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Germany: boost English courses to ‘fix’ skill shortage

German universities should expand English language courses to recruit more international students and help fill labour shortages, the country’s academic exchange service has said. 

Photo: Unsplash

More than 50,000 international students complete their studies in Germany each year

Germany is suffering from a skills shortage while simultaneously attracting increasing numbers of international students, according to DAAD president Joybrato Mukherjee. 

“We need to think about both developments together and show international students more effectively and in greater numbers the path to a professional career in Germany,” he said. 

“They are highly qualified and well-integrated, and we should make more strategic use of their exciting potential as skilled workers in Germany.” 

Germany’s latest skilled labour survey predicted there would be around 240,000 more vacancies in 2026 than there will be workers available. 

Reflecting on the survey last autumn, Hubertus Heil, Germany’s minister of labour and social affairs, said securing skilled labour is one of the country’s “most urgent tasks”. 

The country’s new skilled labour strategy, launched in September 2022, calls for the creation of a modern immigration policy and the strategy mentions international students as “particularly attractive” for the German labour market. 

“We should make more strategic use of their exciting potential as skilled workers”

In a new policy paper, DAAD sets out the obstacles preventing international students from entering Germany’s skilled labour market, including high dropout rates.  

The organisation calls for more to be done to grow the number of international students in the country, improve their completion rates and support them to transition to the workforce. Mukherjee said politicians, universities and businesses have a “joint responsibility” for making this happen. 

In order to recruit more international students, DAAD recommends that English-taught courses should be expanded and accompanied by German language courses.

There should also be more digital information available about admissions to German universities and the integration of international students into the country’s labour market should begin during studies and be consistently promoted.   

Universities should design courses around the needs of employers and businesses should “systematically” consider international students in their recruitment processes, the academic exchange organisation recommended. 

Currently more than 50,000 international students complete their studies in Germany each year, and around half of them are enrolled on STEM courses – an area in demand by employers. 

Ten years after successfully completing their studies, around a third of them are still living and working in Germany, equating to approximately 25,000 international graduates entering the labour market as skilled workers each year. 

DAAD estimates this number could double by 2030 if the right actions are taken. 

The organisation said it is aware of fair migration principles, including the risk of brain-drain, and that policies should be a “win-win” for individuals, the country of origin and the host country. 

Germany is currently one of the leading OECD countries when it comes to the retention of international students, with over 60% of the international students who obtained a study visa in 2015 were still present in the country in 2020. 

On a visit to India in February, which aimed to boost economic ties with the EU, German chancellor Olaf Scholz discussed skills shortages and encouraged software and IT workers to consider migrating to Germany. 

Prior to his visit, government adviser Jens Plotner told press, “Indian students are welcomed in Germany. We are aware that the waiting time [for visas] is long. The embassy is working on it.”

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