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Specificity of Occupational Training and Occupational Mobility: An Empirical Study Based on Lazear’s Skill-Weights Approach


  • Regula Geel

    () (Institute for Strategy and Business Economics, University of Zurich)

  • Johannes Mure

    () (Institute for Strategy and Business Economics, University of Zurich)

  • Uschi Backes-Gellner

    () (Institute for Strategy and Business Economics, University of Zurich)


According to standard human capital theory firm financed training cannot be explained if skills are of general nature. Nevertheless, investments of firms into general training can be observed and there has been a large literature to explain this puzzle, mostly referring to imperfect labor market issues. In German speaking countries firms invest heavily into apprenticeship training although it is assumed to be general. In our paper, we study the question to what extent apprenticeship training is general at all. Our paper for the first time studies how specificity of training may be defined based on Lazear’s skill-weights approach. In our empirical part we use a unique German Qualification Survey, containing extensive information about the required skills at a workplace. We build occupationspecific skill-weights and find that the more specific the skill portfolio in an occupation is in comparison to the general labor market, the higher are the net costs firms have to bear for apprenticeship training in the respective occupations. At the same time, the more specific the skill requirements are in an occupation, the smaller is the probability of an occupational change during an employee’s entire career. Due to the new definition of occupational specificity, we thus find that apprenticeship training - formerly seen as general training - is very heterogeneous in its specificity.

Suggested Citation

  • Regula Geel & Johannes Mure & Uschi Backes-Gellner, 2008. "Specificity of Occupational Training and Occupational Mobility: An Empirical Study Based on Lazear’s Skill-Weights Approach," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0038, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW).
  • Handle: RePEc:iso:educat:0038

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Thomas J. Kane & Dietmar Harhoff, 1997. "Is the German apprenticeship system a panacea for the U.S. labor market?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 10(2), pages 171-196.
    2. Euwals, Rob & Winkelmann, Rainer, 2001. "Why Do Firms Train? Empirical Evidence on the First Labour Market Outcomes of Graduated Apprentices," IZA Discussion Papers 319, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Edward P. Lazear, 2003. "Firm-Specific Human Capital: A Skill-Weights Approach," NBER Working Papers 9679, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Katz, Eliakim & Ziderman, Adrian, 1990. "Investment in General Training: The Role of Information and Labour Mobility," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(403), pages 1147-1158, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hof, Stefanie & Strupler Leiser, Mirjam & Wolter, Stefan C., 2011. "Career Changers in Teaching Jobs: A Case Study Based on the Swiss Vocational Education System," IZA Discussion Papers 5806, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Bublitz, Elisabeth, 2013. "Matching Skills of Individuals and Firms Along the Career Path," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79742, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    3. Oyer, Paul & Schaefer, Scott, 2011. "Personnel Economics: Hiring and Incentives," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    4. Goeggel, Kathrin & Zwick, Thomas, 2009. "Good occupation - bad occupation? The quality of apprenticeship training," ZEW Discussion Papers 09-024, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    5. Edward P. Lazear, 2009. "Firm-Specific Human Capital: A Skill-Weights Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(5), pages 914-940, October.
    6. Kritkorn Nawakitphaitoon & Russell Ormiston, 2016. "The estimation methods of occupational skills transferability
      [Die Methoden zur Einschätzung der Übertragbarkeit beruflicher Kompetenzen]
      ," Journal for Labour Market Research, Springer;Institute for Employment Research/ Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), vol. 49(4), pages 317-327, December.
    7. Regula Geel & Uschi Backes-Gellner, 2009. "Occupational Mobility Within and Between Skill Clusters: An Empirical Analysis Based on the Skill-Weights Approach," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0047, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW).
    8. Kathrin Göggel & Thomas Zwick, 2012. "Heterogeneous Wage Effects of Apprenticeship Training," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 114(3), pages 756-779, September.
    9. Jansen, Anika & de Grip, Andries & Kriechel, Ben, 2017. "The effect of choice options in training curricula on the demand for and supply of apprentices," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 52-65.
    10. By Barbara Mueller & Jürg Schweri, 2015. "How specific is apprenticeship training? Evidence from inter-firm and occupational mobility after graduation," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(4), pages 1057-1077.
    11. Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation (EFI), Berlin (ed.), 2012. "Research, innovation and technological performance in Germany - EFI Report 2012," Research, Innovation and Technological Performance in Germany: Report, Expertenkommission Forschung und Innovation (EFI) - Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation, Berlin, volume 127, number 2012e, April.

    More about this item


    Mobility; Skill-weights; Occupational specificity; Apprenticeship training;

    JEL classification:

    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • M53 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Training

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