Last year, some 8,000 training places in mechanical engineering-related occupations remained unfilled. In addition, the quality of applications in the mechanical and plant engineering sector has declined over the past three years. This is shown by a snap survey of VDMA members. According to the survey, one in two personnel managers is confronted with a slightly worse and one in ten with a much worse quality of applications.
VDMA: Shortage of skilled workers one of the biggest challenges
In an interview in the trade journal Industriearmaturen & Dichtungstechnik (IAD), Dr. Laura Dorfer, Managing Director of the VDMA FachverbandArmaturen, reports that she is helping companies to master the challenges of the complex and fast-moving market environment and to position themselves for the future. In this context, she sees particular pressure to act in the key issues of technical representation of interests, shortage of skilled workers, digitalisation and new sustainability concepts.
Laura Dorfer: "The lack of skilled workers is indeed one of the biggest challenges for our companies. Our last flash survey among VDMA members showed that companies from the fittings sector suffer greatly from the shortage of skilled workers - and even more so than many other industrial sectors in the association. Eighty-five percent of the companies surveyed said they see significant to serious challenges with the shortage of skilled workers."
Laura Dorfer cites similar reasons for the shortage of skilled workers as we have already described in the article "Shortage of skilled workers in the metal sector: companies struggle with problems recruiting young talent".One of the main causes is demographic change - another factor is the lack of attractiveness of the sector for young people. In addition, there is increasing competition for skilled workers with other sectors, such as mechanical or electrical engineering. Another challenge is the lack of qualified professionals with special knowledge and skills. In particular, there is a great need for skilled workers with experience in CNC machining and materials science.
Survey results from companies
For example, there is the machinery and plant engineering sector in Germany: around 60 percent of the approximately one million employees in this sector are skilled workers. Florian Scholl, expert for labour market statistics at the VDMA, explains in the trade journal IAD that shortages of skilled workers have recently worsened: "In June 2022, almost 80 percent of companies in the machinery and plant engineering sector reported serious or noticeable shortages".
Another example is the chemical industry: according to a study by the management consultancy A.T. Kearney, more than 30,000 jobs in the German chemical industry could not be filled by 2030. Growth and innovative capacity are therefore in danger. The demand for skilled workers can still be met. In particular, the lack of skilled workers in research and development will impair the innovative strength of German chemical companies in global competition in the future.
The monthly business surveys of the ifo Institute also support this tense picture. According to the Ifo Business Survey, 43 percent of the companies in the mechanical engineering sector reported a production bottleneck due to a shortage of skilled workers, more than ever before in the united Germany. Almost no company expects the situation to improve in the short term. "On the contrary, almost 40 percent of the companies even see a worsening of the situation in the coming months," says Florian Scholl.
Measures against the shortage of skilled workers
The measures to deal with the shortage are also similar to those in the metal sector. One possibility is to increase the attractiveness of the sector for young people. This can be done through targeted marketing campaigns and cooperation with schools and universities to arouse interest in the industry and inform young people about career opportunities in the industry.
Laura Dorfer emphasises that women should also be more involved, for example "mothers who want to return to the workplace after parental leave, or also catching and promoting career changers can be approaches here." The question is: how quickly will this happen? In the industrial sector, the clocks tick a little slower on this issue. But Dorfer is convinced that a change is imminent and that the share of women in leadership roles will definitely increase. How significantly and how quickly that will happen, only time will tell.
If companies have found promising young talent, the chances are high that the training will be completed and the newly qualified skilled worker will stay with the company. According to the survey, many employees in the mechanical and plant engineering sector are satisfied with their jobs. Fluctuation hardly plays a role in the industry. The vast majority of employees work for a company for at least ten years. "Many employees even stay with the same company until they retire," says Jörg Friedrich, head of VDMA education.
Immigration of skilled workers from abroad
The VDMA experts see immigration as another way of counteracting the shortage of skilled workers and thus demographic change. The Skilled Workers Immigration Act has been in force in the Federal Republic of Germany for about two years. According to the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, the law is intended to expand and facilitate immigration opportunities for professionally qualified persons in order to meet the demand for skilled workers.
In this context, however, the VDMA calls for an applicable and functioning skilled labour immigration law. "As an affected industry, we also want to be heard and included in the legislative process," emphasises Fabian Seus, Head of Competence Centre Labour Market at the VDMA. It is important that the announced reform of the Skilled Workers Immigration Act enables and facilitates access to vocational training in Germany for young people from third countries who are capable of receiving training. The recognition of foreign qualifications must be made easier.
Laura Dorfer explains: "Together with the members, we are working on measures to attract such brains to Germany. But as far as recruiting from abroad is concerned, we are still rather at the beginning. In many cases, companies try to find new employees locally. This requires thinking 'outside the box' is needed to satisfy their own demand for skilled workers. This means that unconventional strategies can be used to recruit new employees from abroad. from abroad.
Robotics as a measure against the shortage of skilled workers?
About half of the employees in Germany see robotics as a way to address the shortage of skilled workers. These are the results of the automatica 2023 trend index. 1,000 employees in Germany were surveyed.
Almost every second person surveyed in Germany sees the use of robots as an important to very important way to address the shortage of skilled workers in industry. 68 percent support the idea that robots should support workers so that older people can stay in employment longer. 84 percent believe that skilled workers should be relieved in the workplace by having machines take over dangerous or unhealthy work. 72 percent of workers also see the advantage of using robotics to prevent the migration of industrial production abroad.
When machines with digital technology are used in the workplace, control must always remain in the hands of people. 45 percent of respondents in Germany are firmly convinced of this. This approach is in line with the 'Good Work Charter' of the European robotics industry, which always puts people at the centre of automation with robotics.
This result is remarkable in an international comparison: in Japan, for example, less than one-fifth (18 percent) advocate such a strict course. In China (35 percent) and the USA (38 percent), calls for human control are also much weaker than among employees in Germany.
Trade journalIAD Industriearmaturen & Dichtungstechnik Nr. 2 | 2023