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STEM - a question of fate for Europe

Scientific and technical professions are seen as one-sided, boring and unsexy. The result: a blatant shortage of skilled workers is putting pressure on economic growth in Europe. But MINT disciplines (mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology) offer young people attractive career prospects. In order to close the gap, politics, business and science advocate MINT. EURACTIV.de gives a European overview and shows what individual countries are doing.


In Europe there is a shortage of skilled workers in the fields of mathematics, IT, natural sciences and technology (MINT). The shortage threatens economic recovery. Companies fear that they will not be able to fully exploit their growth potential in the coming years. According to a study by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IWK), just under 14 percent of European companies registered a shortage of skilled workers in 2011, three quarters more than three years earlier.

But the situation is not the same everywhere in Europe: In Spain, for example, the unemployment rate has recently risen to over 25 percent, and youth unemployment is even 55 percent. The employment prospects for STEM specialists are currently poor in many southern European countries. Kay Hradilak, Top manager at the software manufacturer SAP and author of the book "Managing IT Service Companies", speaks of one million unemployed STEM academics in Spain, Portugal and Greece alone.

Europe is therefore experiencing strong internal migration of workers. Highly qualified people from southern Europe who are willing to work are increasingly looking for jobs in structurally strong countries such as Germany, Sweden, Austria or Switzerland.

In the short term, this creates a win-win situation for both the countries of origin and the destination countries, as regional labor market imbalances can be reduced. In the medium and long term, however, the skilled workers will be needed again in their home countries. "One day Spain will attract people again," says Spain's vice head of government Sáenz de Santamaria convinced of the ARD.

The economy is sounding the alarm

Both at the European and at the national level, the promotion of skilled workers is of the greatest importance in the long term. Business representatives warn that the continent is in danger of losing touch with the emerging economies, especially in Asia. Two years ago, BusinessEurope, one of the most important European employers' associations, published a report on STEM that emphasizes the importance of skilled workers:

"A shortage of engineers and scientists will lead to lower productivity and a decline in market share. STEM disciplines are the stuff that our modern society is built on to a large extent: infrastructure, health systems and the vast majority of the products and services we provide Taking every day for granted would not have been possible without technological development. New challenges such as climate change and the aging population demand new solutions based on the results of technological development. "

The report calls for an increased commitment from the EU and governments to promote the relevant disciplines. Robert Plummer BusinessEurope wants nothing less than the "re-industrialization of the European economy". A demand that the EU Commission shares: It wants to increase the share of industrial added value to 20 percent by 2020. Today the industry contributes just under 16 percent to the EU-wide economic output.

What is the EU doing?

The EU recognized the seriousness of the situation early on. As early as 2000, the European Council expressed concern about growth and jobs in Europe. The "Lisbon Strategy" adopted in the same year was intended to make the EU the most competitive and dynamic economic area by 2010, with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion. It was a long-term economic strategy designed to strengthen the EU economically, socially and ecologically.

A "European Research Area"

The "European Research Area" (ERA) has existed since the beginning of the millennium. The central aim of this EU initiative is to curb the brain drain (especially from weaker regions), but also the large regional differences in research and innovation performance, and instead to achieve top performance across the Union through intelligent specialization.

The five priority areas of the ERA are:

- More effective national research systems

- Optimal cross-border cooperation and appropriate competition

- An open job market for researchers

- Gender equality and the inclusion of gender equality in research

- Optimal exchange of, access to and transfer of scientific knowledge, also via the digital ERA

"Europe 2020"

In 2010 the Commission presented its ambitious follow-up project to the Lisbon Strategy: "Europe 2020" is the name of the EU's new ten-year growth strategy. It aims to do more than just overcome the current crisis. It aims to remedy the shortcomings of the European growth model and lay the foundations for a different kind of growth - growth that is smarter, more sustainable and more inclusive.

Europe 2020 includes seven flagship initiatives:

- Digital agenda for Europe

- Innovation Union

- Youth on the move

- Resource efficient Europe

- Industrial policy in the age of globalization

- Agenda for new skills and job opportunities

- European platform against poverty

MINT as a "classic cross-cutting issue"

The goals are ambitious and broad - but what is the EU doing specifically to promote STEM specialists? There is no real major pan-European strategy to tackle the problem all at once. EU Director General for Education Jan Truszczy? Ski In response to a request from EURACTIV.de, the 7th Research Framework Program is the first. However, the EU can only support the member states in matters of MINT. "The main responsibility must remain at the national level."

MINT is a "classic cross-cutting issue" that is affected not just by a single but by many different policies, the representation of the EU Commission in Berlin openly admits. There is an abundance of regional, national and international initiatives that try in different ways to promote STEM in the broadest sense.

"Horizon 2020"

The EU project "Horizon 2020", the world's largest funding program for research projects, comes closest to a joint STEM strategy. It is the financial instrument to make the Innovation Union - one of the seven Europe 2020 flagship initiatives - a reality.

With Horizon 2020, the EU plans to invest around 80 billion euros in innovation and research between 2014 and 2020 in order to promote Europe's global competitiveness, strengthen companies and create jobs. The instrument aims to bring funding from various existing programs under one roof: the Seventh Framework Program for Research (FP7) - which will expire at the end of 2013 - the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Program (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). However, it is not only the STEM areas that benefit from the funding.

Whether and in what form Horizon 2020 can be implemented, however, depends on the adoption of the multiannual financial framework. The EU Council agreed on the key points for the EU budget 2014-2020 in February, but Parliament rejected the package. A compromise is currently not in sight.

Truszczy? Ski, however, is certain that Horizon 2020 will mean more STEM funding than before. The Berlin MEP Joachim Zeller (CDU) relativizes the statement made by the Polish director general to EURACTIV.de: "The question is whether the glass is half full or half empty." Even if the budgeted budget for Horizon 2020 were cut from € 80 billion to € 70 billion, this would still be significantly more than the € 50 billion currently available for FP7.

European Social Fund

The European Social Fund (ESF) has supported the creation of jobs since the European Economic Community was founded in 1957 and is the EU's central labor market policy support instrument. It supports people through training and qualification and helps to reduce disadvantages on the labor market. Each member state and each region develops its own strategy. This is to best meet local requirements.

In the current funding period (2007-2013), the ESF is awarding a total of around 75 billion euros to the member states. More than 80 percent of this goes to the goal of "convergence", which aims to create growth and jobs for the least developed member states and regions.

Two of the five ESF priorities are particularly relevant for the MINT area:

- increasing the adaptability of employees, companies and entrepreneurs in order to better cope with economic change, and

- Strengthening human capital through education and training

The ESF can support programs funded by Horizon 2020 in the relevant regions.


The European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) is a multidisciplinary forum for the member states of the European Union and associated states in cooperation with the EU Commission. It serves to achieve the objectives of the ERA with regard to research institutions. The joint strategy helps to coordinate the efforts of the individual countries and to bring the research infrastructure up to the most modern level.

Information and communicationtechnology

Information and communication technology (ICT) is a particularly important STEM discipline: EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso At the beginning of March 2013 appealed to Europe's ICT companies, governments and training and further education institutions to join a “grand coalition for digital jobs”. It is intended to prevent that in 2015 - according to Commission estimates - 900,000 ICT jobs remain unfilled in Europe.

Despite the current high unemployment, the number of digital jobs is increasing by more than 100,000 per year. The number of new ICT university graduates and qualified ICT specialists is not keeping pace with this development.

The safe use of computers, the Internet and (new) media is an important prerequisite for success on the job market today. With the Europe 2020 Digital Agenda initiative, the EU wants to "restart" the European economy and enable its citizens and companies to access and use computer technology competently. The digital agenda is based on seven pillars and contains 101 measures.

Particularly relevant from the MINT perspective: Pillar V (investment in research and innovation) and Pillar VI (improvement of digital skills, qualifications and integration), including measure 60 to promote women in ICT professions.

Women in the ICT sector

According to the EU Commission, around seven million people work in the European ICT sector today. Only 30 percent of them are women - they are underrepresented in all areas, especially in management positions. In order to meet the rapidly growing demand for new workers, training more female ICT workers is absolutely crucial. In order to face the "gender gap", the EU and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) are organizing an international "Girls in ICT Day" on April 25, 2013. The motto "Science is a girl's business" is another initiative of the EU Commission to promote women in research and innovation.


The Erasmus Mundus program "EM2-STEM", financed by the EU Commission, offers grants for over 260 bachelor and master students, research assistants, research assistants, prospective doctoral students and postdocs doing research in MINT areas. (The term for MINT in English is STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) 3.8 million euros are available to coordinate the scientific work of seven partners in the EU and eight in the Western Balkans more closely with the aim of to increase the quality of academic quality and to improve cooperation between researchers from different regions.

Marie Curie Actions

The Marie Curie Actions provide financial support to researchers regardless of their age, gender or nationality. In addition to generous scholarships, researchers have the opportunity to gain experience abroad and in the private sector and enhance their education through other skills or disciplines that may be valuable for their careers. According to the EU Commission, over 60,000 researchers have benefited from the measures so far.


The Community for Science Education in Europe SCIENTIX has been helping to disseminate and share knowledge and best practices in science education since 2009. SCIENTIX is carried out on behalf of the EU Commission by the European Schoolnet (EUN).

The EUN is a network of 30 education ministries from Europe and some surrounding countries. The "Pan-EU Youth" portal is also under his aegis, providing young people between the ages of 14 and 18 with a platform for exchanging ideas on modern technology. Integration in social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is also important.

"Science on Stage"

The "Science on Stage" project sponsored by the German employers' association GESAMTMETALL also offers European and Canadian primary and secondary teachers the opportunity to exchange innovative teaching methods and materials. It enables teachers to "think outside the box", so Otto Lührs, Chairman of Science on Stage Germany. The aim is to benefit the students, who are taught bulky scientific topics in an exciting way.

The next Science on Stage Festival in S? Ubice / Frankfurt an der Oder will literally cross borders. From April 25 to 28, 2013, Poland and Germany will jointly host the biennial event - under the patronage of the German Federal President Joachim Gauck and his Polish counterpart Bronis? Aw Komorowski.


"RESEARCH - The EU Contest for Young Scientists" is another initiative of the EU Commission to get young Europeans interested in science and technology and to give them incentives for a career in the relevant fields. Every year since 1989, young scientists compete with their colleagues from other countries and are also expanding their network. The next round will be held in Prague from September 20-25, 2013.


Despite the crisis, the German economy is doing well. Unemployment is low compared to other European countries. But the industry lacks the STEM specialists. Immigration from southern Europe temporarily alleviates the need, but will not be enough in the long term.

A gap of 6.5 million workers will open up on the German labor market by 2022. The German economy is already suffering from a lack of qualified specialists. According to the IWK, around 15 percent of German companies indicated in 2011 that their growth potential would not be tapped in the next two years due to a lack of skilled workers. This threatens the economic development of companies.

The shortage of skilled workers in the MINT areas has particularly far-reaching consequences. Germany has a comparative locational advantage in Europe in the "high-quality technology" sectors. The basis of this success is formed by the MINT skills at an academic and professional level, as the latest MINT report from the IWK shows.

Innovation as an economic engine

The availability of STEM specialists is therefore of the utmost importance for the innovation activity of German companies. The metal and electronics industry alone is the most innovative branch in Germany with 66.34 billion euros or 55 percent of the national innovation expenditure.

Peer Michael Dick, General Manager of the Gesamtmetall employers' association until February 2013, confirms: "With its innovative strength, the metal and electrical industry is an essential pillar of the Germany business model. It owes its competitiveness not least to the high proportion of STEM specialists. Workers across the board of highly innovative companies are just as important for innovation success as MINT academics. "

Skilled workers shortage despite good career prospects

The labor market prospects for STEM specialists are extremely good in Germany. Almost 1.4 million STEM academics are currently working in scientific and technical professions - in addition to the 9 million professionally qualified "STEM students". Nevertheless, 95,200 STEM specialists are missing in Germany in 2013, says Ernst Burgbacher (FDP), Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Economics, in conversation with EURACTIV.de.

IWK experts even assumed a STEM gap of 121,300 workers in October 2012. "The bottlenecks in the engineering professions of mechanical and vehicle technology are particularly great. However, there are no bottlenecks for chemists or biologists," explains Professor Michael Hüther, Director of the IWK.

The good job prospects attract many foreign workers to the Federal Republic. Not only academics take advantage of the free movement of people. Many young people from southern European countries - where job prospects are currently rather bleak - are increasingly looking for happiness on the German job market. For companies, the young people from abroad are a welcome opportunity to avoid capacity bottlenecks. The immigrants, for their part, receive solid professional training and prospects for the future.

"Windfall" dual system

Compared to the Romansh and English-speaking EU countries, Germany has another locational advantage: the dual vocational training system has proven to be extremely successful. Training takes place in parallel in the vocational school and in the company. The apprentices learn in a practical way and can then be integrated into the company without great friction losses.

"Our dual system is recognized worldwide today and is really a stroke of luck for us," continued Burgbacher. EU Director General Jan Truszczy? Ski agreed with him: "The German dual system is recognized everywhere in Europe."

Today every tenth MINT graduate in Germany is a foreigner. In order to keep this valuable workforce in the country in the long term, the "welcome structure" in Germany must be further strengthened. Because the situation on the German STEM labor market remains tense, as the IWK report states.

"MINT creating the future"

In Germany there is a wide variety of national and regional, public and private initiatives to promote STEM students. The federal government promotes Germany as a business location with the skilled workers offensive at home and abroad.

One of the most prominent and important initiatives in German business is "Creating MINT Future". The nationwide campaign bundles numerous individual initiatives of the associations and companies and offers them a broad platform to work together for the common cause: The transfer of knowledge in the MINT subjects is to be significantly improved in terms of quantity and quality at schools and universities, so that the number of qualified Graduates are increasing, drop-out rates are falling and the German economy has enough skilled workers available. The German Chancellor is the patron of "Creating MINT Future" Angela Merkel.

Thomas Sattelberger, CEO of "Creating MINT Future", wants to make better use of the potential of MINT students: "MINT drop-out rates of well over 50 percent at universities are a scandal." Germany must also become more attractive for graduates.

"Out of 100 new MINT students at German universities from abroad, only 14 enter our job market, 46 drop out, 40 leave Germany after graduation." Authorities, universities and companies should offer foreign students and graduates incentives to stay in the country, according to Sattelberger.

Deutsche Telekom Foundation as a driving force

Until 2012, Sattelberger was on the Human Resources Board of Deutsche Telekom AG. Their foundation has been campaigning for MINT since 2003. With a capital of 150 million euros, it is one of the largest German corporate foundations. It promotes MINT interest and skills from an early age, supports teachers and grants scholarships for special talents. In addition, it sees itself as an "initiator" in the social and political debate.

In order to arouse more interest in MINT, she also wants to combine school and extracurricular learning and considers the close exchange between schools and partners from business and science to be an important tool to facilitate the transition from school to university or into work .

Hamburg wants to become "Germany's most Scandinavian city"

In a discussion event organized by the foundation in Hamburg, the question was whether the shortage of STEM skilled workers was a real risk or just a myth - namely a risk for Germany as a business location or just an invention to keep wages low. Reinhard Clemens, Board member of Deutsche Telekom AG, said it was inconceivable that 80,000 children in Germany would be without a school leaving certificate every year. A number that cannot be accepted. "For me, the MINT topic is simply the most important topic for the future."

Clemens ‘Proposal: to improve cooperation with universities and to finance startups. "I want to build a culture like America, so that you can transition, innovate and help people - so they don't go to America."

Also Olaf Scholz, First Mayor of Hamburg, sees "a problem that has hitherto been completely underestimated. If all the people who started studying engineering or mathematics would also finish it, we would have an oversupply of highly qualified engineers."

Scholz ‘Proposal: Hamburg wants" ultimately to become the most Scandinavian city in Germany - with a school system that offers all-day care from the first year of life until the end of school and that only offers school types in the mainstream school system that lead to the Abitur and that has very small elementary school classes. "

Innovation indicator: educational federalism in need of reform

The innovation indicator, which the Deutsche Telekom Foundation creates with the Federation of German Industries, exposes Germany's education system as the greatest weak point. With the exception of vocational training, Germany did not do well in any of the education indicators. Although the dual system makes a significant contribution to the success of innovation, it cannot compensate for other weaknesses.

The innovation researchers' proposal sounds like an attack on the federal system: long-term improvements require educational alliances between the federal, state and local governments with room for maneuver. Educational federalism is in need of reform, and the prohibition of cooperation between the federal government and the states enshrined in the Basic Law must be removed.

(Results and graphics are available for download on the Internet)

STEM-friendly schools

In order to attract more students and trainees to STEM subjects, however, it is not enough to promote the relevant study programs and courses. You have to start much earlier to get children and young people enthusiastic about these subjects right from the start. "The most important access is of course the teachers. It has to be prepared in the schools," said State Secretary Burgbacher.

The nationwide partners of the "Creating MINT Future" initiative, in consultation with the state employers' associations and the business education institutions, award "MINT-friendly schools" each year, which focus on training in the relevant subjects. Pupils, parents and companies recognize from this "seal of approval" that a school places special value on STEM education and gives it high priority.

There are also other programs for the award and targeted promotion of schools with a distinctive MINT profile:

- The nationwide “MINT-EC” initiative for grammar schools and schools with upper secondary school levels, funded by the employers' association Gesamtmetall, the Siemens Foundation and the Deutsche Telekom Foundation

- The award of "MINT-Haupt" and "MINT-Real" schools in North Rhine-Westphalia by Unternehmer nrw

- The "MINT School Lower Saxony" initiative of the Lower SaxonyMetall Foundation, the NORDMETALL Foundation and the VME Foundation Osnabrück-Emsland in Lower Saxony for schools with lower secondary level (excluding grammar schools).

Is science a man's job?

If it is difficult to get young people excited about STEM, this is especially true for girls and young women. "Technical professions are often portrayed dirty, loud and unfeminine," says Rosi pride from the nationwide girls' network Lizzynet, which is why the interest of many female and male students in the MINT subjects is only weakly pronounced.

The economy feels that. "We are still desperately looking for young women who are interested in learning a technical profession or in the MINT courses," said the former general manager of Gesamtmetall. Gabriele Sons. The IWK figures speak for themselves: of the approximately 131,000 freshmen in engineering in the 2011/12 winter semester, only 21 percent were women - this corresponds to the level in the 2001/02 winter semester.

If it is not possible to activate more qualified women for the labor market, the shortage of skilled workers in the MINT area will "become more and more of a problem," according to the current report of the Expert Commission on Research and Innovation (EFI), which advises the German government. Qualification and innovation potentials that have so far been insufficiently used must be better exploited. In addition to women in STEM subjects, this also applies to women in management positions in science and business.

State Secretary Burgbacher also believes that the image of technical professions must be revamped. There is still a "latent hostility to technology" in society. Otto Lührs from Science on Stage agrees. MINT people are often wrongly regarded as technical idiots with "tunnel vision". It is the task of schools to counter this bad reputation of the MINT disciplines in order to inspire young women in particular for technology and science.

Science is girl thing!

"Come on, do MINT", the national pact for women in MINT professions, has set itself the goal of exploiting the potential of women for scientific and technical professions. Competencies from politics, business, science, social partners and the media are to be brought together in order to change the image of the MINT professions in society.

Come on, do MINT is part of the Federal Government's "Ascent through Education" qualification initiative and was launched in 2008 by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. On the homepage there is a project map with an overview of more than 1,000 MINT projects - mostly for female junior staff.

6th MINT day in Leverkusen

Bayer AG held the 6th MINT Day in Leverkusen on Thursday, April 18, 2013. The focus of the conference was the promotion of innovation. Experts from politics, business and science gave lectures and discussed the exchange between science and business and its importance for a dynamic and innovative start-up culture.

As host, Bayer's research director raised Wolfgang Plischke emphasizes the importance of science and technology: "Without research and development - especially in the MINT disciplines - we will not be able to master the current global challenges. Innovations secure the future." Bayer operates four school laboratories in Germany and, through the Bayer Science & Education Foundation, supports science classes in the vicinity of Bayer sites with around 500,000 euros a year.

Bayer Board Member Plischke: Technology maturity instead of technology fatigue

In a point of view for EURACTIV.de, Plischke had previously argued that more "technology maturity" instead of technology fatigue could promote attitudes towards new technologies and strengthen Germany as a location for innovation.

Plischke stated: "In many countries the importance of technology is also reflected in the school curricula. But this is only insufficiently the case in Germany as a technology location. Because despite selective progress - such as the introduction of the subject of natural science and technology 'in Baden-Württemberg - there is a lack of a systematic, comprehensive range of courses in this country that would provide something like general technical education. "

According to this, technology only accounts for an average of three percent of teaching time for 12 to 14-year-olds in Germany. In France it is six percent, in England twelve percent. "More technical knowledge can help to reduce the diffuse, often prejudiced discomfort that technological innovations sometimes experience - also in Germany."


Austria has the lowest unemployment rate in the EU. Nevertheless, almost every fifth newly advertised MINT job remains vacant. While the industry is relying on a restructuring of school teaching, the federal government wants to attract more skilled workers from abroad.

The unemployment rate in Austria is currently 4.8 percent, the lowest in the 27 EU countries. At the same time, the alpine country is struggling with a shortage of skilled workers. Especially in technical professions, industry and business complain about this again and again.

30,000 new STEM jobs by 2016

According to the Austrian Institute for Economic Research (WIFO), around 30,000 new jobs will be created in MINT professions such as computer scientists, physicists, chemists, engineers and bioscientists by 2016.

However, eight out of ten industrial companies in Austria are already having problems finding qualified personnel in the fields of technology, production, research and development. According to the Federation of Industry (IV), every fifth to sixth newly advertised MINT job remains vacant.

The IV has stated that the "MINT gap" in Austria alone amounts to a thousand new graduates per year in nine technical fields of study. The companies are particularly looking for graduates in mechanical engineering, industrial engineering and electrical engineering.

Little interest in STEM professions

One of the main causes of the shortage of skilled workers is the low level of student interest in STEM. As in many other industrialized countries, the affinity of young people to MINT professions in Austria also decreases with the level of prosperity achieved in the country.

Despite the increasing number of students and a doubling of the annual university degrees - also in the fields of natural sciences and technology - many of the specific MINT courses in demand by the industry have therefore not (yet) been able to benefit from this trend.

According to the 2009 PISA study, the mathematical and scientific skills of Austrian students are in the middle of the field compared to comparable countries. Nevertheless, a below-average number of people in Europe want to complete an apprenticeship in a MINT occupation.

In a 2010 survey, only twelve percent of girls and 25 percent of boys could imagine becoming scientists. It looked a bit more positive in the technical professions: Here it was around 14 percent of the girls and as many as 45 percent of the boys.

Measures of the economy

The figures reveal another problem with which Austria is not alone: ​​the low proportion of women. Christoph Leitl, President of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, told EURACTIV.de that half of women in Austria want traditional jobs such as hairdressers, sales clerks or office workers. He sees great potential here for the MINT professions, which is being lost. (See the interview with Christoph Leitl below.)

In order to make MINT courses more attractive, Leitl suggests that the tuition fees in these subjects should be waived and the scholarships even increased.

"MINT 2020"

As early as 2007, the Federation of Austrian Industries developed a comprehensive strategy for Austria to counter the shortage of skilled workers. The most important fields of action are an innovation in the education system, the increase in the innovation awareness of society, improved framework conditions for research and innovation professions, the greater involvement of women in MINT and the increase in mobility and the promotion of qualified immigration.

The "MINT 2020" strategy has now emerged. It is designed to make school teaching more STEM-friendly. In this way, young people should develop an enthusiasm for MINT and maintain this throughout their school career. In addition to a restructuring of the curricula, MINT weeks are to take place regularly and teacher training and further education are to be optimized.

But Austrian industrial companies are also involved. For example, there are company kindergartens with a MINT focus, MINT school competitions, experiment material and special MINT programs for girls.

In addition, the "Knowledge Factory - Companies for Austria" was founded in 2011 as an industry platform for excellent educational projects in the fields of MINT, language and business.Here the individual measures are to be bundled and made more visible.

There is hardly any shortage of skilled workers in politics

Due to the dual vocational training system, Austria has the lowest youth unemployment rate in the EU after Germany. As a result, the subject of the shortage of skilled workers in politics is currently somewhat in the background, explained Felix Lamezan-Salins, Spokesman for the Ministry of Science (BMWF), on request from EURACTIV.de.

To promote MINT courses at universities, the Ministry of Science provided 40 million euros in additional funds in 2011 with the "Mint instead of mass" program. This is primarily intended to improve teaching and student support.

In order to arouse the pupils' interest in the MINT subjects from an early age, the BMWF organizes the so-called children's universities every summer. There is also the "Sparkling Science" junior research project, in which schoolchildren work together with scientists on specific research projects.

"Red-White-Red Card"

The Federal Ministry of Labor (BMASK) tries to meet the need for skilled workers through labor policy measures. In doing so, the BMASK relies on control through the Foreign Employment Act and the qualification of the unemployed and employed. For example, funding programs are being developed for qualifications in the MINT area as part of the Austrian strategy for lifelong learning "LLL 2020". In addition, there is the labor market program "Women in Technology".

The "Red-White-Red Card" was introduced in order to attract skilled workers from abroad. Since July 1, 2011, workers and their relatives from third countries have been able to immigrate to Austria more easily and permanently - if they are appropriately qualified.

This is calculated using a simple system: there are different scores for training, work experience or language skills. 70 out of 100 points are necessary for the red-white-red card. University graduates in MINT subjects or people who have completed vocational training in a shortage occupation - mainly technical occupations - receive higher scores.

The BMWF also wants to facilitate the recognition of foreign titles in Austria. Lamezan-Salins said that no Turkish doctor would have to drive a taxi in Vienna.

Chamber of Commerce chief Leitl: "Step on the gas, change awareness!"

Christoph Leitl (64) has been President of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce since 2000 and is therefore the highest representative of the interests of the Austrian economy. From 2002 to 2005 he was also President of the European Chamber of Commerce Eurochambres. Since 2006 he has been its honorary president. EURACTIV.de spoke to him about STEM initiatives.

EURACTIV.de:To what extent are STEM subjects a special topic in Austria? Does the economy demand that the students be encouraged more in the direction of mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology?

LEITL: Yes, I proposed not to charge tuition fees in those subjects where there is a great need. Perhaps one should even increase the scholarships. We now want to make a talent potential analysis with thirteen or fourteen year olds in the course of making vocational training more attractive.

Afterwards, career information should also take place with the involvement of the parents. That means: analysis and discussion of the results with the young people and their parents. I am convinced that many young people have talents in areas that they often do not even suspect - also with the girls.

EURACTIV.de: Are Austrian girls more open to STEM than other Europeans?

LEITL: Half of the girls in Austria are still in three professions: hairdresser, saleswoman and office. Nothing against these three professions, but it is a waste of resources that half of the girls are only interested in these three professions. That's why this whole MINT thing.

I travel a lot in technology-oriented companies and I see a lot of women. And when I ask them how they are doing, they reply: 'Excellent!' Girls and women have a holistic, networked way of thinking. Men tend to think in one-dimensional logic. Both together complement each other wonderfully.

EURACTIV.de: How do you intend to encourage rethinking?

LEITL: We have to step on the gas. We are proud that Austria is the European champion in vocational training. Places one, two and three are occupied by the countries that offer dual training.

The World Skills Championships will take place in Leipzig in July 2013. We won't be in the first place there, but I'm sure we will be in the top ten. Our strength lies more in the traditional professions and our weakness really lies in the STEM areas. The Asians are good at that, by the way. We really have to step on the gas. It's really a weakness that we have there right now.

But the same applies here: Change of consciousness! I can't force anyone. I can give incentives and create awareness, work out future perspectives and say: Young person, if you do that, the world is open to you and you can fulfill the wishes of your life.


The Confederation has maintained its place as the most competitive country in the world for years. Nevertheless, there is also a shortage of STEM specialists in Swiss industry and business. To defend leadership, the government is investing in higher education.

When it comes to innovation, Switzerland has been at the top in international comparison for years. This success is due not least to the good interplay between the private sector and public research institutions at the universities of applied sciences, at the cantonal universities and in the ETH domain (federal technical universities). The Swiss universities pride themselves on their autonomy and cosmopolitanism - both ideally and personally. For its part, the private sector finances more than two thirds of the research (in 2008 the equivalent of a good 9.1 billion euros).

The MINT specialists are once again the driving force behind the innovation. Like Germany and Austria, however, Switzerland also suffers from a corresponding shortage of skilled workers. Between 2005 and 2009, many Swiss companies complained that they did not have a sufficiently qualified workforce. The government describes the situation in a study as "serious".

Despite the unfavorable economic situation in 2009, Switzerland lacked around 14,000 STEM specialists. In the MINT area, there were only 2,000 job seekers among the 173,000 employed - with 16,000 vacancies. Although the need varies greatly depending on the economic situation, the Swiss government is still assuming a structural shortage of 10,000 people.

Immense economic importance

Five years after receiving their diploma, the unemployment rate for MINT academics was 1.9 percent, compared with 1.8 percent for university graduates in other disciplines and 4.4 percent in the national average. It is noticeable that almost every fourth MINT graduate starts working life with a management position, compared to a sixth of the other graduates. Five years after graduation, around half of all MINT employees hold a management position, compared to a good third of the other academics. These figures underline the vital role that STEM academics play in Swiss companies.

The Federal Council also states in its most recent STEM report: "Qualified workers are the engine for the innovation, competitiveness and growth ability of the Swiss economy. With their creativity in the search for new or improved technical solutions, engineers and scientists in particular make a significant contribution to the innovative strength of Switzerland as a business location The availability of technical human capital is elementary for an export-oriented, small economy in the global competition between locations in the knowledge-based societies. "

Strong STEM immigration

The shortage of skilled workers led to a large immigration of foreign specialists. In 2007 and 2008 around 10,000 STEM specialists each came to Switzerland. Foreign university graduates also mostly stay in the country after graduating: 63.4 percent of them were still living in Switzerland after one year. Compared to foreign graduates from other disciplines, however, they return home more often - presumably because they expect good career prospects there too.

Limited government influence

According to the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), the number of people in employment in Switzerland will decline from 2020 onwards. At 79 percent (2009), the country has one of the highest employment rates in a European comparison. In order to make even better use of the domestic labor potential, Switzerland must proceed in a very targeted manner.

In order to secure the next generation of MINTs, the Federal Council recommends promoting the understanding of technology more strongly at all levels of primary school, improving the transition to tertiary level and ensuring equal opportunities. In the federal education system in Switzerland, however, the cantons are primarily responsible for educational policy, so that the federal government can often only make recommendations.

Investments especially in higher education

The Federal Council has formulated three guidelines for the promotion of education, research and innovation (ERI) for 2013-2016:

- Meeting the need for qualified people

- Maintain the high level of funding and further strengthen Switzerland's international competitiveness

- Switzerland as a place to think and work according to the principles of equal opportunities, sustainability and competitiveness

In order to achieve the goals set, the federal government plans to invest the equivalent of a good 21 billion euros in the BFI over the next three years. A good third of this is earmarked for the ETH, which - unlike schools and universities - is directly subordinate to the federal government. The remaining funds are primarily intended to benefit the Swiss National Fund (SNSF), vocational training, the cantonal universities and technical colleges.

In December 2012, Parliament passed the Research and Innovation Promotion Act (FIFG), which regulates the promotion of scientific research by the federal government. It is the basis for the funding activities of the SNSF, the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) and the Association of Swiss Academies. The law also regulates international cooperation in the field of research and innovation.

The advancement of women leads a shadowy existence

The proportion of women in MINT courses is also extremely low in Switzerland. Women are particularly underrepresented in the fields of IT, technology and construction. According to economiesuisse, the largest umbrella organization of the Swiss economy, the proportion of women in engineering professions is only 9.5 percent, which is well below the European average of 16.6 percent. The Federal Council blames gender-specific stereotypes in schools and the lack of female role models. Girls and young women also often discourage girls and young women from pursuing a MINT career because girls have a deeper assessment of their own performance or the idea that work and family are poorly compatible in MINT occupational fields.

However, there is no comparable MINT promotion for women as in Germany in Switzerland. A helpful overview of a large number of projects, initiatives, portals and events related to women can be found on the homepage of the National Future Day.

Other STEM initiatives

With the platform educa.MINT, partners from politics and science support the exchange of ideas among teachers in order to make the STEM lessons more interesting for the students.

The Techmania portal of the Swiss machine, electrical and metal industry association Swissmem offers an overview of all aspects of technology. Interested parties can find out more about companies, training and apprenticeships, exciting projects and events.

The SimplyScience Foundation promotes the understanding of scientific and technical issues in children and young people and shows possible training and career opportunities. The foundation is an initiative of scienceindustries, the Swiss chemical, pharmaceutical and biotech trade association with around 250 member companies.

ING CH "IngCH Engineers Shape our Future" is an association of 27 companies. It promotes the understanding of the central importance of technology for economy, culture and politics. Society as a whole - but especially young people - should thereby acquire a deeper understanding of technology.


British universities are among the best in the world. The government wants to further strengthen the research and innovation location and make MINT subjects more attractive to young people. Whether the strategy will work is open - because it neglects half of the existing potential: women.

Great Britain only makes up 1 percent of the world's population, but is also responsible for 10 percent of global research output. The MINT subjects in particular are a cornerstone of the British economy and are of enormous importance to the country's success. Great Britain is the sixth largest manufacturer in the world. The technical sector alone has annual sales of around 940 billion euros.

STEM graduates have excellent career prospects in the UK and are paid top wages early on in their careers. Even so, British companies are struggling to find sufficiently qualified specialists. Business, science and politics therefore try to make young people aware of the attractive working conditions in MINT areas and to get them excited about scientific and technical topics at an early stage.

The women are missing ...

Women in particular are severely underrepresented in the UK's STEM sector. In a European comparison, fewer women work in British engineering with a share of 8.5 percent than in any other country in Europe. In some scientific and technical bodies there is only one woman for every 75 men.

... but the government takes it easy

Even so, the UK government does not give the advancement of STEM women a high priority. For example, MentorSET, a government-sponsored program to empower women in the STEM field, had to be closed due to a lack of money.

The Department of Education's Stem Cohesion Program promotes STEM skills among youth in order to ensure the supply of skilled workers for the UK economy. In July 2011 the ministry published a final report on the success of the program. The word "women" does not appear once on the almost 200 pages.

When asked about the advancement of women, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) assured EURACTIV.de that they were keeping an eye on the issue. The BIS refers to programs such as the STEM Ambassadors Program, which in turn is part of STEMNET, a network for STEM youth promotion. The program is not aimed specifically at girls and young women, but the government emphasizes that 40 percent of the "ambassadors" (voluntary MINT workers who are supposed to serve as role models) are women.

The BIS also supports the annual Big Bang Fair. The fair is intended to inspire young people for STEM and show them the diverse career opportunities in these areas. This event is also aimed at young people in general. However, according to BIS, young women were particularly well represented among this year's visitors.

With a survey of 1,200 female engineering students, the government wants to obtain "unique" insights into their opinions and wishes and also take into account the socio-economic backgrounds of women. The study was commissioned to the Women's Engineering Society through the Royal Academy of Engineering. The first results of the study have been published and, according to the British government, more are to follow this year.

Other STEM initiatives

The Women in Science Engineering and Technology team is specifically dedicated to the shortage of women in the MINT area. It is part of the Center for Education at Sheffield Hallam University.

The National STEM Center holds the largest collection of teaching and learning resources in the UK. It gives STEM teachers access to extensive material to improve the quality of teaching.

The National HE STEM Program has been promoting STEM at university level since 2009. However, the three-year initiative expired in July 2012.


Finland has been at the top of all Pisa studies for years. Whether in math, science or reading - Finnish students are among the strongest in the world. It is therefore not surprising that there is no shortage of skilled workers in the STEM field in Finland. On the contrary.

Anna Hakala is responsible for educational policy issues at the Finnish embassy in Berlin. EURACTIV.de spoke to her about the initiatives Finland's education system is using to promote STEM subjects.

There is no shortage of skilled workers in the STEM sectors in Finland, Hakala said."The opposite is more the case." This is due to the structural changes in heavy industry and after the ICT boom has subsided.

However, in some sectors there are unskilled workers who found jobs before graduating from university. So you are only almost a master's degree or an engineer. This leads to the fact that there are sometimes many formally unqualified jobseekers.

The study of STEM subjects is promoted at all school levels in Finland, but there are currently no specific projects that only promote the STEM subjects. However, teaching in the natural sciences is developed penetratingly at all levels, so that instead of focusing on facts, the focus is on understanding and networking (e.g. with industry).

Different types of e-learning and electronic teaching material as well as cooperation with the social environment have promoted the understanding of the importance of, for example, chemistry in society. The teaching of science, mathematics, computer science and technology are promoted in Finland by the so-called LUMA centers (Finland’s Science Education Center) and the Swedish-language resource centers.

The Bachelor's degrees are currently being revised in Finland, with degrees in natural sciences becoming more comprehensive and collaboration with industry and research at universities to come into play earlier.

In addition, from autumn 2014 it will be forbidden to take several places at the universities at the same time. One goal is to reduce dropouts. For example, in 2010 only one-third of students who started their chemistry, physics, and maths degree in 2003 had a university degree (and only one-fifth in those subjects).

Pasi Sahlberg, Director General of the National Center for International Mobility and Cooperation (CIMA), is of the opinion that MINT enjoys a higher status in Finnish society than in other countries.

Successful national MINT center in Helsinki

The LUMA center in Helsinki was jointly founded in 2003 by ten institutions, including the Ministry of Education, several universities and industry associations. LU stands for the Finnish "luonnontieteet", natural science, and MA for "matematiikka".

For ten years, the center has been supporting teaching and studying STEM subjects in order to promote scientific education and practical skills of children and young people and to strengthen cooperation with industry. A national LUMA network (in Finnish) is supposed to help.

The LUMA center has seven topic-specific sub-centers, five interactive online magazines and provides four free e-learning environments for schools and universities. In addition, the center organizes scientific events every year.

The next Millennium Youth Camp will take place in Helsinki in June. It is not just aimed at Finnish youth: in 2012, 1,600 young people from 22 countries applied. If you are allowed to come, you will also receive a place at the Faculty of Science at the University of Helsinki.

The Internet magazine "Jippo" (in Finnish) is aimed at toddlers between the ages of three and six. It explains in a playful way the (outside) world in which the children move and is intended to take away their fear of contact with the natural sciences. "Luova" (in Finnish) also aims in a similar direction.

From June 10th to 12th, the LUMA Center invites you to the International Symposium for Scientific Education (ISSE). This year the themes are climate change, energy and renewable resources, water and food. The program is aimed at teachers and scientists from the educational sector who can exchange ideas and inspire one another at the symposium.

Patrick Timmann, Othmara Glas, Ewald König



Germany - advancement through education

Germany - Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology

Germany - Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs

Germany - Federal Agency for Civic Education: The dual training

Germany - Expert Commission on Research and Innovation

Germany - Skilled Workers Offensive

Germany - Make it in Germany

EU Commission: Erasmus Mundus

EU Commission: Erasmus Mundus: EM2-STEM

EU Commission: European Research Area (ERA)

EU Commission: Horizon 2020

EU Commission: Horizon 2020: The seven flagship initiatives

EU Commission: Horizon 2020: Digital Agenda

EU Commission: Horizon 2020: Innovation Union

EU Commission: Marie Curie Measures

EU Commission: Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020

EU Commission: Seventh Research Framework Program (FP7)

EU Commission: Framework Program for Competitiveness and Innovation (CIP)

EU Commission: RESEARCH - EU Contest for Young Scientists

EU Commission: Science is a girl's business

EU Commission: Women in ICT

Press release: European Commission launches grand coalition for digital jobs

European Social Fund for Germany

European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI)

United Kingdom - Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

United Kingdom - Department for Education: The STEM Cohesion Program

Austria - Federal Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection (BMASK)

Austria - Federal Ministry of Science and Research (BMWF): MINT.at

Austria - BMWF: Children's Universities

Austria - BMWF: Sparkling Science

Austria - Strategy for Lifelong Learning in Austria

Austria - Red-White-Red Card

Switzerland - Federal Statistical Office (BSF): MINT - skilled workers on the job market

Switzerland - Federal Council: Shortage of STEM specialists in Switzerland

Switzerland - Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER)

Switzerland - EAER: Promotion of education, research and innovation in the years 2013 - 2016

Switzerland - EAER: Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI)

Switzerland - EVD skilled workers initiative

Scientific institutes and studies:

Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences

European Institute of Innovation & Technology

Institute of the German Economy Cologne (IWK)

IWK study: Skilled labor shortages and unemployment in Europe

IWK study: MINT autumn report 2012

OECD: Pisa 2009

Austrian Institute for Economic Research (WIFO)

WIFO study: Medium-term employment forecast for Austria and the federal states

Rose - The Relevance of Science Education: An Overview and Key Findings

Royal Academy of Engineering

Swiss National Fund (SNSF)

Sheffield Hallam University: Center for Education

University of Helsinki: Finland’s Science Education Center LUMA

University of Helsinki: National LUMA Center (in Finnish)

University of Helsinki: International Symposium on Science Education

Women's Engineering Society

Woman in Science Engineering and Technology (WISET)

Business associations, initiatives and foundations

Federation of German Industry: Innovation Indicator

BusinessEurope: Plugging the Skills Gap - The Clock is Ticking

Deutsche Telekom Foundation


GESAMTMETALL - The employers' associations in the metal and electrical industry

Federation of Industrialists (IV)


IV: People create the future

IV: MINT 2020

Lower SaxonyMETALL

Nordmetall Foundation

Austrian Chamber of Commerce WKO

Siemens Foundation

suissmem - The Swiss machine, electrical and metal industry

entrepreneur nrw

scienceindustries switzerland - Chemical, Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trade Association


Knowledge factory - company for Austria

Other initiatives:

1st European MINT Convention 2014

azubidoo.de - Your STEM training in Germany


European Schoolnet

Girls in ICT

Jippo Magazine (in Finnish)

Come on, do STEM

Lizzynet (girls network)

Luova Magazine (in Finnish)


STEM education in NRW

MINT EC - Association of Mathematical and Scientific Excellence Centers at Schools e.V.

MINT school in Lower Saxony

MINT creating the future

National STEM Center

National Future Day


Pasi Sahlberg

Science On Stage Europe