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Our craft is thriving, but we have a dramatic problem

The electrical trade is currently looking at fantastic economic figures.

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Our craft is thriving, but we have a dramatic problem

The electrical trade is currently looking at fantastic economic figures. Alone: ​​The offspring is not in sight. The electricity industry is heading for a dramatic personnel emergency. According to a study commissioned by the Greens, 450,000 additional skilled workers will be needed by 2030 just for the climate-neutral realignment of the major economic sectors.

Even conservative estimates by the Central Association of German Electrical and Information Technology Trades calculate a number of 160,000 skilled workers for the near future (90,000 currently). Even today, the new entrants are not even replacing the 50,000 skilled workers who leave each year due to age. In addition to the basic craft supply, digitization and the measures to achieve the climate protection goals are also faced with an implementation problem.

A rethink must begin with a principle of German education policy, which has been reduced over the years from "everyone should be able to study" to "everyone should study". The demand for equal opportunities turned into a desire for equal qualifications. But if everyone is studying, the state will no longer function. In addition, the trade is a wonderful career path - and not plan B. The new principle should be: "Everyone should be able to take up the profession that suits them."

The study dogma has also led to developments at school that need to be corrected. Because that's where the strength of dual training begins. We have to fill school-leaving qualifications with quality again. After the fourth grade, pupils should again be recommended a type of school so that they can choose the path that suits their strengths.

It must be possible to remain seated anywhere. Nothing demotivates students more than being dragged along for years. It should also be investigated whether there is a connection between the type of school and the high dropout rate. A discussion about teaching with too great a difference in level in a class also seems unavoidable to us.

In order to steer the forces of our country back to where they are needed, improved career orientation is essential. The basis could be diagrams that depict the greatest job needs in our society in a memorable way. Career information tours through the schools would also involve parents – as an important influencing group when young people choose a career. Who knows what an electrical engineer really does these days?

The advantages of the craft should be clearly stated: In addition to excellent career opportunities, there is the corporate community. The best way to experience this is through internships. "Trial days" should be an integral part of every school year from elementary school onwards.

However, one thing is also clear: even if we make optimal use of the strengths of this country, we will not be able to do it without skilled workers from abroad. The Employment Agency has an employer service that companies can extend to third countries. In 2021, 3,200 skilled workers from abroad were placed in this way, although this number also includes applicants from the EU. With 1230 people, almost half were nurses. Even taking into account the difficult pandemic conditions, these numbers do not give much hope that the immense shortage of skilled workers could be covered with this service alone.

A points system based on Canada's model – as is currently being discussed by the FDP – is a good idea. But unlike Canada, which awards its points for academic jobs, the German system might value the jobs actually needed higher. High scores could also bring in sponsorships, which are easy to imagine in handicrafts.

For demographic reasons, many countries will make international efforts to recruit skilled workers in the coming years. With German, a difficult language to learn, we could fall behind compared to English-speaking countries. It must therefore begin with the training. International vocational schools for the electrical trade, school grounds with a cosmopolitan flair, accompanying sponsorships and visitor visas for the parents would be conceivable. The German trade is also well suited for the recruitment of trainees on the international stage because it enjoys an excellent reputation worldwide.

It is time for quickly implementable, also unconventional solutions, which should be supported in a non-partisan way in the interest of our country.

Lothar Hellmann is President of the Central Association of German Electrical and Information Technology Trades. Heiko Henke is the general manager of the Oldenburg Chamber of Crafts. Dieter Meyer is foreman of the Oldenburg electronics guild. Thorsten Janßen is Director of the Federal Technology Center for Electrical Engineering and Information Technology. Karsten Krügener is the state guild master of the LIV Lower Saxony Bremen.

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