Munich, 21 May 2024 – The shortage of skilled workers and young talent dominated the spring conference of the German Academic Association for Production Technology (WGP) last week in Bamberg. For example, the nationwide young talent initiative for school students launched in summer 2023 has picked up speed. It is now receiving prominent support from Dr Rainer Stetter, entrepreneur and founder of the Technik macht Spaß foundation. He wants to get people of all ages excited about technology – worldwide. He is so successful at this that Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger has taken on the patronage of his latest major event with more than 1,000 participants. “This gives us even more momentum to counteract the sometimes dramatic decline in young talent,” says a delighted Prof Michael Zäh, President of the WGP. “If we want to maintain our country’s economic strength and prosperity, we have to make sure that our children are enthusiastic about STEM subjects again.”


The battle against a shortage of young talent

“The manufacturing industry is the backbone of our economy,” adds Zäh, who also heads the Institute for Machine Tools and Industrial Management (iwb) at the Technical University of Munich. “Some companies are already having to reduce their production due to the shortage of skilled labour. And universities are also finding it increasingly difficult to find enough staff for research. If the problem persists, we will fall behind the international competition in the long term. That would be extremely detrimental to Germany as a business location.”

Rainer Stetter takes a very practical view: “We have to go into the ‘battle of the houses’,” is his figurative credo. He visits schools and museums and organises major international events. “We organise Makeathons all over the world, which have already inspired countless young people for technology. We can’t yet use statistics to prove whether this has a lasting effect. But I can see the success when I look into their shining eyes.”


Diverse projects at the start

Stetter wants to organise such Makeathons with a nationwide or even international reach together with the WGP institutes scattered throughout the country. The WGP is also planning to take part in international innovation festivals under the motto “Technology is fun”. The WGP student rally “TechVenture – Technology is more than maths”, which took place for the first time at EMO Hannover 2023, offers a further point of contact. A second rally will be held at AMB on 11 and 12 September, to which secondary school pupils are cordially invited. Last but not least, a workshop with WGP students, who will visit schools as coaches to inspire pupils about technology directly on site, is currently under discussion.

At the same time, a working group of WGP young talent representatives is building the infrastructural basis for the nationwide initiative. And, of course, there will also be a social media campaign. Here, the WGP will receive professional support from a young influencer who has already achieved great success in the automotive industry.


Also focussing on technological solutions

The association of 72 leading professors of production science has unique expertise. The researchers are therefore naturally also focussing on technological solutions to the increasing shortage of skilled workers. “The automation of many standardised process steps is becoming increasingly important,” emphasises the WGP President. “Assistance systems are also an important means of attracting low-skilled people or career changers, for example.” For example, VR or AR glasses could be used to support immigrant welding specialists with regard to European standards. However, it is important that these systems function bidirectionally. In other words, assistance systems should not only help the new employees with their work, but also provide them with further training and thus enable them to develop further. Labour scientists should also be consulted in order to incorporate psychological factors into the considerations. The aim is to generate more motivation instead of stress in the workforce.

Last but not least, language support is conceivable, because “one group with great potential to compensate for the shortage of skilled workers is certainly the group of refugees,” emphasises Michael Zäh. However, the professors also want to incorporate the knowledge of experienced employees. “Systems that enable people to work from home, even in a machine environment, have been given a boost by the coronavirus pandemic. This can be further expanded, thus securing essential expertise for companies and making it available to younger employees.”


Further Information

Press release “Engineering scientists ring the alarm bells

Technology is fun” from the Gerda Stetter Foundation



Featured image: Students at EMO Hannover 2023, where the first WGP student rally took place, source: Deutsche Messe

Image 2: Prof Michael Zäh, President of the WGP and Head of the Institute for Machine Tools and Industrial Management (iwb) at the Technical University of Munich, source: iwb TU Munich

Image 3: Dr Rainer Stetter, Managing Director/Founder of ITQ GmbH, Software Factory GmbH and Dr Stetter ITQ SLU, Chairman of Gerda Stetter Stiftung Technik macht Spaß; source: ITQ GmbH