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EBSN / EPALE discussion - What works in workplace basic skills?

Zsolt Vincze

From Wednesday 14th to Friday 16th September the European Basic Skills Network (EBSN) will be hosting an online discussion about Workplace Basic Skills on EPALE moderated by Rosemarie Klein and Dieter Zisenis from the German research and consultancy organization Büro für berufliche Bildungsplanung (bbb).

We would like to hear from anyone who has been involved in workplace basic skills training or is interested in developing expertise in this area.

The discussion will be open from Wednesday, 14th September, 10.00 CET. Please join us and share your thoughts and experiences! 


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Zsolt Vincze portretas

Dear All,

Thank you for all your valuable and interesting comments and posts shared in the last three days. We intend to continue this discussion, but from now without any limited timeframe, gathering more interesting experiences and initiatives in the field of workplace learning. The platform for further discussions will be also on EPALE on the Community of Practice called 'EBSN forum - Workplace Literacy', open for any interested EPALE user. For joining this discussion you have to select the ''EBSN forum - Workplace Literacy' from the list of Communities of Practice available here and simply subscribe. 

The summary of the present three-day discussion will be also published on EBSN forum - Workplace Literacy.

Looking forward to meeting you there soon!

The EBSN Team

Sabine Schwarz portretas


my name is Sabine Schwarz. I'm responsible for the work place basic education sector of Lernende Region Netzwerk Köln e.V. I provide training courses, councelling and workshops in adult education for many years. Since 2008 I focus on basic education and literacy with a research project at the University of Cologne. At the moment, I focus on basic work place education.

Within the last 4 years in different projects dealing with work place basic education nearly 800 employees in small, medium and big-sized companies have been reached. Topics of the workshops and training courses were reading, writing, arithmetic, IT competencies, communication, health care, cultural education etc.

Based on these experiences I raise different thesis which you can find here:

I'm looking forward to your comments.

Best regards

Sabine Schwarz

Thomas Aigner portretas



I'm Thomas Aigner, founding member of the AoG Network NRW ( We are an association of trainers and coaches for workplace basic skills and work as network closely with the Gruwe project (workplace basic skills moves companies) (

Our experiences show that we certainly encounter in the company with the topic on interest. Interest does not mean, however, at the same time that they see a need. It is unusual for them to take the low-skilled workers in the view of personal development. The argumentation in the contribution of Lorén Sombetzki I share. The challenge is the question of how and where the communication can be made with and in companies.

For this purpose, five experiences:

- First of all it is important to have an own position and argumentation why one stands up for workplace basic skills rsp. believes that personal development of low-skilled workers for the value chain in business is important. This is to show position, to be a competent communicator for talking with company-representatives but not to convince for workplace basic skills!

- We achieve great attention when we clearly point out that workplace basic skills is a training, which is taylormade, demand-driven,, work-oriented which means: learning to solve real challenges at the workplace. So a development which starts „where the shoe pinches“. And then we talk about where improvements in this company would be necessary.

- Good access to get into conversation with company representatives, are company-networks and personnel developer networks or events like business-breakfast or business-dinner. They show interest, to deal with new topics and issues. There we show short and clearly our offer and go as fast as possible in a discussion or in dialog with interested representatives.

- A good opener for our topic are the companies that have already made the experience with us ". Workplace basic skills is a useful offer." Utility is the goal of education for companies: Has the employee developed and shows job content requirements as Telephone communication with customers better? Are workflows and coordination between colleagues now smoother?

- We have developed and edited a good-practice brochure about workplace basic skills together with some companies which consequently tells about workplace basic skills from the perspective of company-representatives and trainers.  

Rosemarie Klein portretas

I like to pick up the CLEA conribution about the transfer of learning:

A very important benefit of workplace basic skills training is to accompany the workers is to transfer what they have learned as a competence in the work action. In parts we can rely on the fact that this casually happened, but the empiricism teaches us to encourage and accompany this process.

Our experiences in Brief:

1. The transfer of learning succeeds succeed well when in the training structures for the transfer of learning are integrated and when the system is operating practices a feedback culture that invites to altered behavior, for converting old behavior patterns and creates space for modified employee behavior.

2. Central is in operational learning contexts for learning transfer the consulting expertise of educational workers who are required both as a learning consultant as well as an organizational consultant. A target-forming on learning transfer exercise alone is not a matter in the classroom between employee and manager, but is linked to the action logic of the system operation and the roles of the various players in the operation.

3. Empirical evidence shows that competence increases also increases competence within the meaning of the "more-are they allowed" truly need "multi-skill". Competence gains need to be reflected in a change in performance if they are to be experienced as meaningful and beneficial effort. The employees in the workplace basic skills trainings must be able to make the experience that give them a more allows more of skills to design and participation. This is a high standard and is only partially in the hands of coaches - and you have to take into account the failure experience with such efforts.

Our trainers talk about four ways:

Transfer reflection during the training

Learning contract as structual element of the training including responsibility sharing agreement on learning transfer

clearifications with line/personal development about the training process in order to pay attention to changes in the work

feedback and forms of jobenrichment


Rosemarie Klein portretas

Please take a look at Dieter's summary of yesterday aspects we discussed - thanks Dieter - and decide to deepen or give another insight-look in your experiences or study-results. 

Of course there are also new aspects, more challenges we could go on to today. What are your interests? And what do you like to contribute and share with others?

Dieter Zisenis portretas

On the second day of the open online event some new aspects appeared and we will see which topics we will deepen tomorrow. We are looking forward to continue the discussion tomorrow:

  • the challenge at the same time tailoring the workplace training to the actual needs of the employees as well as the interests and needs of the company or as outlined by Zsolt: workplace basic skills could only be successful when they were feeling that this program really aimed to deal with their actual problems and it was not only a general ’ready-made product’ offered for all companies. This includes also the time structure of the courses. Some of the discussion participants prefer short time formats because this will accept the opportunities of the companies
  • the development of appropriate formats and learning settings that “helps the trainee to actively acquire and train numerous basic skills and competences in a very practical and authentic way, which he/she would never acquire like this inside a (conventional) classroom setting.” As Helmut mentioned
  • the professionalization of door openers like the “Türöffner” (Cäcilia) or the “Betriebskontakter” (Helmut) - these colleagues must be real experts and show a wide range of competences and, above all, personal skills and must very familiar with the work processes within companies and their rationales
  • the professionalization of the trainers / the providers staff: they need expertise regarding enterprises as well as the expertise regarding didactics for basic skills and in particular the willingness to be flexible. “Trainers need to be prepared to work without a curriculum but be open what the requirements of the workplace are (situations) als well as be able to identify the individual need of the person doing the job.” as Cäcilia mentioned
  • the role of the providers – and at the same time the needed framework conditions and sustainable financial resources for their work to acquire companies and to develop tailor made concepts and programmes
  • the role and the needed preconditions for successful networking in workplace basic skills (thanks to Kai)
  • the didactical principles as shown for instance with the French CLEA programme – the great significance of transfer learning