German Transplant Companies in China: How do Companies Solve the Problem of Skill Formation at the Shop-Floor Level?

Larissa Freund, Michael Gessler


This article explores German transplant companies’ attempts to foster and assure the skills levels of their Chinese employees for production and innovation in consideration of a different socio-cultural and political framework. Methodologically conducted by on-site expert interviews, this paper first reports empirical findings on German companies’ strategies and practices for recruiting and retaining (skilled) local employees for the shop-floor level. On the basis of Engeström’s activity theory, the concept of boundary objects functions as the theoretical framework. The results indicate complementary innovative personnel strategies with regard to qualifying and retaining. In the discussion, the identified phenomena such as the foundation of a coopetitive practical training center are assigned to the theoretical context of boundary objects.


China; Vocational Education and Training; VET; Skill Formation; Activity Theory; Boundary Object

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