The rapid technological development accompanying the fourth industrial revolution.


The rapid technological development accompanying the fourth industrial revolution leads to an ever-increasing virtualization of industrial work environments. At the same time, experience-based knowledge becomes more important in solving complex problems in highly interconnected factories. Specifically, there is an ongoing debate in Europe and the US over the lack of skilled and experienced workers in engineering and how it is affecting the industry. Admittedly, which skills are needed most is still widely disputed, but there is a growing consensus that this skill gap cannot be closed by university education only. Highly qualified, experienced workers with a vocational training background like technicians would be ideal candidates to fill this void.

This approach faces two major challenges:

  1. A promotion at this level would lead to a position where usually an engineering education is required. Yet, for financial or family reasons, these workers are unlikely to attend university at some point after their vocational training (in Europe only around 3{abe6183b684a5dcdb2df002a79cee0515761ed237edafe4c0b4ecca5d30b3859} of students have a vocational training background)
  2. Companies report that their vocationally trained workforce is not ready to meet these new challenges albeit their technical experience and skills, because they lack key competencies (e.g. thinking in interconnected systems). Therefore, learning methods and career paths should be developed allowing these qualified employees to acquire missing competencies at an academic level outside of higher education institutions.

“BROFESSIO” (workplace based professionalization in the producing industry) was a research and development project aimed at prototyping new avenues for higher education inside company lines with partners from research institutions and the industrial sector. Supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Germany), BROFESSIO investigated strategies and methods that allow implementing this approach into the industrial practise with a specific focus on blended and online learning environments to support and promote a seamless integration in existing company structures. Thus, the goal of this new learning approach is twofold:

  1. To create a learning method which allows workers to acquire necessary key competencies within their work place, creating an embedded system of learning and working.
  2. To ease the path for workers with a vocational training background to reach higher qualification levels, therefore opening new opportunities for advancement within their field.


Paper at Sciencedirect Conference Paper