This is the online first version published on 2022-10-18. Read the most recent version.

Foreign direct investment and local knowledge base: Embedding foreign subsidiaries in German dual vocational education and training


  • Martina Fuchs Universität zu Köln
  • Johannes Westermeyer Universität zu Köln
  • Lena Finken Universität zu Köln
  • Matthias Pilz



Foreign direct investment, Local knowledge base, Local embeddedness, Dual vocational education and training, Germany


Dual vocational education and training systematically combines the learning of apprentices (in vocational schools) or students (in applied universities) with the ‘learning venue’ of the company. The dual vocational education and training exists in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and stands for regional competitiveness as well as for job opportunities of young people on the local labour market. Outside of these three countries, the dual system hardly exists, but dual practices are subject of international skill transfer policies. While this transfer is well researched, it is hardly known to what extent (in mirror image) subsidiaries of foreign companies take part in the dual system of German speaking countries. This question was examined, by focussing on subsidiaries of multinational companies in Germany. Theoretically, the contribution relates to research on local knowledge bases and the embeddedness of foreign subsidiaires. The study pursues a qualitative method. The results show that the local training managers have freedom for decision-making and use this in favour of getting involved in dual vocational education and training. However, the effort turns out to be high. Dual activities take place primarily as a strategy for adapting to the institutional environment, not as a way of shaping the environment. The local stakeholders are mostly reactive in this regard. This points to possible future fields of research on local knowledge bases and local embeddedness and, with regard to practice, to the relevance of mutual coordination.


Download data is not yet available.


Amin, A.; Thrift, N. (1995): Living in the Global. In: Amin, A.; Thrift, N. (Hrsg.): Globalization, Institutions, and Regional Development in Europe. Oxford, 1–22.

Anderson, P.; Warhurst, C. (2012): Lost in translation? Skills policy and the shift to skill ecosystems. In: Dolphin T.; Nash D. (Hrsg.): Complex New World. Translating new economic thinking into public policy. London, 109–120.

Asheim, B.; Coenen, L. (2005): Knowledge bases and regional innovation systems: Comparing Nordic clusters. In: Research Policy 34, 8, 1173–1190.

Asheim, B.; Coenen, L.; Vang, J. (2007): Face-to-Face, buzz, and knowledge bases: Sociospatial implications for learning, innovation, and innovation policy. In: Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space 25, 5, 655–670.

Backes-Gellner U.; Tuor, S.N. (2010): Avoiding Labor Shortages by Employer Signaling. On the Importance of Good Work Climate and Labor Relations. In: Industrial and Labor Relations Review 63, 2, 271–286.

Barabasch, A.; Rauner, F. (2012): Conclusion. In: Barabasch, A.; Rauner, F. (Hrsg.): Work and Education in America: The Art of Integration. Dordrecht, 251–257.

Bathelt, H.; Cantwell, J. A.; Mudambi, R. (2018): Overcoming Frictions in Transnational Knowledge Flows: Challenges of Connecting, Sense-making and Integrating. In: Journal of Economic Geography 18, 5, 1001–1022.

Bathelt, H.; Gertler, M. S. (2005): The German Variety of Capitalism: Forces and Dynamics of Evolutionary Change. In: Economic Geography 81, 1, 1–9.

Bathelt, H.; Li, P. (2020): Processes of building cross-border knowledge pipelines. In: Research Policy 49, 3, 1–13.

Berger, S.; Pilz, M. (2009): Benefits of VET. In: Hippach-Schneider, U.; Toth, B. (Hrsg.): VEP Research Report 2009. Bonn, 6–49.

BIBB – Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (2020a): Datenreport zum Berufsbildungsbericht 2020. Informationen und Analysen zur Entwicklung der beruflichen Bildung. Bonn.

BIBB – Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (2020b): AusbildungPlus in Zahlen. Duales Studium 2019. Trends und Analysen. Bonn.

Blume, L. (2004): Erfolgsfaktoren kommunaler Wirtschaftspolitik in Ostdeutschland. In: Raumforschung und Raumordnung 62, 1, 3–17.

BMBF – Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (2021): Berufsbildungsbericht 2021. Bonn.

Boschma, R.; Iammarino, S.; Steinmueller, E. (2013): Editorial: Geography, Skills and Technical Change. In: Regional Studies 47, 10, 1615–1617.

Breschi, S.; Lenzi, C. (2015): The Role of External Linkages and Gatekeepers for the Renewal and Expansion of US Cities’ Knowledge Base, 1990–2004. In: Regional Studies 49, 5, 782–797.

Brockmann, M.; Clarke, L.; Méhaut, P.; Winch, C. (2008): Competence-Based Vocational Education and Training (VET). The Cases of England and France in a European Perspective. In: Vocations and Learning 1, 3, 227–244.

Buchanan, J.; Anderson, P.; Power, G. (2017): Skill ecosystems. In: Buchanan, J.; Finegold, D.; Mayhew, K.; Warhurst, C. (Hrsg.): The Oxford Handbook of Skills and Training. Oxford, 444–465.

Busemeyer, M. R. (2013): Fachkräftequalifizierung im Kontext von Bildungs- und Beschäftigungssystemen. In: Berufsbildung in Wissenschaft und Praxis 42, 5, 6–10.

Busemeyer, M. R.; Trampusch, C. (2012): The Comparative Political Economy of Collective Skill Formation. In: Busemeyer, M. R.; Trampusch, C. (Hrsg.): The Political Economy of Collective Skill Formation. New York, 3–38.

Cantwell, J.; Dunning, J. H.; Lundan, S. M. (2010): An evolutionary approach to understanding international business activity. In: Journal of International Business Studies 41, 4, 567–586.

Cortinovis, N.; van Oort, F. (2019): Between spilling over and boiling down: Network-mediated spillovers, local knowledge base and productivity in European regions. In: Journal of Economic Geography 19, 6, 1233–1260.

Davids, M.; Frenken, K. (2018): Proximity, knowledge base and the innovation process: towards an integrated framework. Regional Studies 52, 1, 23–34,

DIHK – Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag (2019): Duale Berufsbildung im Ausland. Berlin.

Diller, C.; Nischwitz, G.; Kreutz, B. (2014): Förderung von Regionalen Netzwerken: Messbare Effekte für die Regionalentwicklung? In: Raumforschung und Raumordnung 72, 5, 415–426.

Dionisius, R.; Muehlemann, S.; Pfeifer, H.; Walden, G.; Wenzelmann, F.; Wolter, S. C. (2009): Cost and Benefits of Apprenticeship Training: A Comparison of Germany and Switzerland. In: Applied Economics Quarterly 55, 1, 7–38.

Ebner, C.; Nikolai, R. (2011): Duale oder schulische Berufsausbildung? In: Swiss Political Science Review 16, 4, 617–648.

Emmenegger, P.; Graf, L.; Strebel, A. (2020): Social versus liberal collective skill formation systems? In: European Journal of Industrial Relations 26, 3, 263–278.

Fortwengel, J.; Jackson, G. (2016): Legitimizing the apprenticeship practice in a distant environment: Institutional entrepreneurship through inter-organizational networks. In: Journal of World Business 51, 6, 895–909.

Franz, M.; Bollhorn, K.; Röhrig, R. (2017): Industrial relations and FDIs from China and India in Germany. In: Fuchs, M.; Henn, S.; Franz, M.; Mudambi, R. (Hrsg.): Managing Culture and Interspace in Cross-Border Investments. Building a Global Company. New York, 33–42.

Franz, M.; Henn, S. (2017): Investitionen aus den BRIC-Staaten. Grund zur Sorge für Unternehmen, Beschäftigte und Kommunen? In: Standort – Zeitschrift für Angewandte Geographie 41, 1, 3–8.

Fuchs, M. (2022a): MNCs’ open international strategy – local dynamics. Transfer of German “vocational education and training” to emerging economies. In: Critical Perspectives on International Business 18, 1, 97–114.

Fuchs, M. (2022b): Knowledge transfer, power and empowerment: MNCs’ transfer of vocational education and training to their international subsidiaries. In: Die Erde 153, 1, 15-27.

Fuchs, M.; Schalljo, M. (2016): ‘Western’ Professional Ethics Challenged by Foreign Acquisitions. German managers’ patterns of interpretation surrounding Chinese and Indian investors. In: Geoforum 75, 10, 20–28.

Fuchs, M.; Westermeyer, J.; Finken, L.; Pilz, M. (2021): Training activities in subsidiaries of foreign multinational companies: Local embeddedness in Germany? In: International Journal of Training and Development 25, 4, 414–432.

Fürstenau, B.; Pilz, M.; Gonon, P. (2014): The Dual System of Vocational Education and Training in Germany. In: Billett, S.; Harteis, C.; Gruber, H. (Hrsg.): International Handbook of Research in Professional and Practice-based Learning. Dordrecht, 427–460.

Gessler, M. (2017): Educational transfer as transformation: a case study about the emergence and implementation of dual apprenticeship structures in a German automotive transplant in the United States. In: Vocations and Learning 10, 1, 71–99.

Glebe, G. (1986): Segregation and intra-urban mobility of a high-status ethnic group: The case of the Japanese in Düsseldorf. In: Ethnic and Racial Studies 9, 4, 461–483.

Glückler, J. (2015): Reputationsnetze: Zur Internationalisierung von Unternehmensberatern. Eine relationale Theorie. Bielefeld.

Glückler, J.; Lenz, R. (2018): Drift and morphosis in institutional change. Evidence from the‘Walz’ and Public Tendering in Germany. In: Glückler, J.; Suddaby, R.; Lenz, R. (Hrsg.): Knowledge and Institutions. Cham, 111–134. = Knowledge and Space 13.

Graf, L. (2013): The Hybridization of Vocational Training and Higher Education in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Opladen.

Greinert, W.-D. (2004): European vocational training systems. The theoretical context of historical. Development. In: Greinert, W.-D.; Hanf, G. (Hrsg.): Towards a history of vocational education and training (VET) in Europe in a comparative perspective. Luxemburg, 17–27.

Greinert, W.-D. (2007): The German philosophy of vocational education. In: Clarke, L.; Winch, C. (Hrsg.): Vocational Education. London, 49–61.

Grollmann, P.; Blöchle, S.-J.; Jansen, A.; Baues, P. (2018): Duale Ausbildung als betriebliche Strategie der Fachkräftesicherung. – Fallstudien zu Motivation und Organisation im internationalen Vergleich. Bonn.

Hall, P. A.; Soskice, D. W. (2001): An Introduction to Varieties of Capitalism. In: Hall, P. A.; Soskice, D. W. (Hrsg.): Varieties of capitalism. The institutional foundations of comparative advantage. Oxford, 1–68.

Hess, M. (2004): “Spatial” relationships? Towards a reconceptualization of embeddedness. In: Progress in Human Geography 28, 2, 165–186.

Hess, M. (2018): Global Production Networks. In: Richardson, D.; Castree, N.; Goodchild, M. F.; Kobayashi A.; Liu W.; Marston R. A. (Hrsg.): The International Encyclopedia of Geography. Manchester, 1–13.

Hess, M.; Coe N. M. (2006): Making Connections: Global Production Networks, Standards, and Embeddedness in the Mobile-Telecommunications Industry. In: Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 38, 7, 1205–1227.

Hummelsheim, S.; Timmermann, D. (2018): Bildungsökonomie. In: Tippelt R.; Schmidt-Hertha B. (Hrsg.): Handbuch Bildungsforschung. Wiesbaden, 101–153.

Imdorf, C.; Berner, E.; Gonon, P. (2016): Duale versus vollzeitschulische Berufsausbildung in der Schweiz. In: Leemann, R. J.; Imdorf, C.; Powell, J. J.; Sertl, M. (Hrsg.): Die Organisation von Bildung. Weinheim, 186–207.

James, L. (2019): The Evolution of Learning Regions: Lessons From Economic Geography for the Development of VET. In: Guile, D.; Unwin, L. (Hrsg.): The Wiley Handbook of Vocational Education and Training. London, 531–548.

Johanson, J.; Vahlne, J.-E. (2009): The Uppsala Internationalization Process Model Revisited: From Liability of Foreignness to Liability of Outsidership. In: Journal of International Business Studies 40, 9, 1411–1431.

Kleibert, J. M.; Bobée, A.; Rottleb, T.; Schulze, M. (2020): Global Geographies of Offshore Campuses. Erkner.

Klein, O.; Gronemeyer, C. M.; Maschinski, S.; Born, K. M. (2016): Promotoren in regionalen Innovationssystemen. Drei Fallbeispiele aus Nordwestdeutschland. In: Raumforschung und Raumordnung 74, 5, 405–419.

KMK – Sekretariat der Kultusministerkonferenz (2021): Handreichung für die Erarbeitung von Rahmenlehrplänen der Kultusministerkonferenz für den berufsbezogenen Unterricht in der Berufsschule und ihre Abstimmung mit Ausbildungsordnungen des Bundes für anerkannte Ausbildungsberufe. Berlin.

Laffi, M.; Boschma, R. (2022): Does a local knowledge base in Industry 3.0 foster diversification in Industry 4.0 technologies? Evidence from European regions. In: Papers in Regional Science 101, 1, 5–35.

Lahiff, A.; Li, J.; Unwin, L.; Zenner-Höffkes, L.; Pilz, M. (2019): Industrial Standardisation as a Driver for Cross-national Convergence in Training Processes. In: European Journal of Training and Development 43, 7/8, 752–766.

Li, J.; Pilz, M. (2021): International transfer of vocational education and training: a literature review. In: Journal of Vocational Education and Training.

Lorscheid, K.; Pilz, M. (2017): Yes, we can! Eine Untersuchung zum Ausbildungsverhalten indischer Unternehmen in Deutschland: In: Kölner Zeitschrift für Wirtschaft und Pädagogik 32, 62, 64–84.

Meuer, J.; Kluike, M.; Backes-Gellner, U.; Pull, K. (2019): Using expatriates for adapting subsidiaries’ employment modes to different market economies. A comparative analysis of US subsidiaries in Germany, the UK and Switzerland. In: European Journal of International Management 13, 3, 328–353.

Muehlemann, S. (2014): Training participation of internationalized firms: establishment-level evidence for Switzerland. In: Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training 6, 5, 1–11.

Muller, M. (1998): Human resource and industrial relations practices of UK and US multinationals in Germany. In: The International Journal of Human Resource Management 9, 4, 732–749.

Oßenbrügge, J. (2003): Wirtschaftsgeographie und Governance. Die (regional-)politische Einbettung entgrenzter wirtschaftlicher Prozesse. In: Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie 47, 3‑4, 159–176.

Pflüger, J.; Pongratz, H. J.; Trinczek, R. (2017): Fallstudien in der Organisationsforschung. In: Liebig, S.; Matiaske, W.; Rosenbohm, S. (Hrsg.): Handbuch Empirische Organisationsforschung. Wiesbaden, 389–413.

Pilz, M. (2019): Berufliche Bildung zwischen Imagekampagnen und individueller Attraktivität: Zur Strukturierung einer Begriffsvielfalt. In: Zeitschrift für Berufs- und Wirtschaftspädagogik 115, 3, 399–419.

Pilz, M. (2016): Training like at home or like the domestic competitors? A study of German and Indian companies in India. In: Yasin, A.M.; Shivagunde, R.B. (Hrsg.): Emerging trends in technical and vocational education and training (TVET). New Delhi, 2–14.

Pilz, M.; Alexander, P.-J. (2016): Berufliche Bildung in Japan: Gesellschaftliche Wertschätzung und Unternehmenspartizipation. In: Bildung und Erziehung 69, 2, 209–225.

Pilz, M.; Li, J. (2014): Tracing Teutonic footprints in VET around the world? The skills development strategies of German companies in the USA, China and India. In: European Journal of Training and Development 38, 8, 745–763.

Pilz, M.; Wiemann, K. (2021): Does Dual Training Make the World Go Round? Training Models in German Companies in China, India and Mexico. In: Vocations and Learning 14, 3, 95–114.

Rutten, R.; Boekema, F.; Kuipers, E. (2003): Economic geography of higher education. Setting the stage. In: Rutten R.; Boekema F.; Kuipers E. (Hrsg.): Economic geography of higher education. London, 1–16.

Si, Y.; Liefner, I. (2014): Cognitive Distance and Obstacles to Subsidiary Business Success: The Experience of Chinese Companies in Germany. In: Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie 105, 3, 285–300.

Soeffner, H.-G. (2010): Social scientific hermeneutics. In: Flick, U.; von Kardoff, U. E.; Steinke, I. (Hrsg.): A companion to qualitative research. London, 95–100.

Strambach, S. (2017): Combining Knowledge Bases in Transnational Sustainability Innovation: Microdynamics and Institutional Change. In: Economic Geography 93, 5, 500–526.

Trippl, M.; Grillitsch, M.; Isaksen, A. (2018): Exogenous sources of regional industrial change. Attraction and absorption of non-local knowledge for new path development. In: Progress in Human Geography 42, 5, 687–705.

Walcott, S. M.; Liefner, I. (2017): Chinese Outward FDIs in Germany and the U.S.: An Assessment of National and Subnational Location Strategies. In: Fuchs, M.; Henn, S.; Franz, M.; Mudambi, R. (Hrsg.): Managing Culture and Interspace in Cross-border Investments. New York, 110–121.

Weick, K.E. (1995): Sensemaking in Organisations. Thousand Oaks.

Wenzelmann, F.; Schönfeld, G. (2022): Kosten und Nutzen der dualen Ausbildung aus Sicht der Betriebe. Ergebnisse der sechsten BIBB-Kosten-Nutzen-Erhebung. Bonn.

Wiemann, J. (2017): Export of German-style vocational education: A case study in the automotive industry in Puebla, Mexico. In: International Journal of Automotive Technology and Management 17, 2, 208–222.

Wiemann, J. (2022): Geographies of Practice Transfer: A Practice Theoretical Approach to the Transfer of Training Practices within German Multinational Enterprises to China, India, and Mexico. Cham.

Wiemann, J.; Fuchs, M. (2018): The export of Germany’s ‘secret of success’ dual technical VET: MNCs and multiscalar stakeholders changing the skill formation system in Mexico. In: Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 11, 2, 373–386.

Wilhelm, B.; Thierstein, A. (1999): Technische Ausbildungsstätten, Entwickler und ihr Beitrag zum Innovationssystem. In: Raumforschung und Raumordnung 57, 2/3, 108–119.

Wrana, J. B.; Revilla Diez, J. (2016): Can Multinational Enterprises introduce new institutions to host countries? In: Geographische Zeitschrift 104, 3, 158–182.

Zenner-Höffkes, L.; Harris, R.; Zirkle, C.; Pilz, M. (2021): A comparative study of the expectations of SME employers recruiting young people in Germany, Australia and the United States. In: International Journal of Training and Development 25, 2, 124–143.






Research Article

How to Cite

Fuchs M, Westermeyer J, Finken L, Pilz M. Foreign direct investment and local knowledge base: Embedding foreign subsidiaries in German dual vocational education and training. RuR [Internet]. 2022 Oct. 18 [cited 2024 Jul. 23];81(2). Available from: