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Technological progress slowed down: Lack of young talent threatens economic growth and energy transition

Economic growth and energy transition are reaching personnel limits worldwide. The basic problem: Technology is not part of the school system – apart from specialized secondary schools. Women should also be addressed to a greater extent.

Well-qualified personnel in the professions of the future are important for the innovative strength of companies and national economies. They offer good career and salary opportunities. While our lives are characterized by more and more technological innovations, there is a lack of young talent in technological professions.

In a 2021 Gartner survey of the world’s leading tech companies, 64% of respondents said that the shortage of skilled labor was the biggest barrier to adopting new technologies. According to Korn Ferry, more than 85 million jobs could remain unfilled by 2030. Worldwide, the shortage of skilled workers in the tech industries is expected to result in an 8.5 trillion loss of revenue.

Broken down to European countries: According to a study by the German Economic Institute (IW), around 82,000 jobs in the semiconductor industry in Germany could not be filled in 2022/23, and the trend is rising. According to a study by the Institute of Industrial Science, there is currently a shortage of almost 14,000 skilled workers in the electrical engineering and information technology sector in Austria. Every fourth position cannot be filled, and the trend is also: Rising. Industry associations expect a shortage of up to 22,000 skilled workers by 2030.

By 2030, more than 85 million jobs could remain unfilled worldwide. Worldwide, the shortage of skilled workers in the tech industries is expected to result in an 8.5 trillion loss of revenue.

Ways out of the misery: Inspiring young talent for technology

Picking up young talent and inspiring them for the tech industries of the future: According to the MIT Technology Review, this is one of the essential criteria for attracting people to careers in technology in the long term. Also part of the report: What is taught in schools sometimes lags 10 years behind the current state of the art.

"We are scaring away graduates and are surprised that they are no longer interested in engineering": Kerstin Kotal (Credit: OVE/Miriam Mehlman) & Peter Reichel (Credit: OVE/Fürthner) from the Austrian Association for Electrical Engineering

Peter Reichel, Secretary General of the Austrian Association for Electrical Engineering (OVE), goes one step further: “Apart from the specialised secondary schools, technology is simply not part of the programme. This subject is not taught and the other problem is that maths has become a subject of fear and the teaching takes a very theoretical approach.” The result: “We are scaring away graduates and are surprised that they are no longer interested in engineering.”

The OVE is meeting these challenges with the “LET’S TECH” initiative. Events give pupils an understanding of technology in a fun way. The current “LET’S TECH Day” focuses on robotics, automation and artificial intelligence. Pupils can try things out for themselves and have the opportunity to talk to role models – young technicians. What is it like to be a woman working in technology? Being part of the energy transition, tackling the challenges facing society? Experts and partner companies such as ABB, Siemens and Schneider Electric are available to answer questions about jobs with a future. Objective: To make technologies understandable and tangible.

In the industry campaign “Join the Future”, young people can find out which area of electrical engineering suits them best. Here, too, role models are used with whom pupils can identify. In a video competition, they look at how electrical engineers are shaping the future.

However, the association’s initiative does not only include pupils. Reichel: “The word technology does not appear once in the entire teacher training program. Even in physics, a subject that has the most reference to technology, there is no reference to practice. There is also no training for technology teachers. HTL teachers usually have a degree in (electrical) engineering supplemented by a few semesters of pedagogy.”

Apart from special higher education courses, technology does not feature in schools. Initiatives such as of the Austrian Association for Electrical Engineering organizes events in which pupils can experience and understand technology. (Photo credit: OVE/josephkrpelan.com)

(Photo credit: OVE/josephkrpelan.com)

(Photo credit: OVE/josephkrpelan.com)

(Photo credit: OVE/josephkrpelan.com)

(Photo credit: OVE/josephkrpelan.com)

(Photo credit: OVE/josephkrpelan.com)

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“Together with APG, we have therefore developed a further training seminar for teachers at technical colleges to keep them abreast of technological developments in areas such as energy and grid technology. These seminars are officially recognized as teacher training and have been taking place once a year for twelve years now,” adds Kerstin Kotal, Head of Young Talent Initiatives at OVE.

Women and girls: A treasure still lying fallow

Another important point for Kerstin Kotal is the inclusion of women and girls. This is because jobs in technology are still predominantly male – despite the many initiatives over the decades to achieve gender equality. Or to use the famous words of Peter Drucker (“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”): Socialization eats HR strategies for breakfast.

Socialization eats HR strategies for breakfast.

At least for now, because things are slowly starting to move. The percentage of women studying electrical engineering at the Vienna University of Technology was 14.6% in the winter semester 2022; this figure is (even) lower for degrees, at 10.6%. The proportion of girls in electrical engineering apprenticeships has been slowly rising for a few years to 7.2% (as of 2023), compared to 3.6% in 2014. Nevertheless, electrical engineering is the most popular apprenticeship for boys, while it does not even make it into the top 10 for girls.

In times of high inflation and the cost of living, salary could be an important argument: Women are still working in typically female jobs, which are usually poorly paid. Future jobs in technology are better paid: For example, the starting salary after an electrical engineering apprenticeship is on average 40% higher than the starting salary of a hairdresser or beautician (more information at: gehaltskompass.at)

The OVE initiative “Girls! Tech Up” initiative is once again looking for the “Girls! Tech Up” Role Model 2024 until October. More information at: www.letstech.at

Sources:

MIT Technology review Insights: “New approach to tech talent shortage”

Full Report: technologyreview.com

Study by the German Economic Institute: Skills shortage in the semiconductor industry

You can find out more about the OVE here: ove.at

More about the LET’S TECH initiative: letstech.at

Anja Herberth
Author: Anja Herberth

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