What the world can learn from Germany’s engineering culture

Germany’s prowess in engineering is indisputable. Engineers borne out of the country are world leaders in their field, renowned for their dedication to precision, function and power. Over the years, it has maintained its reputation as a top exporter of machinery and industrial equipment.

The Industrial Revolution played a critical role in catapulting Germany into engineering stardom. The Dresden Academy of Engineers was founded in 1743 where subjects such as mathematics, fortress construction, mechanics and the study of machinery were taught. Manufacturing became an integral industry during this period and by the 1890s, Germany was Europe’s leading steel-producing nation. Its leadership in chemical research in the universities and industrial laboratories made the country dominant in the world’s chemical industry in the late 19th century. During the Nazi regime, Germany lost some of its brightest minds such as Albert Einstein but some returned back to the nation after the war. Over the years, the engineering industry continued to thrive and the country became a force within the global engineering field.

The mechanical and plant engineering fields continue to play an important part in Germany’s economy, despite the global crisis that was witnessed in America’s automobile industry. Companies such as Daimler-Chrysler, Volkswagen and BMW are world leaders in their fields and reap in huge profits, pulling in employees from all corners of the globe. Advances in technology combined with quality manufacturing ensure that German cars, machinery, and electrical and electronic equipment remain in big demand. There is an insatiable appetite for engineers within their industries and thousands of students around the globe have made Germany their premier destination to earn an engineering degree. Germany continues to spur its reputation by placing a strong focus on an education system that emphasizes engineering fundamentals, hands-on apprenticeships, and practical experience.

While most countries around the world are facing a shortage of qualified engineers to progress their development plans, Germany is having a hard time producing enough to meet up with its demand. This is especially unfortunate in the emerging economies whose development plans hinge on skilled engineers to innovate and utilize technologies that will boost them forward. Regarded highly worldwide, there is a fierce competition amongst companies to hire and retain German engineers. This is reflected by the attractive remuneration packages that are offered to engineering students who graduate from the region. What then can the world learn from Germany to foster such an impressive engineering culture?


1. High quality education

Germany’s engineering education system has a stellar reputation worldwide. Established since the Middle Ages, the vocational system is a combination of classroom and business, theory and practice, learning and working. It is embedded deeply within the society and has close ties with leading players in the industry as well as the chambers of commerce. The cooperation between largely private companies and public vocational schools has made this dual system one of the most attractive in the entire world. While university degrees are regarded highly in most countries, more than 50 percent of all students who were college-bound in high school decide against university and apply for vocational training in Germany. Private companies often bear the costs of the training though it helps them save up significantly on recruitment costs as they are able to identify and hire the talent as soon as they have completed the course. Apprenticeships and internships are offered even to high school children to foster their interest in engineering courses early and start their careers with an intimate knowledge of their company’s business. It breeds stability and loyalty, developing employees who are productive right from the day they are hired. World leaders should emulate Germany’s education system as demographic development, the globalization of markets, new technologies and new work organization models require new educational policy structures. This will help educational institutions to meet the growing demands from the industries for qualified workforce.

2. Stellar reputation

German engineering companies are famous for their incredible products. They have superior quality and display a skilled craftsmanship that cannot be matched anywhere in the world. Just think of the luxurious Mercedes, Audi, Porsche – all from companies that are respected and known all over the world. German engineers are also innovators and have produced some of the most technologically advanced products in the world such as the hearing aids from Siemens AG. Customers who buy German products typically are looking for more: cutting-edge technology or a special design that cannot be found anywhere else. This enabled Germany to dominate markets even in the face of a global economic crisis. Other nations can set up stable economies for their people by establishing a brand for their products and craftsmanship as witnessed with Germany.

3. Investing in innovation

Did you know that aspirin, the MP3 music format and the electron microscope all originate from Germany? German ingenuity is based on very deep technical expertise, which allows even small German firms to become market leaders in very narrow segments. Small and medium-sized engineering enterprises dominate the economy, setting standards in developing and applying future technologies. The mechanical and plant engineering sector is one of the most innovative sectors in the nation and its strength is resounded by its presence globally. Investments in research and development activities are taken very seriously and the industry spends billions to advance their interests. Germany is an international leader in terms of capacity for innovation and is home to hundreds of research institutes, including internationally famous ones such as the Max Planck Society and the Fraunhofer Society. German companies continue to improve and advance in sectors such as chemical industry, automotive industry, medical engineering, electrical equipment industry, and mechanical engineering. They are recognized for their findings in biotechnology as well as renewable energy to control emissions and make energy more efficient. By investing seriously in innovation, Germany has managed to keep ahead of the rest of the world and supply markets with unique and highly demanded products.

4. Support from leaders and the society

German leaders regard engineers very highly and have set about policies to continue the country’s traditional leadership in engineering. It also supports research and development activities by actively investing in it, pouring in billions to facilitate the players. They have also established engineering outreach programs targeted at high school students to recruit more youngsters into the field. They are also encouraging women and minorities to pursue the profession. Their leaders have taken measures to collaborate with nations such as US and Canada to create exciting partnerships, bringing together academic institutions, industry and government. This has enhanced communication on the world’s critical challenges of the 21st century and exposed their engineers to the problems that the rest of the world faces. Furthermore, German engineers are regarded highly in society and are elected to positions of power, where they can influence policies and act as role models for the younger generation. While other nations struggle to alter the negative perception their inhabitants have towards the field of engineering, German engineers are valued not just in their home countries but also in the entire world.

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