World of work: retraining and training instead of quitting and looking

German industry is in the middle of the digital transformation.

World of work: retraining and training instead of quitting and looking

German industry is in the middle of the digital transformation. Siemens is reacting to the changing demands on its employees with a new digitization academy, as the group announced on Friday. In the "SiTecSkills Academy", 19 regional training centers throughout Germany are to sharpen skills for "digital change in the work environment". In this way, Siemens wants to ensure the "employability" of its employees - that is, to ensure that they can continue to do what the company needs in the future.

"With targeted upgrading and reskilling, we can ensure that the skills of our employees are always up to date," says Judith Wiese, who is responsible for HR issues and sustainability on the Siemens Managing Board. This also ensures the long-term competitiveness of the company.

"Investing in tailor-made training and further education is not only more economical, but also makes more sense from the company's point of view, since we can build on the existing know-how of our employees," says Wiese. "In this way we offer added value for everyone: the people, the company and our society."

A question of costs

The economic calculation behind this is clear: In the case of intensive further training and retraining measures, Siemens calculates based on experience with average dimensions of around 8,000 euros per year to train an employee (upskilling), or 30,000 euros per year to train an employee for another field of activity to retrain (reskilling). It's not cheap, but hiring someone new costs roughly 40,000 to 50,000 euros - including the costs for advice, training and the like.

And downsizing is usually even more expensive. Siemens does not name any numbers here. From industry circles, however, dimensions of an average of 100,000 euros per employee can be heard. So if you retrain an employee with qualifications that are no longer needed instead of dismissing them and hiring a new employee with the qualifications they are looking for, they save a lot of money.

At IG Metall, the approach is positive: They welcome "basically every measure that serves to qualify people," says Hagen Reimer, who is responsible for Siemens at the union. With its flexible focus on technical content, the academy is a good approach. "All employees must have the opportunity to adapt their qualification profile to requirements continuously and with foresight," he says.

"We have times of transformation and the requirements are changing," explains expert Enzo Weber from the Institute for Labor Market and Vocational Research, IAB. The topic of further training has gained in importance, especially in companies that invest in digital technologies.

Weber emphasizes that further training benefits society as a whole. "The risk of unemployment is falling, value creation and tax revenue are increasing. That's one of the reasons why the state is promoting further training measures."

Shortage of skilled workers in focus

And of course the shortage of skilled workers also plays a role. "The shortage on the labor market is currently greater than it has been since the economic miracle - and that's despite the energy crisis," says Weber. Fewer people were laid off during the Corona crisis than before the crisis. "Companies see that if they fire someone, they might not get the position filled again."

This also makes it more sensible to retrain than to fill a new position. But there are also hurdles and limits: "Not everyone can meet every requirement, and not everyone wants to work in every area just because there is a need there," says Weber. "So it often makes sense to look for jobs with related skills."

But there are also exceptions, as an example from Siemens shows: In Regensburg, where there was already a precursor to the current initiative, a former canteen worker completed her retraining this summer. She is now a mechatronics engineer in special machine construction.

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