In a lab in Germany, two Technical University of Munich students focused on engineering the BMW i3, which is BMW’s first zero emissions mass-produced vehicle due to its electric powertrain. The car also features carbon-fiber reinforced plastic to improve the vehicle’s energy consumption.
All of this was designed and assembled by researchers, designers, and—wait for it—students in German labs. The innovation that goes from university and governmental research labs to manufacturers is a secret that helps drive the German economy.
During the financial crisis, Germany sailed through profits and employments with a jobless rate of 5.6 percent, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Germany’s global competitiveness has held on because the products they assemble are full of innovation.
Other than the BMW i3, Germany has had its share of other manufacturing success. Much like consumers have seen in America, German textiles fell to cheap regions like China and India. Gradually, though, German companies kept turning out machines that produced these textiles and eventually, they created high-tech machinery that moved to the automotive and aerospace sectors.
Now, Germany’s national textile industry is at the front of research, servicing universities and governmental centers.
Mimicking German’s drive for industrial innovation can only go so far when addressing the skills gap that exists within the United States, however. As Dave Arkless, the President of Corporate Affairs and Government at The Manpower Group, says, other countries don’t have the skills problems that we do because they’re able to forecast skills that are needed and then work with the educational system to prepare young people.
In Tianjin, China, for example (noted in the article linked above), the government pays for training cost, education, and accommodation for four years, and sets a guaranteed wage level if students go to a vocational university. Many students were interested, and business boomed over the last two years. It’s solutions like those that help other countries power through their very own skills gaps.
Although we probably can’t mimic the programs seen in other countries flawlessly, we can replicate a similar solution. If America learns a thing or two from places like Germany or China about industrial innovations and the skills gap, then we think that states like ours here in Nebraska can get back on the path of going head-to-head with these manufacturing giants.