Challenges and Results


Sound STEM education – the key to innovation and participation

A good education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is the key to innovation and participation. Tablets, HMD glasses and intelligent assistants are becoming regular features in industrial production. New digital business models and start-ups are established. More and more STEM experts are required if feats like the energy transition, new mobility concepts or the digitisation of both the economic world and society are to be addressed. The citizens, for their part, must possess sufficient technological and scientific knowledge to handle the new conditions responsibly and to participate in shaping the ensuing social change. The rapid technological progress makes STEM skills even more important in future – both in private life and in the working world, even in previously rather non-technological professions. Moreover, Germany is heading for a skills shortage in the technical and technology-related professions. In autumn 2015, the Institute for Economic Research estimated the lack of STEM professionals to more than 164,000 people – with a rising tendency. The impending skills shortage in the highly qualified and the STEM professions will have the effect of a bottleneck for the innovative power of companies and scientific institutions.

BAROMETER OF YOUNG TALENTS IN THE STEM SUBJECTS. The state of affairs in Germany regarding STEM talents is illustrated by the Barometer of Young Talents in the STEM Subjects, jointly published by acatech and the Körber Foundation. The study is annually conducted by the Stuttgart Research Institute Dialogik since 2014. By way of early warning system, it explores the interest and motivation of students, apprentices and undergraduates with regard to the natural sciences and technology. The basic structural conditions of STEM education are likewise analysed.

Professional STEM education: Promoting career choices and practical insights

Germany’s dually organised vocational training system is a success. Nevertheless, owing to the growing popularity of higher education, it is increasingly coming under pressure. Moreover, the current training structures and content need to be adapted to the requirements of technological progress. The professional STEM education was the main focus of the 2015 Barometer of Young Talents in the STEM Subjects. The results showed a clear trend: Young people increasingly opt against a STEM apprenticeship. Within ten years, the rate of newly concluded STEM training contracts dropped by eight percent, and the number of successful diploma examinations in the STEM subjects by 21 percent.

"Young people about to enter their working life are nowadays faced with a variety of choices. In order to enhance our offers of consultation and support in the crucial process of choosing a career, we are evolving and modernising our career counselling towards a system of lifelong and integral professional guidance. With the slogan "Typically me!" and regardless of gender, we encourage students to consider career paths outside the traditional patterns and, more particularly, in STEM professions."

Reaction of Frank-Jürgen Weise, Chairman of the Federal Employment Agency, to the findings of the 2015 Barometer of Young Talent in the STEM Subjects

One of the reasons for this drop are shortcomings in the career counselling system; improvements are required, particularly in the schools. At the same time, STEM professions are struggling with image problems: Little contact with other people, a dangerous and cold work place and physically demanding duties – this is how many pupils imagine working life in the STEM professions. Providing insights into the operational practice in relevant companies and institutions can help to reverse this trend. Not only young people should thus be given the opportunity to temporarily change perspectives, but their teachers, too. Against this background, acatech and the Siemens Stiftung organised the so-called “Mavericks Roundtable” in November 2015, discussing how schools and colleges can be better interlinked with the industry.

Particularly in view of the lack of young people in the technical professions, the acute shortage of teachers in the STEM subjects at vocational schools is alarming. In their Barometer of Young Talents in the STEM Subjects, acatech and the Körber Foundation recommend improving this situation by expediting the training period for vocational teachers in the STEM subjects and facilitating lateral entries.

Young talents in the STEM subjects: Germany requires more qualified professionals

Kindling enthusiasm for technology begins at school – a prerequisite to getting young people to become the badly needed technical and scientific professionals of tomorrow.

“The shortage of skilled workers in the STEM related professions is rapidly becoming a risk. The latest Innovations Indicator has shown how important a general open-mindedness towards technology and innovation is in an industrialised country. Such a spirit must be encouraged.”

Ulrich Grillo, President of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) commenting the 2015 Innovation Indicator, a joint publication by acatech and the BDI.

Founded in 2012 by acatech and the “Future for STEM”-initiative (MINT Zukunft schaffen”; a project launched by the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) and the Federation of German Industries (BDI)), the National STEM Forum with its 31 member institutions has established itself as an important stakeholder of STEM education in Germany. The annually organised National STEM Summits are a great success; in 2015, 300 education experts participated in the summit. Formerly spokesperson of the Forum, acatech President Henning Kagermann handed over the post to Nathalie von Siemens, spokesperson of the management of the Siemens Stiftung on 1 July 2015.

Addressing the high drop-out rates in the STEM subjects: an aetiology by acatech and the TU9

The recruitment situation in the academic STEM professions has improved. The 2015 Barometer of Young Talents in the STEM Subjects testifies to a slightly positive trend in the number of new students in the graduate programmes in mathematics, computer sciences, technology and, particularly, engineering. Nevertheless, the drop-out rates in the engineering sciences still constitute a major challenge for education policy and the universities. In a project funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research, acatech and the alliance of leading Institutes of Technology in Germany, TU9, join forces to analyse what causes the universities perceive as crucial for the problem and what best practice solutions promise to increase success rates without undermining the high quality of education.

Individual training: Intelligent assistants for apprentices and foremen

Digital expertise is obviously important for the young generation of professionals; however, experienced employees are challenged, too: They must deal with changes in their duties and cope with new organisational structures and work processes. Continuing education is therefore the watchword in the companies. In a flexible working world, people with different qualifications and skills are confronted with production systems that are continuously evolving and adapting to new production requirements. Intelligent assistance systems help workers to operate complex machines. Whether on the touch screen, the smart phone, the tablet, or via HMD glasses – the support options range from operating instructions for imminent work steps up to emergency services. Based on the respective employee’s individual expertise, the digital assistants give the appropriate support. They thus contribute to a continuing education "on the job". In the technology programme "AUTONOMIK of Industrie 4.0" funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy within the joint project "APPsist – Intelligent Information Services for Smart Production", partners from research, industry and civil society develop prototypes for intelligent assistance systems. acatech supports the project with an advisory board counselling the project partners on strategic issues.

Overview of acatech's projects in the thematic field Education and Professionals in 2015

National STEM Forum II (in partnership with the initiative “MINT Zukunft schaffen”) July 2013 - Dez. 2015
The Laboratory within Engineering Education July 2012 - March 2016
Human Resources Group – Forum for HR directors on the Future of Work May 2014 - Dec. 2016
Barometer of Young Talents in the STEM Subjects (in partnership with the Körber Foundation) July 2013 - June 2017
Drop-out Rates in the Engineering Sciences Aug. 2015 - July 2017
Advisory board for the project "APPsist – Intelligent Information Services for Smart Production" June 2014 - Dec. 2017