News › Photonics industry Thuringia · Growth seriously threatened by shortage of skilled workers
OPTONET E.V. COMPANY ASSOCIATION PRESENTS REPORT ON BUSINESS SITUATION AND PERSONNEL REQUIREMENTS IN THURINGIA’S HIGH-TECH INDUSTRY
The photonics industry in the Free State of Thuringia is again reporting increased revenues and growing workforces in 2023. By the end of 2024, the majority of companies expect revenues to increase and are planning to further expand their workforce. The biggest challenge is filling new positions. Currently, 1,000 skilled workers are being sought. These are the key findings of the PHOTONICS Report Thuringia, which was presented today (16.6.2023) in Jena by the OptoNet association of companies. For this purpose, 123 companies provided detailed information on their business figures and future prospects.
Positive business situation
Asked about their current business situation, around three quarters of the companies refer to a »very good« (24%) or »good« (53%) economic situation. »The industry has come through the corona crisis well and is showing resilience even in the context of inflation, rising energy prices and supply chain difficulties,« explained Anke Siegmeier, managing director of OptoNet. »In particular, the continuing boom in semiconductor manufacturing and a good order situation from production technology are having a positive effect.«
Annual sales in the photonics industry have increased from EUR 3.4 billion to EUR 3.8 billion since the last survey in 2021. The growth is driven by companies of all sizes and technology sectors. Companies also expect growth, in some cases strong, for the current fiscal year and 2024: just under 60% of companies anticipate rising revenues.
Increased research spending
Investment in research and development reached a new high in 2022. Almost half a billion euros was spent by companies on the development of new products and processes, corresponding to an R&D ratio of around 13%.
High export share
At 72%, the export share of sales is more than twice as high as the average export rate of the manufacturing sector in Thuringia. (37.3% in 2021) The persistently high export rate underscores the high international orientation of companies and shows how important free trade and functioning supply chains are for continued positive development.
More employees and 1,000 vacancies
Since the last survey at the beginning of 2021, around 1,000 new employees have been recruited. This means that a total of 18,300 skilled workers are employed in the photonics sector in the Free State, 2,450 of them in university and non-university research institutions. At the same time, around 1,000 vacancies are currently being advertised. Not only engineers, physicists and computer scientists are needed, but also skilled workers for the production areas. Filling vacancies is becoming increasingly difficult and a lengthy challenge.
Growth at risk
Almost two-thirds of the companies surveyed now assess this situation as a serious threat to the sector, primarily because they are planning for »significantly more« (17%) or »more« (52%) employees in the near future to implement their goals. In the context of an upcoming wave of retirements, a low training rate of currently 3.2% and the expected number of graduates from Thuringia’s universities, this demand will probably not be met.
No high-tech without good STEM education and immigration
To ensure that the shortage of skilled workers does not lead to a loss of competitiveness and market share, important levers must be set in motion in the education sector and in the recruitment of foreign skilled workers.
A shortage of teachers, lost hours and resulting deficits in STEM education for young people could do serious damage to Thuringia as a technology location and are perceived by executives with great concern and already as a disadvantage for the location.
»Against this backdrop, we are calling on the Thuringian state government to make significantly greater efforts to ensure high-quality science education in all types of schools, a strategy to combat the shortage of teachers and targeted career guidance,« said Anke Siegmeier. »Companies are willing to do their part and are already investing a lot of time and money in activities to support schools. However, none of this helps if valuable teaching time is not used.«
The photonics industry is open to foreign specialists: while many companies (80%) already employ people with an international background, their share of the total workforce is still quite low (about 13%). In principle, however, almost all companies can imagine relying on international specialists to a considerable extent (44%) or at least for individual positions (50%).
Very good marks for OptoNet
The majority of the companies surveyed are members of the OptoNet photonics network and use the services offered by the association of companies in the areas of cooperation mediation, technology management and recruitment of young talent. These offers of the office are almost exclusively rated as »very good« or »good«, and more than 90% of the respondents also recommend membership to other industry representatives. Thus the managing directors Anke Siegmeier and Nora Kirsten see themselves confirmed in the setting of priorities. They see the network as an important player in the future when it comes to bundling the strengths of the location in the fight for scarcer personnel, developing new strategies and maintaining exchange and fair play in the region.
About OptoNet e.V.
OptoNet bundles the interests of currently 116 companies, research and educational institutions in photonics and promotes networking and cooperation with the aim of advancing the development of optical technologies in the region, increasing competitiveness and raising the national and international visibility of the cluster. OptoNet sees itself as a service provider for its members, creates a common communication and cooperation platform and is actively involved in securing skilled workers, promoting young talent and location marketing. Since spring 2023, the cluster management has been certified with the ECEI GOLD label »Cluster Management Excellence«.
The PHOTONICS Report 2023
The report on current business figures, sales and employment forecasts has been published every two years since 2001. The surveys were conducted on behalf of OptoNet by the CATI laboratory of the Institute of Sociology at the University of Jena.
|Survey period||January to March 2023|
|Addressed companies and research institutions 204||204|
|Successful surveys 123||123|
|Interview form||Telephone interview|
|Average interview length||27 minutes|
|Conducted by||CATI Laboratory, FSU Jena, headed by Thomas Ritter|
|Scientific support||Dipl.-Soz. Christoph Thieme|
Die wichtigsten Zahlen im Überblick
|Sales 2022||3,8 Mrd. EUR|
|Share of sales for research & development||13%|
|Export share of sales||72%|
|Total employees (industry & research)||18.300|
|Employees in industry||15.850|
|Employees in research||2.450|
|Average company size||85 Employees|
|Trainee ratio||3,2 %|
Selected overviews & graphics
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