Shortage of skilled workers: New opportunities for people changing careers and university dropouts

The shortage of IT specialists is continuing to get worse. Because of this, in addition to recruiting international specialists, many companies are increasingly focusing on integrating newcomers and people changing careers.

There are currently 149,000 vacancies for IT experts in German companies, 12,000 more than a year ago. These are the results of a representative Bitkom study.

Public administration is also increasingly feeling the effects of the skills shortage. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, 1.5 million employees will retire by 2030 due to age alone. And this is coming in the midst of the long overdue transformation towards digitalization, artificial intelligence and automation.

But this problem affects almost everyone. Irrespective of economic cycles, the shortage of skilled workers has become a systemic problem for the German economy. According to the Bitkom study, just two percent of companies currently consider the supply of IT specialists on the labor market to be sufficient, compared to eight percent a year ago.

Difficulty filling positions

On average, vacant positions remain unfilled for 7.7 months (2022: 7.1). One in five companies takes between ten and twelve months to recruit. Only three percent can easily fill IT positions. In contrast, around one in four companies receive no applications for their job offers.

According to the Bitkom study, there are also a number of other challenges. For example, salary expectations that do not match the salary structure (61 percent) or the respective competence (56 percent). Applicants are often under-qualified (46 percent) or lack the necessary soft skills (41 percent). More than a third (35 percent) of companies complain about a lack of German language skills, 18 percent about insufficient foreign language skills.

Computer science graduates in short supply

However, IT experts have a strong negotiating position, especially in the IT subject group. The number of graduates is no longer sufficient to meet demand. To make matters worse, the drop-out rate is consistently over 50 percent.

As a result, in the past twelve months, IT vacancies were most frequently filled by applicants with dual vocational training such as IT specialists (44 percent). Only 16 percent had an IT or IT-related university degree, while 17 percent had started but not completed such studies.

Companies rely on people switching careers

Around a quarter (23 percent) are people changing careers. The shortage of skilled workers opens up new prospects for them. Although they generally do not have the necessary technical training, they are often highly motivated and willing to learn. In the meantime, a variety of offers such as programming bootcamps are making interested people fit for a wide range of IT tasks. Their final certificates can also significantly enhance applications.

According to a study by the Competence Center for Securing Skilled Workers (KOFA), 15.3 percent of all new employment relationships in IT professions at graduate level are people changing careers. And almost half of career changes to an IT academic position is a career advancement. In around a third of cases, the employees came from an IT profession and over 60 percent from other occupational groups. This means that both the proportion of promotions and the proportion of career switches in the IT professions is higher than the average.

Further training for people changing careers

Targeted training and further education programs are a decisive factor in recruiting and integrating people switching careers. According to the Bitkom study, 54% of companies already have a central training strategy for digital skills (2017: 37%).

However, 34 percent complain about a lack of interest on the part of employees. Just as many companies lack the time, and 22 percent cannot afford such measures.

However, according to the authors of the study, further training should not be considered optional. If you want to make your company fit for the future, you have to make time and financial resources available. There may also be state funding offers available.