on February 13th, 2024

Germany, grappling with a decline in domestic engineering students, is casting its net globally to address a critical shortage in the sciences. We look at the skills required, and the compensation being offered for coveted engineering positions.

Germany Needs Engineers in Top Fields

Germany is in the throes of a significant shortage of skilled workers, particularly in the sciences, as it searches desperately to fill positions in its top five high-demand fields.

The nation faces economic challenges, including soaring energy costs, unprecedented interest rates, and severe labor shortages, especially in the rapidly growing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) sectors.

Foreign workers in STEM roles in Germany saw a significant rise of 190% since 2012, reaching 202,000 in the same year. However, in 2022, the German Economic Institute (IW) reported a deficit of 320,000 STEM specialists.

Studying-in-Germany.org identifies the top five in-demand job sectors as Engineering, Information Technology (IT), Biotechnology and Life Sciences, Data Science and Analytics, and Robotics and Automation.

Insights from a German Engineering University Dean

Robert Weiss, the dean of the faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics at the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, offers a unique perspective influenced by his upbringing. Having assisted his father in fixing cars at home, Weiss transitioned into engineering, working in Germany’s rail and auto industries before venturing into academia.

Reflecting on the decline in student interest in technical fields, Weiss notes, “It’s a problem for the university…and for the economy if you don’t have enough engineers working.” Five years ago, his program received an average of seven applicants per position, a number that has since dwindled to three.

“That’s really frightening,” he said. “It’s a problem for the university. We want to make our programs as full as possible and [train] all these engineers. But this also has an impact on the industry and for Germany and the economy, if you don’t have enough engineers working.”

Germany’s Worker Shortage in STEM Fields

Germany, known globally for its quality engineering, faces a threat to its brand as enrolment in STEM fields drops by 6%, according to the nation’s federal statistics agency.

Simultaneously, as Germany aims for a massive digital and green transformation, it grapples with the retirement of many engineers and technical specialists.

Challenges in the automotive sector, demographic changes, and a lack of support for foreign students contribute to the ongoing STEM crisis.

Evolving Dynamics in the Auto Industry

Several factors are influencing the drop in interest in STEM fields. A reduction in the overall student population contributes to this trend, alongside disruptions in Germany’s renowned automotive sector. Major players like BMW, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz have encountered challenges in navigating the shift to electric engines.

“People are uncertain about pursuing careers in that field,” remarked Weiss, highlighting the changing perception of the automotive industry. “The car maybe isn’t the same fascinating thing it was in the past.”

The demographic landscape also plays a crucial role in this scenario. Over the past decade, Germany has witnessed an increase in the proportion of school students immigrating to the country with their families, noted Axel Plünnecke, leader of the Education, Innovation, Migration cluster at the IW.

However, a language barrier and insufficient support for the specific needs of these students exacerbate the STEM-related challenges.

“That’s undoubtedly a failure in educational policy,” emphasized Plünnecke, underscoring the missed opportunities in adequately addressing the educational needs of children arriving from other countries. “Scientific laws are identical worldwide, programming languages are identical worldwide. If you already have the knowledge, it’s easy to apply it.”

This confluence of factors not only reflects a shifting educational landscape but also raises concerns about the attractiveness of STEM fields in the face of evolving industries and demographic changes. The challenges posed by these dynamics highlight the need for comprehensive educational policies and targeted support mechanisms to ensure the continued growth and interest in STEM disciplines.

Bridging the Gap: Foreign Engineers in Focus

Industry leaders acknowledge the need to look beyond borders for skilled engineers. Foreign engineers, particularly from countries like India, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, are increasingly contributing to Germany’s technical workforce.

However, Germany’s labor minister stresses that the notion that all skilled workers worldwide desire to come to Germany is an illusion.

The government is working on streamlining the immigration process to address bureaucratic hurdles and a lack of digitalization, which currently delays foreign workers from joining the workforce promptly.

Engineering Jobs and Salaries

Highly sought-after engineering positions in Germany offer annual salaries ranging from €80,341 (approximately AU $133,000) to €92,581 (about AU $ 153,000), as outlined by Studying-in-Germany.org. Notably, the top four in-demand engineering jobs include:

• Civil Engineer: €80,341 (approximately AU $133,000)
• Electrical Engineer: €83,683 (about AU $ 138,000)

Robotics and Automation
• Mechanical Engineer: €81,727 (AU $135,308)
• Robotics Engineer: €92,581 (AU $153,287)

The global search for engineering talent is a testament to the shifting landscape of education, industry, and demographics.

The Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) is among those institutions bridging the engineering skills gap with their wide offering of courses.

Visit the EIT website or contact their admissions or academic departments to inquire about the courses related to Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Robotics and Automation.


Germany is tapping skilled engineers to fill these 20 jobs – with one paying up to R2.5 million

Shortage of engineers, scientists threaten German industry


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