Industry 4.0 and Working World 4.0 in Germany

The term industry 4.0 was created by the German Government for a research and high-tech strategy with regard to digitized, networked production processes in which humans, machines, plants, logistic and products communicate and cooperate with each other. This development which is characterized by digitalization, automation, global networking and cyber physical systems, is also called 4th Industrial Revolution. The sectors electronics, mechatronics and information technology are crucial for it.

As this development will concern all companies the term “working world 4.0” (and analogue Vocational Education and Training 4.0 – VET 4.0) is more comprehensive and fits the core of the development better. Usually “4.0” is used synonymous with digitalization in a company but “4.0” goes beyond: companies with their products can no more be regarded isolated but have to be seen as part of a whole complex value creation chain. Conversion and reorganization processes will affect all involved parties in a value creation chain, plant manufacturer, component supplier, service provider as well as all connected processes, management, sales and distribution, accounting to the point of consumer. The difference between industry and small and medium enterprises (SME) actually is only a matter of speed of implementation. It is predicted that there is no area and no sector which will not be concerned by 4.0. (cf. Spöttl, G. 2016: S. 3ff.; Kagermann, H. et al. 2013: S. 5ff.).

Altogether there will result many changes in working and private life, e.g. by totally automatized cars, multifunctional vehicles, robots, autonomous delivery robots and drones. Increasingly complex systems are to be developed, to be operated and managed and to be maintained.

It is important betimes to adapt initial and further training and education in order to master the challenges and to preserve a competitive and innovative economy. Therefore a close cooperation between teachers and trainers, students, training institutions, companies, social partners and chambers is necessary.

The implementation of the 4th Industrial Revolution concerns more or less all skilled workers in production and all other sectors. It is a fundamental question how vocational education and training can react on these challenges in order to qualify future skilled workers for these changed tasks (cf. Spöttl, G. / Windelband, L. 2016: S. 295ff.). There has to be an adjustment in the training companies as well as in VET colleges and trainers in schools and companies will have to be prepared for working world 4.0.

All German Laender want to improve the use of digital media in schools, but with different approaches and speed. The aim is to develop a modern infrastructure for schools which will be able to offer education and training of competences which fit to future qualification requirements. Examples are the “learning factories 4.0” in Baden-Wuerttemberg, the promotion for digitalization in vocational programs and competence centers of the chambers, or the program for digitalization in VET of the Federal Ministry for Education and Research. The not yet area-wide provision of fast internet, a partly poor and old-fashioned equipment of schools with regard to modern infrastructure and certain skepticism of the training staff impede a fast and successful adaptation.

The German Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (, p. 19ff.) formulates in its strategy paper „Bildung in der digitalen Welt“ from 08.12.2016 the following requirements for VET:

  • application of digital equipment and working techniques
  • personal professional ability to act
  • self-management and ability of self-organization
  • international thinking and action
  • project oriented cooperation forms
  • data protection and data security
  • critical handling of digitally cross-linked media and awareness of the consequences of the digitalization for the living and working world

These requirements shall fulfill the learning modules which will be developed in the project VET 4.0.


Reference List:

Kagermann, Henning / Wahlster, Wolfgang / Helbig, Johannes (2013): Deutschlands Zukunft als Produktionsstandort sichern. Umsetzungsempfehlungen für das Zukunftsprojekt Industrie 4.0. Abschlussbericht des Arbeitskreises Industrie 4.0.

Spöttl, Georg (2016): Bayme vbm. Die bayerischen Metall- und Elektro- Arbeitgeber. Industrie 4.0 – Auswirkungen auf Aus- und Weiterbildung in der M+E Industrie.

Spöttl, Georg / Windelband, Lars (2016): Industrie 4.0 – Neugestaltung industrieller Prozesse mit erheblichen Konsequenzen für die Berufsausbildung! In: Bundesverband der Lehrerinnen und Lehrer an beruflichen Schulen (BLBS) (2016): Die Berufsbildende Schule (BbSch). Industrie 4.0. Berufliche Bildung 4.0.