Record demand in the engineering labor market

After the slump caused by the coronavirus crisis, the engineering job market is recovering significantly. The VDI/IW Ingenieurmonitor has never reported so many open positions.

A shortage of specialist workers prevails in engineering professions. This is nothing new. However, the problem is only getting worse. On average, there are 3.3 vacancies for every unemployed engineer in Germany.

Since the height of the coronavirus crisis, the number of open positions has been steadily rising in recent quarters. An average of 140,000 were filled each month in the fourth quarter of 2021—the highest number since the records of the VDI Ingenieurmonitor began in 2011 and a plus of 51.4 percent compared to the same period in the previous year. The vacancies are split between nearly 49,000 for computer scientists, 41,700 for civil engineers, 19,300 for engineers in energy and electronic technology as well as 13,300 for engineers in mechanical and automotive engineering.

The strongest year-on-year demand was for engineering jobs in the areas of “technical research and production control” (up 102.7 percent), followed by “energy and electrical engineering” (up 98.7 percent). At the other end of the scale are the “metal processing” sector (down 2.0 percent) and “raw material production and extraction” sector (up 8.5 percent).

Due to the overriding megatrends of digitization and climate protection, this situation is not expected to ease in the near future. And according to the Cologne Institute for Economic Research, there could be an annual replacement demand of 62,200 STEM academics in Germany by 2023 (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

The VDI/IW Ingenieurmonitor expects the shortage of skilled workers to further increase in the first quarter of 2022, even if the war in Ukraine and the associated economic slowdown are likely to have a dampening effect on the engineering job market over the course of the year.

Against this background, increasing importance is being put on the development of domestic skilled labor potential among older people, women, additional prospective students or younger population groups.

Engineering training in Germany

Likewise, unused potential can also be found in universities. The number of foreign students, for example, is at a record high.. According to the reports of the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, 416,437 foreign students enrolled in the winter semester of 2020/2021. This number has nearly quadrupled since the turn of the century. And compared to other subject groups, engineering is at the top of the list in Germany in terms of popularity.

Unfortunately, however, estimates from the German Center for Higher Education and Science Research (DZHW) indicate that almost half (49 percent) of international bachelor’s students and a good quarter (26 percent) of international master’s students are currently dropping out of their studies in Germany prematurely (compared to 27 and 17 percent for German bachelor’s and master’s students respectively).

In addition, although Germany is the most popular host country for students in the world after the USA, Great Britain and Australia, many return to their home countries after their studies.

Overall, however, the VDI Ingenieurmonitor indicates that the number of foreign employees in IT and engineering professions increased from 46,489 at the end of 2012 to 93,325 by June 2021—a growth from 6.0 to 9.5 percent. The immigration of people from India is particularly dynamic. While there were 2,120 Indian nationals working in engineering professions at the end of 2012, by the end of June 2021 there were as many as 8,198. Italian nationals (3,175) follow in second place, followed by Turkish nationals (6,035) and Chinese nationals (6,365).