilled occupation including masons, concreters, scaffolders; carpenters and finishing and completion trades with occupations within sanitation, heating and regenerative energy.

The sector recruits most of its workers through a three and a half year apprenticeship either in craft trade companies or in the construction industry and supplier and vendor companies including the production and maintenance of vehicles, machinery, and also building materials including stone and cement and prefabricated building sections – stairs, walls, roofs etc.

The apprentice rate is high comprising about 8,4 % employees in the industry and differing slightly throughout the different building occupations. The constant need for investment in the road infrastructure and house building as well as industrial building results in a constant demand for skilled employees especially at skilled worker and foremen level! It is a struggle to recruit sufficient young school leavers to undertakeapprenticeships. The VET system covers three learning arenas: large and small companies, regional training centres and local VET schools.

3        Changes in work and technology in building and construction

Compared to other factory industries, for example car and vehicle production, machinery or electrical devices, the use of digital media for learning and work has developed quite smoothly over the last 5 years starting from a low level but now more and more increasing. Quality standards and installation techniques in the construction industry are becoming ever more sophisticated. This is demonstrated above all by recent developments in construction equipment, including devices as well as a rich variety of new construction materials. For instance, in underground engineering, new processes for horizontal drilling technology (HDD) are applied today. They demand higher standards of technical and social qualification for the underground workers; as well as new geological skills in advance planning and machine safety control. Altogether, this leads to entirely new requirements for work processes performed by the workers and foremen involved, with increased demands for specialist skills and process expertise. Both in initial training and in further education, new training contents must be taught as well as translated didactically into practically-oriented vocational training in construction covering different knowledge domains.

The advantage of using digital media is it could help to enhance the image of this sector as well as to help make work less stressful and safer. But the media competence of the professionals is not yet developed at the same level as it should be. Continuing vocational training and apprenticeship still lacks well proven media concepts at an organisational as well at a personal level. This leaves big gaps in introducing sufficient and innovative digital media.

4        Use of digital media

A survey of more than 700 apprentices in the construction industry revealed a generally high use of smartphones and tablets, including to obtain work-related information and to solve concrete problems. However, the respondents were only partly aware of specific apps for construction professions. Even those that were known were rarely used. Simultaneously, the survey showed a high level of interest in the general use of mobile technologies in the work process (Deitmer, Heinemann 2017).

5        Feedback from nine interviews with VET teachers and trainers

Interviews with vocational teachers and trainers undertaken through the Taccle 5 project included those with professional backgrounds as carpenters, car mechatronics, pipe fitters, road builders, media occupations and vocational inclusion. The teachers and trainers discussed different issues of their work including teaching and learning, digital resources and empowering and facilitating learners as well as assessment.

The interviewees stated that many of the existing apps were simply not suitable for solving problems that arise in the work process and professions. The many apps analysed often more or less successfully provide information and data but are produced by vendors and not accessible by the training institution. They do not promote mobile learning by apprentices, and especially fail to support informal learning in practice work place (Deitmer et. al. 2018).

COMMON GROUND All trainers have a high level of professional competence and commitment. Critically, the high work load restricts time for professional development in digital media: finding out about digital tools is time consuming and may require training in their use in the teaching and learning process. At present the assessment of media applications and their use by students for learning is not very systematic.

COOPERATION:Some trainers work in close cooperation with training companies but other do not find time for intense cooperation on integrated projects. Digitisation helps better cooperation between teachers and trainers in different learning venues and at least allows them to know what the is being done at different learning places.

CONTINUING TEACHER TRAINING: those interviewed stressed the importance of collaborative learning with VET colleagues; they favoured internal school based continuing training measures (SCHILF: school internal teacher further education). Most of the teachers and trainers interviewed assessed themselves as having intermediate media expertise; very few felt that were at an advanced level (see Table 1, below).

CONCEPTS ON DIGITAL MEDIA DEVELOPMENT: some schools have a clear-cut media agenda including addressing the issue of digital resources. In some schools there was overall coordination of the use of digital media coordination’ in others this was non-existent.

CRITICAL: the creation and discovery of sufficient high-quality digital resources for supporting learning is a major challenge for all teachers and trainers. Didactical expertise is diverse and uneven among those interviewed. It is still very unclear in which direction the digital media infrastructure in the VET schools will develop: for example, the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach or the provision of tablets or computers by the schools. Further research, development and discussion is needed. Bandwidth and connectivity are often still a problem.

How would you classify yourself?  nine selected trainer and teachers in construction occupations
Six areas of educators professional expertise (Redeker et. al 2017) beginner intermediate advanced
Professional competence: using Digital media for communication and collaboration   1 8
Digital resources: sourcing and creating digital resources 2 3 4
Digital pedagogy: orchestrating use of digital media in teaching and learning   6 1
Assessment: using digital media to enhance formative assessments   8 1
Empowering learners: to enhance inclusion and learners active engagement     9
Facilitating learners digital competence: enable them to creatively use digital media for information, communication, content creation, well being and problem saving.   7 1

Table 1:         Self-assessment of competence in digital media by VET trainer and teachers

Most teachers and trainers assessed their occupational identity as well as their professional competence as very strong and robust. However, this was less so for producing digital resources. Equally ‘Facilitating learner digital competencewas seen this as a big challenge within VET school teams and organisations. Assessment is presently informal and not undertaken systematically.

6        Conclusion

VET in Germany is diverse and includes a broad range of work tasks and sectors. Until now digitisation had a limited impact on the way apprentices develop their skills. There is still a controversial debate over the best future path regarding the development of learning opportunities in the work place, training companies, VET schools and t cross company training centres.

7        Bibliography

Attwell, G., Heinemann, L., Deitmer, L., & Kämäräinen, P.. (2013). Developing PLEs to support work practice based learning. In: eLearning Papers #35, Nov. 2013.

Boreham, N., & Fischer. M. (2009): “The mutual shaping of work, vocational competence and work-process knowledge” in: Maclean, R. und D.N. Wilson (Hg.) International Handbook of Education for the Changing World of Work, S. 1593-1609, Dordrecht: Springer.

Deitmer, L. & Heinemann, L. (2017) New teaching methods and learning methods in further VET for general foremen in the German Construction sector. In: Kaiser, F., Krugmann, S. (Eds.): Social Dimension and Participation in Vocational Education and Training, Proceedings of the 2nd conference “Crossing Boundaries in VET”, University of Rostock

Deitmer, L., Heinemann, L., & Müller, W. (2018) New Forms of Learning and Teaching and Organisational Change In: Christian Nägele, Barbara Stalder (ED.) Conference Proceedings VETNET, European Conference of Educational Research, University of Bozen

Deitmer, L., & Attwell, G. (2013) Developing work based Learning Environments in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in European construction sector. In: Michael Gessler, Ludger Deitmer, Marg Malloch (Eds.) VETNET Proceedings: European Conference of Educational Research, Istanbul,

Gann, M., & David, Innovation in Construction Sector, In: Mark Dodgson, Roy Rothell (eds.), The Handbook of Industrial Innovation, Cheltenham, Edgar Elgar 1994, p. 202-212

Meyser, J., & Uhe, E. (2008) Construction In : Felix Rauner, Rupert Mac Lean (ED.) Handbook of Technical and Vocational Education and Training Research, Dordrecht, Springer International, pp. 214-221

Niethammer, M., Schmidt, D., & Schweder, M. (2013): Ausbilderschulungen in der Aufstiegsfortbildung (Vorarbeiter/Werkpolier/Geprüfter Polier). In: bwp@Spezial 6 – Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 2013, Fachtagung 03, S. 1-16.

Biographical note

Dr. Ludger Deitmer works since many years as a Senior Researcher and Lecturer at the Institute Technology and Education (ITB), University of Bremen. He coordinated a variety of different regional, national and international pilot projects in which work process skills, personal learning environments and organisational measures are researched and developed.

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