Germany is a nation known for engineering excellence and progress through technology. In a past era, leaders demanded that youth develop to serve the purposes of the state. Since barriers came down Germany’s young people have enjoyed remarkable freedom on all levels, which is why the recent call by the Confederations of German Industry and of German Employers for more German MINT students surprised the academic minds of many. In fact, if these well-intended organizations have their way, the minds of Germany’s young people might be influenced to serve the nations greater good again.
The logic behind all this is that German industry is facing a shortage of an estimated 117,000 employees trained in Mathematics, Informatics, Natural Sciences, and Engineering (or MINT for short (where “T” is for Technology). This shortage increased by approximately 21,000 in February 2011 alone, and this lack of German mint graduates is what set alarm bells ringing, according to Hans-Peter Klös, Managing Director of the Cologne Institute for Economic Research.
Germany’s engineering industries employ a quarter of all successful MINT students. Industry leaders have concluded they need to take a proactive approach to ensure continuity of supply to universities, and they have very definite ideas of how the German education system will achieve this for them too. According to Deutsche Telekom board member Thomas Sattelburger, the solution is as simple as ensuring that German secondary students take two compulsory natural science and engineering subjects through to school-leaving certificate level. In addition, this must include tapping the valuable resource of girls and young women as well.
Whether or not this well-conceived engineering solution will succeed is open to speculation, because the German MINT high school dropout rate is already high. Twenty-eight percent of MINT students fall along the wayside, with 40% in total leaving school or switching courses. Main reasons given by them are that hurdles are too high, and that the workload is too great.
Some say that this will not change with a forced curriculum. Alternatively, could it be that vorsprung durch technik mints more technical students for German universities this time round with proverbial teutonic efficiency.