The lecturers have to go online first

The corona crisis gives companies the opportunity to train their workforce in digitalization. Before that, the providers of further education and training have to master the transformation.

Sticky notes and pin boards must now also be digitized.

IIn the past few months everyone has learned a lot, including those who otherwise teach the lessons to others. Claus Kapelke, Chairman of the Association for Continuing Education in Hessen, can put the increase in numbers: the education database that the association operates brings together between 15,000 and 16,000 offers for professional, cultural or political training and further education.

Anyone who browsed through it in 2019 could find a total of 177 online courses. In May 2020 there were already 3450 offers that should work via the Internet, in November 5839. If industries are currently experiencing a surge in digitization, then the education providers are one of them. The Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft wrote about them in 2018 that “digital learning opportunities are used very rarely”. In contrast, the Wuppertaler Kreis, an association of leading nationwide providers of professional training and further education, stated towards the end of 2020: “The pandemic is a turbo for the digitization of further training.”

Entry into the online world

Suddenly the internet lessons were the salvation. Because with the first lockdown in March, manager seminars, master classes, employee training courses and language classes were also closed. Claus Kapelke, who heads the state technical college for the automotive industry in Hesse as his main job, remembers well: he had to cancel 45 courses, around 500 participants, from apprentices to future foremen, were no longer allowed to come.

For the apprentices, the inter-company parts of their training were canceled for a few weeks. It was only possible to make up for them in small groups and with a streamlined program over the summer. You can’t learn car screws on the screen, which is why, as in general in vocational training, everyone involved endeavors to enable safe classroom courses.

Quite a few things from the master classes, however, can be conveyed without having to meet in the workshop. “First we sent the participants home written documents, then we started making videos with our trainers, and on April 7th we had our first live lecture via Zoom,” reports Kapelke. And even if some of the near-masters have grumbled or even tried with a lawyer to demand the classroom lessons they had booked – at the exams in the summer, “the results were even a little better than in 2019”, as Kapelke says.

He is proud to say that his establishment has successfully entered the online world. “That was a lot of effort, but it brought us a long way.” A sentence that most of the 300+ members of the Hessen Training Association would sign. With one caveat that other industries are also familiar with: the income from the digital offerings cannot yet compensate for the failures in the face-to-face seminars.

Nobody comes in person

In a survey, every second provider recently stated that its sales had fallen by at least 25 percent, and every fifth company reported liquidity bottlenecks. Almost half have sent employees on short-time work, not naming them, but the number of freelance trainers who are left with no assignments or income is high.

The Wuppertaler Kreis, which includes the Hessian Business Training Center, the Provadis training provider, the Academy of German Cooperatives, DB Training and the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, also predicts a “significant drop in sales” of around a third for 2020. In 2019, its 50 members had offered almost one hundred thousand seminars for 1.35 million participants. The annual turnover was 1.47 billion euros. In 2020 it was the main revenue drivers, namely seminars and in-house training courses for companies, that broke away.