New Ways to Secure Skilled Labor
3/17/2023 Insights New Paths Women in the packaging industry Article

New Ways to Secure Skilled Labor

The demand for personnel in Germany has reached a new all-time high with around two million vacancies. Especially in the packaging industry, software technicians, service technicians, engineers and designers, and other talents are being sought en masse. In rural areas, companies are finding it particularly difficult to recruit skilled workers. The task now is to get women excited about STEM professions and highlight the social relevance of the industry.

At FACHPACK, there are many opportunities for young professionals and specialists to meet and find their way around. At FACHPACK, there are many opportunities for young professionals and specialists to meet and find their way around.

Securing skilled workers is a top priority in the plant and mechanical engineering sector. In addition to economic challenges, companies are confronted above all with demographic change. According to the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), the potential workforce in Germany alone will fall by seven million by 2035. "Securing skilled labor has recently become more difficult, and companies do not expect the situation to ease in the foreseeable future either. They would like to hire, but are finding no or too few personnel," analyzes economist Florian Scholl, Economics and Statistics Officer at VDMA.

Lack of female role models in mechanical engineering

On average, employers spend three to four months looking for skilled workers, according to the Ifo Institute. That's how long it takes for more than one-third of the HR managers surveyed from the advertisement to the signature. According to the researchers, the time could be significantly reduced if companies positioned themselves as employers who pay attention to diversity in the workforce. Attracting women to STEM professions and keeping them in the company is therefore an urgent task. Women engineers are still significantly underrepresented in mechanical and plant engineering, even though the proportion of women among engineering employees rose to a good eleven percent last year. As part of a study, the IMPULS Foundation of the VDMA revealed that companies that offer internships, excursions or final theses for female students are more successful in recruiting them. However, the female students and engineers surveyed miss visible female role models. Companies therefore have a duty to promote such role models by means of mentoring programs, women's networks or presentations at trade and career fairs and at universities. 

"More young people need to be attracted to technical professions and studies," also calls for Professor Sven Sängerlaub from Faculty 5 (Technical Systems, Processes and Communication) at Munich University of Applied Sciences. Only with engineering and technical understanding can the sustainability turnaround be achieved, he says. "This is where value creation and change take place - and this needs to be taught in schools. Our and other technical industries are not succeeding enough in this." Only ten to 20 students per semester choose to study at his faculty. That is too few for the job market, he said. "Our industry does not manage to present its own social significance," Sängerlaub criticizes.

Packaging Cluster Reacts Hesitantly to Seal of Quality 

Packaging Valley in the southwest of the country is addressing this sore point. Within the packaging cluster, the approximately 100 member companies cooperate, among other things, in recruiting junior staff and specialists. The association tries to attract students to the region throughout Germany and is present at university days and other education fairs. Dr. Marc Funk, Managing Director of Packaging Valley (PV), explains, "As PV, we always take up various HR topics and play them into the network through our communication channels and our HR focus group." For example, the topic of quality seals as a means of differentiation in the competition for talent: the "Great Place to Work" initiative, for example, was brought on board to present its certification approach. However, the response to a seal of approval as a signboard is still restrained in the "Valley of Career Opportunities". Funk can only guess at the reason for this reticence: "Our members are very heterogeneous in terms of structure and orientation. They are all united by the task of attracting the best minds to the company. How and by what means this goal is achieved is ultimately the responsibility of the individual company and is the task of the respective HR department."

Federal government wants to attract foreign skilled workers

For many companies, the search for skilled workers has long since become an existential issue. According to the Skilled Workers Monitoring, in 2026 there will be around 240,000 more jobs to fill than there will be workers available. This is a Herculean task that cannot be tackled by the economy alone. The draft law on immigration reform now presented jointly by the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS) therefore aims to attract an additional 50,000 foreign workers each year. Immigration for citizens from countries outside the European Union is to be simplified. Whether this plan can help alleviate the personnel shortage in the packaging industry remains to be seen.