Kassel, November 13, 2023 – It all started with the student rally “TECHventure – Technology is more than math”. The first campaign of the WGP’s (Scientific Society for Production Engineering) young talent initiative was launched on September 20 and 21 at EMO Hannover 2023. “It was already a great success, we came into contact with around 80 students over the two mornings – and with the teachers,” says Prof. Jens Wulfsberg, President of the WGP and Head of the Laboratory of Production Engineering (LaFT) at Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg. “It is precisely this direct exchange that we are looking for and want to expand. To this end, we adopted a longer-term concept at our fall conference in Kassel on November 8 and 9, 2023. We will proactively approach young people, because the much-discussed shortage of young talent is not only evident in companies. It is also dramatic in some cases at universities and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find student and academic staff. If this continues, our research projects are at risk.”
The association of leading German professors of production sciences had already sounded the alarm bells in spring, pointing out that the decline in student numbers was taking on alarming proportions and that a turnaround was currently not in sight. This is a social problem, because without engineers there is no functioning industry, which is the backbone of our prosperity in Germany.
“Our aim is to counteract the shortage of young talent and thus the shortage of skilled workers by getting young people between the ages of ten and 18 interested in technology and motivating them to study it,” adds Prof. Hans-Christian Möhring, spokesperson for the WGP’s Science Committee and Director of the Institute for Machine Tools (IfW) in Stuttgart. “We use our nationwide network of 43 institutes with over 2,000 employees, which is unique in the industry. It branches out to regional level, a strength that we can use to reach out to children and young people in individual schools and districts in almost every federal state.” Initial contacts have already been made with teachers who are interested in cooperating.
Using swarm intelligence
The professors’ institutes, which are spread across Germany, naturally have different staffing and financial structures. To ensure that suitable formats and capacities are available to all institutes, existing concepts for activities are being collected and made available online within the WGP. A workshop kit with teaching materials on a topic such as robotics, AI or renewable energies makes it possible for all WGP institutes to approach school groups and teachers with little effort and even if they lack internal expertise. There are and have been crash courses in robot construction, workshops on kohlrabi milling, for example, a workshop safari, future days such as Girls’ Days and much more.
The existing know-how is to be collected centrally from the first quarter of next year and made available online with protected access.
Broad-based promotion targeted
The ten to 18-year-olds of all genders should come from all social backgrounds. For the younger ones among them (lower secondary level), the heads of the institute consider it sensible to use formats for broad-based promotion, such as future days, visits to schools and the like. For the older students at upper secondary level, top-level support formats should be tested, such as cooperation with advanced courses, visits to institutes or mentoring.
Competition for “young” formats
In order to not only draw on existing formats, but also to try out “young” formats, the WGP is also planning to hold a competition at the beginning of 2024. All WGP faculties that are predestined to develop such formats due to their age alone can take part. The most innovative approaches will be rewarded with attractive prizes, for which a generous sum of money has already been approved.
In addition to the WGP, there is already a wide range of programs to promote the so-called STEM subjects. “This is not competition for us, but an opportunity to look beyond our own horizons and to network further,” emphasizes Wulfsberg. The young talent officers within the WGP, who are now being appointed, will therefore not only contact schools and their representatives, but also the wide-ranging STEM community and public funding bodies. “If we want to be efficient, we have to see where we can use synergies and not reinvent the wheel.”
Image 1: Students at EMO Hannover 2023, source: Deutsche Messe AG, R. Jensen
Image 2: Prof. Jens P. Wulfsberg, President of the WGP, Head of the Laboratory of Production Engineering (LaFT), Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg, source: LaFT Hamburg
Image 3: Prof. Hans-Christian Möhring, Spokesman of the WGP Science Committee and Head of the Institute for Machine Tools (IfW), University of Stuttgart, source: IfW Stuttgart: IfW Stuttgart