Eine Touristin mit einem Rucksack oder eine Studentin, die auf das Brandenburger Tor in Berlin in Deutschland schaut.
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2024-01-01 VDE dialog

Debate: Utilizing potential

Efforts to tackle the shortage of skilled labor are neglecting international students. Germany is a popular study destination, and many of these students choose engineering subjects, as well. Universities and companies must provide better support.

By Dr. Kai Sicks

Portrait photo of Dr. Kai Sicks, Secretary General of the German Academic Exchange Service

Dr. Kai Sicks is Secretary General of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the world’s largest funding organization for the international exchange of students and researchers.

| DAAD / Wilke

The shortage of skilled labor is a subject on everyone’s lips in Germany. It's affecting almost every industry, but especially those in the STEM sector. German universities and their international students present a promising way to close the gap. Almost half of these students are already taking engineering subjects, compared to fewer than a fifth of German high school graduates.

Germany and its universities are a popular choice for international students. Some 370,000 young people from all around the world are currently enrolled here. In many cases, they are also integrating smoothly into the German labor market: current OECD figures show that 45% of foreign students are still working in Germany ten years after graduating. Only Canada can boast a similarly high figure. In other words, international graduates are already an important group for German business when it comes to recruiting skilled workers.

Yet despite all this, the untapped potential is vast. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) predicts that the number of international students available to the German labor market could be doubled by 2030. This would take a combined effort by universities, businesses and society. Language is an important factor: a greater number of attractive courses in English are needed, particularly at the bachelor level. International students also need more incentives and help so that they learn the German language as well as possible alongside their degree. Increasing the proportion of international students who successfully graduate requires targeted support during their studies. Starting next year, the DAAD will support German universities with a skilled labor initiative to help them take action in these areas.

Businesses can also contribute by creating simple paths to internships for international students and giving graduates a thorough introduction to working life in Germany. Here, creating an inclusive and welcoming culture is crucially important. Companies should also do more to partner with universities so as to better utilize the potential of internationally oriented degree courses in recruiting their own skilled people.

VDE dialog - the technology magazine