Dr. phil. Volker Müller: Education, an investment in the future – The search for high potentials

Graduation09_Hüte_Lichthof-Kopie

The need for skilled and management professionals will significantly increase in Niedersachsen in the coming years. While up to now, shortages have primarily been seen in certain regions, business sectors and professions, indications of a short­­­age of professionals across the board are becoming more apparent. With the progressing demographic change, the situation will become increasingly dra­matic. The number of young people is declining, while the workforce is ageing. Particularly, the demand for university grad­­uates and highly qualified professionals is increasing. The very best of them, known as “high potentials”, are becoming ever harder to find on the labour market. What does this development mean for Niedersachsen, whose economy depends on innovative ability and thus on high potentials? What challenges will we face in the future?

 Those considered high potentials are young graduates of renowned universities who are among the top six to ten per cent of their class. They distinguish themselves through above-average exam scores, time spent living and working abroad, foreign language abilities, internships and social skills, such as the ability to work in a team and strong communication skills. Studies show that companies are finding it in­­crea­­s­­ingly difficult to recruit suitable candidates.

 This development is particularly noticeable in the MINT subject areas (mathematics, information technology, sci­­ences, technology). The need to replace skilled workers going into retirement in these sectors alone requires a great ca­­pa­­city of highly qualified junior staff. Only 88,000 students are currently enrolled in graduate courses in the MINT subjects at German universities. When compared to the current labour market demand in Ger­­many, this represents a shortfall of be­­tween 12,000 and 22,000 junior staff. In Niedersachsen, there is currently a shortage of some 11,000 engineers in industry. However, an increased demand for high potentials can also be seen in marketing and sales, controlling and in strategic cor­­p­­orate management. The competitive behav­­iour of employers is noticeably on the rise.

 Ein gutes Beispiel für ein innovatives uni­­versitäres Konzept, welches dem Be­­­­darf der Region entspricht, ist der Ver­bund der Niedersächsischen Technischen Hoch­­schule (NTH). Unter dem Dach der NTH haben sich die Technische Uni­versität Braunschweig, die Technische Uni­ver­si­tät Clausthal-Zellerfeld sowie die Leibniz Universität Hannover zu einer Allianz zusammengeschlossen.

Absolventen der mathematisch-naturwissenschaftlichen Fächer haben nach dem Studium in der Regel hervorragende Berufsaussichten.

Absolventen der mathematisch-naturwissenschaftlichen Fächer haben nach dem
Studium in der Regel hervorragende Berufsaussichten.

Absolventen der mathematisch-naturwissenschaftlichen Fächer haben nach dem Studium in der Regel hervorragende Berufsaussichten.

Absolventen der mathematisch-naturwissenschaftlichen Fächer haben nach dem
Studium in der Regel hervorragende Berufsaussichten.

 As a result, the question of the quality of university education is of key importance to Niedersachsen as a business location today. A good example of an innovative university concept that can fulfil the needs of the region is the university alliance Nieder­sachsen Institutes of Technology (NTH). The Braunschweig University of Technol­­ogy, the Clausthal University of Technol­­ogy and the Leibniz University of Hannover have joined together in a cooperative under the NTH. Instead of competing against one another, the three universities are working together. Particularly in development planning in the departments of natural sciences and engineering, the universities are coordinating their activities. As of 2011, a Masters degree programme for energy management is being offered as an additional innovation in edu­­cation at the Clausthal University of Tech­­nology. An internationally attractive point of contact for prospective students is the GISMA Business School in Hannover. Thanks to its concept of study and its many partners and sponsors from politics and business, GISMA is one of the leading business schools in Europe. Established in 1999 on the initiative of the state of Niedersachsen, it has been an affiliate of Leibniz University of Hannover since the summer of 2011. Together with the academic partner Purdue University in West Lafayette (Indiana, USA), the busi­­ness school offers three English-language MBA programmes (full time, executive and weekend MBA). The difficulties companies will be facing in the future when looking for highly qualified employees will also force companies to rethink their approach. Staff development and qualification will play an ever more important role in future. Time will tell whether the increased demand for high potentials proves its worth for companies. Even the most qual­­ified employees do not automatically gua­­r­­antee that they can fulfil a company’s needs. This also means that graduates with good and average grades can distinguish themselves through specials skills, such as outstanding social skills, and develop into top employees within the company. In order to attract and keep these employees from an early stage, com­­panies will increasingly have to gain contact to students. Companies in Nieder­­sachsen are already showing greater invol­­ve­­­­­ment in education and are playing a role in university education. The committee for university affairs within the trade association of Niedersachsen (UVN) provides a platform for exchange to provide the impetus for innovative cooperation pro­­jects. The objective of the committee is to bring company and business represen­tatives together to prompt their cooperation, initiate synergies and support pol­­itically sensible initiatives, such as the “Open University” (Offene Hochschule).

Everyone benefits from the cooperation between companies and universities. It allows students to gain practical experience while still studying at a university. In order for professional experience to further penetrate university education, easier access to universities for those with professional qualifications needs to be ensured. In this, it is important for the Open University in particular to be introduced and implemented accordingly. Opening up universities to the public not only requires opening access to universities for skilled workers, but will also result in a further opening of the university as an institution for its economic and social environment. The intended long-term cooperation between universities and companies is one way of keeping particularly sought-after high potentials in our state. Especially medium-sized companies in Niedersachsen can present themselves as attractive employers by catching the attention of university grad­­uates early on.

Am LaserAnwendungsCentrum (LAC) in Clausthal entwickeln Forscher neuartige miniaturisierte photonische Sensorkonzepte für den Einsatz in der Sicherheits- und Energietechnik.

Am LaserAnwendungsCentrum (LAC) in Clausthal entwickeln Forscher neuartige miniaturisierte
photonische Sensorkonzepte für den Einsatz in der Sicherheits- und Energietechnik.

Für praxisnahe Forschung stehen am Braunschweiger Institut für Fahrzeugtechnik gut ausgestattete Werkstätten zur Verfügung.

Für praxisnahe Forschung stehen am Braunschweiger Institut für Fahrzeugtechnik gut ausgestattete Werkstätten zur Verfügung.

 Niedersachsen can only remain an attractive location in the competition against other states if it continues to promote itself as an open and innovative place. Companies in Niedersachsen are the lead­­ers in many technology sectors, not only in Germany, but also on an international level. Niedersachsen’s central location in Germany and Europe, as well as its outstanding infrastructure of roads, rail and waterways make the state a hub of the trans-European flow of goods. In addi­­tion, Niedersachsen already today offers Ger­­many’s best geological and technological conditions in the field of conventional and renewable energy technologies, in particular. The state is also renowned as one of the most important European centres for the automobile industry. The Hanno­­ver/Braunschweig/Göttingen/Wolfsburg metropolitan region is one of the largest metropolitan areas of the automobile industry in Germany thanks to its know-how. In this sector – together with a dense research and development infrastructure – a closely knit network of supply companies has developed. Whether bioenginee­r­­ing, energy, medical or measu­­ring technol­­ogy, materials engineering and materials science, Niedersachsen offers potential investors, companies and students an efficient network for outstanding knowl­­edge transfer thanks to the many research and development institutions.

 To ensure that Niedersachsen remains a strong and innovative state, the courses of study offered by universities need to be oriented towards the demand of the busi­­ness sector on an ongoing basis. In particular the NTH cooperative and international courses of study, such as those offered by GISMA, show that joining to­­gether the forces of individual institutions can efficiently structure the existing know-how and further improve its overall quality. Last but not least, Niedersachsen’s medium-sized businesses rely on the large num­­ber of well educated skilled workers. If we want to keep pace with the international competition, we must further qualify and pro­­mote this potential. Imme­­diate transition to a profession in which the strengths of the individual have already been recogni­zed in school and further defined during trai­n­­ing needs to be the goal. Education as a main economic factor is the key to success

Volker_Mueller_Bild-KopieBorn in Saarbrücken in 1955 , the author studied law and sociology. While pursuing his doctorate and admission to the bar, he assumed the position of deputy managing director of the institute of north German economics (INW) in 1985. In 1992 he was also named deputy chief executive of the trade association of Nieder­­­sachsen (UVN). Since July 2000, Dr. Müller has headed the UVN as well as the INW.