How do private companies recruit chemical engineers

Shortage of skilled workers in Germany: What small and medium-sized enterprises can do

The shortage of skilled workers is one of the greatest challenges for German medium-sized companies - in the flat country as well as in the industrial regions in southern Germany. What is the term all about? And how can medium-sized companies still find qualified employees?

Medium-sized companies in particular complain about the shortage of skilled workers in Germany. It is often particularly difficult for them to find the right staff. Because the companies are often unknown and not infrequently located in the provinces. There the need for skilled workers is great due to the booming economy as a whole, the often particularly successful industrial companies (“hidden champions”) and the preference of younger generations to move from the countryside to the big cities. It is correspondingly difficult to find young engineers or, for example, specialists in IT and chemistry.

Skilled labor shortage: attempt to define

It is difficult to define when one can speak of a - possibly even nationwide - skills shortage. Roughly speaking, there is a shortage of skilled workers when "a significant number of jobs cannot be filled for employees with certain skills because there are no suitably qualified employees (skilled workers) available on the job market," as the online encyclopedia Wikipedia writes. But what does “significant” mean in this case? And is there a shortage of skilled workers when it takes longer to fill a vacant position than in the past?



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Many experts - for example the Federal Employment Agency - therefore do not speak of a “general shortage of skilled workers in Germany”. The head of the Institute of German Economy, Michael Hüther, also says: “I don't see a widespread shortage of skilled workers. Not yet. ”Some critics even use the word“ lie ”- after all, given the continuing unemployment, there are enough potential workers on the market. You just have to find them and train them.

So is the problem just a myth - or is the shortage a reality? The fact is: Many companies find it difficult to find suitable employees - whether they are trained or willing to train. Partly it is due to the industry or the professional group - in the case of engineers, hardly anyone doubts the shortage of skilled workers - but partly also to other factors. Company A can look for a suitable applicant for a very long time, while company B can choose from numerous aspirants for the same job. In addition to a possibly different salary, this can be due to many other things: Perhaps company A is in the province and therefore has problems attracting young qualified people. Perhaps company B is simply better known and the first thing that comes to mind is almost every applicant. Perhaps Company C has a bad reputation, justified or unjustified.

In any case, the fact is: In surveys, the shortage of skilled workers is regularly named as the biggest problem for medium-sized businesses.

Skilled workers shortage: measures to recruit and secure skilled workers

In any case, numerous medium-sized companies try to find skilled workers, sometimes using creative methods. We present some of your approaches - and their approaches:

Many medium-sized companies also use online job boards to defy the shortage of skilled workers and to find employees. We looked at some of the offers on the Internet. And Google also wants to get involved in the online job search in the future.

Of course, the issue of employee loyalty is also important. Because I do not have to replace an employee or a specialist who does not leave my company. The clamping technology company AMF, for example, offers free afternoons for birthdays and anniversaries, regular training opportunities and a profit-sharing scheme for the company's positive success. "Health is particularly important to us," says Managing Director Johannes Maier in an interview. "To ensure this, we have our own company restaurant, and there are also partnerships with fitness studios and a leisure pool or workshops on yoga or self-defense." In addition to a canteen for employees, companies can also use other structural measures to retain employees. The digitization of commercial real estate plays a particularly important role here.

Unsolicited applications from interesting candidates can also help to mitigate the effects of the shortage of skilled workers. "I am a big fan of unsolicited applications because these job seekers often bring an extra portion of motivation with them," says Maike Sippmann, HR officer at RSI Blitzschutzsysteme, for example. In the company, potential applicants are systematically invited to apply for positions that have not been advertised.

The glass manufacturer Wetzlich Optik-Präzision is taking a different approach. Because it is difficult for medium-sized companies to find suitable skilled workers in some areas - such as IT - the medium-sized company specifically hires applicants from outside the industry and provides them with further training - so far with good results. For example, the company benefits from the experience gained by the production manager who previously worked in a large bakery.

Many companies train their specialists themselves. "In order to make better use of the domestic skilled labor potential, we are modernizing our education and training regulations with a view to digitization," says the Federal Ministry of Economics' strategy for small and medium-sized enterprises, for example. But the search for trainees is also becoming more and more difficult. Because not least because more and more young people would rather study than complete an apprenticeship, there is a lack of interested parties. In 2018, apprenticeship positions remained free in every third company.

At least for immigrants who do not come to Germany as refugees, the hurdles to work in this country should be reduced. At least that is the declared aim of the federal government and the skilled worker immigration law that it has put in place. But critics fear new bureaucratic hurdles.

Skilled labor shortages: statistics and studies

Even if it is difficult to grasp the shortage of skilled workers with data and figures, some statistics and studies provide information on how the situation in Germany has changed in recent years.

  • Around 150 training occupations are currently on the positive list of the Federal Employment Agency. Every six months it shows the areas in which the shortage of skilled workers is particularly severe - and should be reduced through qualified immigration.
  • The shortage of skilled workers and the search for suitable personnel have long been cited as one of the greatest challenges and difficulties in entrepreneurial surveys. For example in a study by the DIHK in the summer of 2018, when two thirds of the entrepreneurs surveyed saw this as a business risk.
  • In a survey of corporate customer advisors from medium-sized customers of the Sparkasse Group, 98.8 percent of the advisors stated that their customers see the issue of personnel / skilled workers as a risk rather than an opportunity for their economic success.
  • Sometimes it is even more difficult to find trained specialists to retain young people who want to do an apprenticeship. Mostly it is said that the young people all want to study and none of them want an apprenticeship anymore. A study by the Deutsche Apotheker- und Ärztebank shows that this is only partially true. The study also shows where young people find out about potential trainee offers: especially on the Internet. But in addition to Google and social media, personal contact still plays a major role. This shows that medium-sized companies have to master an ever broader range of recruiting than in the past. A shortage of skilled workers is therefore often the result of a lack of skills in modern forms of recruiting.
  • According to statistics from the competence center securing skilled workers based on data from the Federal Employment Agency, there was a shortage of skilled workers in 2016, especially in southern Germany. In some Bavarian and Baden-Württemberg districts, more than 90 percent of the positions were advertised in so-called bottleneck occupations. These are jobs in which it usually takes a long time to fill a position. However, there were also significantly more professions affected by bottlenecks than in Brandenburg, for example.

Reasons for the shortage of skilled workers

There are several reasons for the shortage of skilled workers: Firstly, the long-term economic boom, especially in the manufacturing industry in Germany, seems to be causing an increased need for skilled workers and thus a long-term shortage of personnel. In addition, numerous new job profiles have emerged in the past few decades for which there are hardly any suitable skilled workers. Secondly, some professions and jobs have become unpopular in the past few years, particularly in the craft and manufacturing industries - not least because of the increased high school graduation and study rates in society as a whole. For example, there is still a surplus of candidates in some professions for which a university degree is required, while applicants are lacking in numerous jobs with a lower requirement profile.

Another important reason is the demographic change: Germany is getting older, many employees are retiring, only a few are coming. It is true that there are more and more retirees who are supplementing their pension and continuing to work in their job - mostly part-time. But that can only alleviate the fundamental problem.

In the coming years, more members of the so-called Generation Z will come onto the job market. The reputation of the young is not the best. It is often said that they are dependent, lazy and addicted to smartphones. But are the clichés also true? “Markt und Mittelstand” spoke to Tatjana B. about this. The 22-year-old is currently completing a commercial apprenticeship with a medium-sized company in Giessen.

Skilled labor shortage only in Germany?

In recent years, numerous medium-sized companies from Germany have also looked in the surrounding countries when looking for skilled workers - the free movement of workers in the EU and various regulations such as the “Blue Card” make it possible. The solar entrepreneur Konstantin Strasser (MEP-Werke) has even opened a training and education center for new employees from Southeast Europe.

However, the shortage of skilled workers is now spreading to other countries as well. Especially in Western Europe for reasons similar to those in Germany - including demographic change. In Eastern and Central Europe, on the other hand, the nationalist and populist politics of the ruling parties and politicians also play a decisive role.

Skilled labor shortage: the positive side

From the applicant's point of view, the shortage of skilled workers has its good side: Companies are increasingly being forced to take care of those potential employees who traditionally have had a hard time on the job market. Thomas Kaysser recruits more physically handicapped skilled workers for his metal construction company and benefits from their loyalty and networks. The almost inevitable higher diversity in the workforce can also benefit companies in other areas. Studies indicate that diverse teams can solve many problems better.

The question of where someone studied is also becoming less and less important.

However: Many medium-sized companies are still finding it difficult to hire "atypical" applicants at first glance - or to reach them first. The proportion of women in many technical professions is still very low today. The demands that young women place on potential employers are the same as those of men: “The most important thing for me is a secure job,” says one of the few mechanical engineering students in an interview. She had become aware of her future job through a Girls' Day, among other things.

The electrical company Bürkle + Schöck is also taking a special route to greater diversity: The company has introduced anonymous applications. You can apply via an online questionnaire without specifying, for example, your name, gender and grades.

The article was written on January 7th, 2019 and last updated on February 7th, 2020.