Germany has a massive engineering problem. The Association of German Engineers (VDI) reported 151,300 vacancies at the world’s largest industrial show at the Hannover Messe for the first quarter of 2022. This is a record since records began in 2011 – and now threatens the energy transition, according to the VDI.

“This shortage of skilled workers is becoming a brake. The energy transition will not succeed without enough engineers and specialists,” warns Dieter Westerkamp, ​​Head of Technology and Society at the VDI. In any case, the accelerated implementation demanded by politicians cannot be achieved. “The situation is more precarious than ever,” says Westerkamp and speaks of an “energy transition dilemma”.

Especially since the situation will continue to deteriorate in the coming years. This is shown by the engineering monitor, which the VDI regularly collects together with the Cologne-based Institute of the German Economy (IW). “In the future, it will not be possible to fill the vacant positions with the expected graduates of engineering courses,” says Westerkamp, ​​referring to an IW projection up to the year 2030.

After that, there is an annual replacement requirement of around 56,000 engineers. That’s how many people still retire from work year after year due to age at this time. In addition, there is an expansion requirement of 74,500 engineers. “This is due to the increasing needs of companies due to future topics such as digitization, climate protection and the energy transition,” explains Axel Plünnecke, head of the competence field Education, Immigration and Innovation at IW.

On the other hand, there are around 70,000 young professionals who come from the universities every year, plus almost 34,000 engineers who immigrate to Germany from abroad. “The bottom line is that there will be a gap of around 26,500 jobs,” Plünnecke calculates. And this extrapolation is based on a “normal” scenario.

“If you were to take the triple acceleration demanded by the government as a basis, the numbers would be even more dramatic,” says the VDI. And nobody knows where the relevant applicants are supposed to come from. “The situation is really serious,” warns expert Westerkamp. His professional association is now calling for simplified immigration of skilled workers and a reduction in bureaucracy in the relevant processes. “So far they have been too complicated and too tedious.”

At the same time, the affected companies are hoping for the young people who are concerned about climate change. IW surveys show that awareness of this topic is particularly pronounced among 17-24 year olds, especially among women. “You have to win over this target group. Because engineering is a profession in which these people can really make a difference,” says IW representative Plünnecke.

Although the corresponding advice could hardly take place during the Corona period, as Peggy Denner reports, the Head of People

Because in the digital world, the topic of career orientation was not so well received. And the need at SPIE is great. “Buildings, facilities and infrastructure are becoming increasingly efficient and intelligent. Complex technology and digital solutions are often behind this. And for that we need the right employees,” says Denner.

But that applies to many companies in Germany, regardless of whether they are users or manufacturers of the relevant technologies. “We are in the middle of an energy policy revolution,” describes VDI representative Westerkamp. “After all, greenhouse gas emissions in Germany should fall by 65 percent by 2030 compared to the reference year 1990, and by 88 percent by 2040.”

To do this, the CO₂ emissions of the industrial sector would also have to be significantly reduced, including the basic industries that are difficult to decarbonize. “And this requires technical specialists – both for the development and for the implementation of the necessary technologies and technical solutions.”

The shortage of engineers is greatest in Bavaria, followed by Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. The IW reports that demographics are the main reason for this in eastern Germany, and high employment growth in Bavaria.

There are still unemployed engineers in Germany. At 36,151 in the first quarter of 2022, the corresponding value is also well above the previous low record from the pre-Corona year 2019. However, because demand is constantly increasing, the so-called bottleneck indicator is completely different. What is meant is the relationship between the number of vacancies and the number of engineers registered as unemployed.

According to this, there are currently 418 vacancies for every 100 unemployed, compared to 222 a year ago. Politicians are alarmed accordingly. In any case, Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck has apparently recognized the problem. “It’s going to be dramatic,” said the Greens politician at the Hanover Trade Fair Economic Forum.

“We are already short of 500,000 workers. And the economy isn’t even running at full capacity.” In addition, the baby boomers soon retired. However, Habeck has not presented any possible solutions to the problem.

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