Knowledge, Skills, Craft? The Skilled Worker in West German Industry and the Resilience of Vocational Training, 1970–2000

Aufsätze referiert extern - Web of Science

Lutz Raphael

In: German History 37 (2019), 3, 359-373


The spread of computer technology in West German industry during the 1980s and 1990s dramatically changed the demand for skilled and unskilled work in manufacturing. As a result the knowledge used in production was redefined and reformers pushed for radical reform in vocational and general education. In these decades a corporate agreement across trade unions, associations of employers and state bureaucracy brought about a series of adaptive reforms of existing apprenticeships and the creation of new apprenticeships in new branches. This survival of the dual system is analysed as part of the strategies of modernizing West German manufacturing industries. Both employers and trade unions defended the central role of skilled workers in the new system of flexible quality production that developed during this period of rapid technological change. Data from the Socio-Economic Panel and from other sources enable analysis of the social effects of this economically successful strategy. They show the large-scale use of skilled workers in industrial production and their opportunities for upward mobility and additional qualifications. At the same time unskilled workers, and unskilled migrant workers in particular, experienced greater risks of unemployment and increased job uncertainty.