Shortage of skilled labor is hampering the energy revolution

In Germany there are over 150,000 too few engineers. Digitalization and in particular climate protection and the energy revolution will dramatically aggravate the situation.

During the first year of the coronavirus crisis, the shortage of engineers eased to a certain extent. According to the VDI-/IW-Ingenieurmonitor, there were 92,400 vacancies in engineering and IT professions at the time. After that, the number increased continually and in the first quarter of 2022 it reached 151,300 – the highest figure since records began in 2011. Energy and electrical engineers as well as IT specialists are particularly scarce. In the first quarter of 2021, there were 222 vacancies per 100 applicants. Just one year later, the number of vacancies has doubled to 418.

The situation is different in each of the federal states. In absolute figures, the number of vacancies is highest in Bavaria followed by North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg. Bavaria (31,000) and Baden-Württemberg (21,200) alone account for 34.5 percent of all vacancies. In Bavaria (598) and Saxony (567), there are just under 600 vacancies per 100 applicants. However, there are very different reasons for this. While in the East German states demographic change is mainly responsible for the growing shortages, in Bavaria they are caused by the significant growth in employment.

The energy revolution dilemma

Climate protection and the energy revolution in particular are aggravating the shortage of engineering and IT specialists. And now that the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Robert Habeck is calling for the energy revolution to be achieved much more quickly, this trend could take on dramatic proportions.

According to the VDI-/IW-Ingenieurmonitor, 32 percent of all companies and 63 percent of companies with more than 250 employees expect the need for IT experts to grow, especially those involved in developing environmentally friendly technologies and products. When it comes to environmental engineers too, 19 percent of all companies and 43 percent of all companies with over 250 employees expect there to be a shortage.

However, the outlook for the coming quarters is uncertain, as the war in Ukraine may very well result in a downturn in the labor market with varying degrees of impact on individual engineering professions.

Measures to ensure an adequate supply of skilled workers

In the longer term, however, a solution to the shortage of engineers is not in sight and the outlook is bleak, according to IW Köln. After all, the number of students beginning engineering and IT courses has fallen by around 15 percent in the last five years. There is currently a shortage of around 26,500 first-time graduates each year to meet the additional demand required for digitalization, climate protection and the energy revolution.

Since, in view of demographic change and the resulting purely numerical decline in the number of young professionals, it will not be enough simply to get young people interested in technology, the VDI recommends making it easier for qualified skilled workers to move to Germany and ensuring a general reduction in red tape.