The 2013/04/09 at 08:01
Marie Luginsland, in Germany
Universities, stakeholders in urban landscapes, need to be better inserted in the economic milieu. This is the conclusion of a survey conducted by the DIHK, the federation of German CCIs, amongst 2,175 enterprises, 37 % of which have fewer than 50 employees and 18 % of which have more than 500 employees. 58 % of these enterprises are geared towards international dealings. In addition, 58 % of German companies, as opposed to 53 % in 2007, cooperate with one or more university establishments.
This figure climbs to 85 % for companies with over 500 employees. These partnerships may manifest themselves in the financing of a professorship chair, by participation in seminars and workshops, or by the awarding of prizes for student research projects.
However, in the opinion of these companies, these ties do not suffice to meet their needs. For while applied research continues to satisfy the R&D activities of companies thanks to the proximity of regional institutes, universities no longer meets company needs in terms of qualified labour. With the current shortage of qualified staff, SMEs suffer from the competition of large groups benefiting from their renown to hire new graduates. 41 % of the companies surveyed indicated difficulties in hiring university graduates, in other words one-quarter more than the 2007 figure. Graduates make up over one-third of staff numbers in only 17 % of companies. In addition, one enterprise out of six admits having trouble obtaining appropriate candidates for vacant positions. This shortage is as high as 34 % in companies in the new technologies sector.
Numerous SMEs see work-study programmes as a solution to this problem, allowing them to form links with “candidates” adapted to the profiles sought by the company. More than 40,000 German companies today offer positions in the context of work-study programmes and a total of 40 % hire the candidates stemming from this context. Moreover, 23 % indicate a wish to take recourse to work-study programmes to train their own employees.
Higher education offers nevertheless remain inadequate. Despite the 60,000 students currently enrolled, universities offering these sought-after programmes are still in the minority. Enterprises and CCIs are calling on universities to expand their work-study programme capacities and the number of streams, today numbering 900, to meet the pressing needs of the economic world.
At the same time, SMEs now wish to go further in bringing more flexibility and application to the working world. True, the reforms to higher education thanks to the Bologna Process on the European scale have led to greater internationalisation in programmes, namely by integrating a year of overseas study. Yet companies still wish for practical teaching to be beefed up. This explains how, in the last twelve months, 42 % of companies have privileged young graduates from technical institutes.
As pointed out by Kevin Heidenreich, author of the DIHK survey, “CCIs should play a key role of intermediary in these university-company relationships.” This applies in particular to SMEs lacking the capacity to develop their human resources. Meanwhile, few universities have interlocutors dedicated to dealing with enterprises. “As a result of this lack of coordination, numerous obstacles subsist for companies wishing to invest further in the work-study training of students,” notes Kevin Heidenreich who points out that 52 % of companies come across such difficulties.
In certain regions, CCIs organise regular meetings between enterprises and higher education establishments, with scholarship programmes boosting such contact.