Germans eye kindergarten for next engineers
By Richard Milne in Vienna
Published: June 16 2008 22:45 | Last updated: June 16 2008 22:45
Germany’s shortage of engineers has become so acute that some of its leading companies are turning to nursery schools to guarantee future supplies.
Industrial giants such as Siemens and Bosch are among hundreds of companies giving materials and money to kindergartens to try to interest children as young as three in technology and science.
“It is a new development in that we have seen we need to start very early with children. Starting at school is not good enough – we need to help them to understand as early as possible how things work,” said Maria Schumm-Tschauder, head of Siemens’ Generation21 education programme.
Wolfgang Malchow, board member for human resources at Bosch, said: “We are working with kindergartens. This is our future and we need to seize it.”
Heribert Rohrbeck, chief executive of Bürkert, a leading fluid-control systems company that also works with nursery schools, said: “We want to excite children about technology from the earliest age. What they learn then can stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
Siemens has provided about 3,000 “discovery boxes” filled with science experiments for three to six-year-olds to kindergartens throughout Germany, at a cost to the company of €500 ($775) a box. It also trains teachers on how to use them as well as providing similar boxes around the world to pre-schools from China to Ireland.
Bosch sends its apprentices to kindergartens “to explain what they do at work and then later invite them to look around the company”. Franz Fehrenbach, Bosch’s chief executive, said: “Germany is based on innovation – and that needs people.”
Companies are also using other strategies from trying to get more girls to take up engineering to working closely with technical colleges. But groups are also increasingly looking abroad.
The chairman of one large German industrial group said: “The loser here will be Germany, not the companies. We can always go to Asia to find our engineers. So everything we can do here – even something like going into kindergartens – helps.”