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Shaping the future world of work

The digital transformation is one of the greatest challenges facing our economy and will therefore also have a major impact on the world of work. How can digitization create opportunities for innovation and good working conditions? Which skills will we need in the future? And how can employment policy support these changes in the workplace so that they benefit people? It was not only the political parties’ general election manifestos that were influenced by these questions. Proposals for the transformation of work and training were also put forward by various expert committees, including the Expert Forum on Innovative Workplaces of the Federal Government’s High-Tech Forum and the Hans Böckler Foundation’s Commission on the Work of the Future. Digital education was one of the key themes of the Federal Government’s 2017 Digital Summit. The Digital Pact for Schools is an initiative of central and regional government aimed at improving digital resources in schools that is due to commence in 2018. acatech contributed to this debate through a variety of initiatives, dialogues and events.

How digitization can benefit both employees and businesses

Digitalisation offers businesses the opportunity to achieve long-term improvements in their productivity, innovativeness and rate of innovation. It also affords employees greater flexibility and autonomy in terms of how they organise their work, allowing them to strike a better balance between their private lives and the specific requirements of their job. In the recent publication “The Future of Work in the Digital Transformation: Agility, Lifelong Learning and the Role of Employers and Works Councils in Changing Times”, the Human Resources Working Group of acatech and the Jacobs Foundation (Forum for HR Directors on the Future of Work) describes the concrete challenges facing companies in practice and formulates proposals for the future development of corporate strategies, statutory regulations and co-determination procedures.

The key objective is to shape the transformation of the world of work in a way that benefits both employees and businesses. It is critical that employees should be able to actively shape the transformation themselves. The transformation will primarily come about through trial and error – companies and their employees need the freedom and space to try out different ways of working. When the findings were presented at the Federal Chancellery in June 2017, Minister of State Helge Braun remarked that “We must take advantage of the opportunities that digitalisation brings for growth, prosperity and additional job creation. The Working Group has presented valuable ideas and suggestions for an open dialogue on the future of work.”

Presentation of the HR Working Group’s findings at the Federal Chancellery on 29 June 2017. Left to right: Ulrich Weber (Deutsche Bahn AG), Henning Kagermann (acatech), Minister of State Helge Braun (Federal Chancellery), Dieter Spath (acatech), Christian P. Illek (Deutsche Telekom AG) and Joh. Christian Jacobs (Joh. Jacobs & Co. (AG & Co.) KG, Jacobs Foundation). 

Identifying tomorrow’s competences today – national competence monitoring

Which competences do we need in Germany to ensure that new technologies translate into opportunities to add value and create jobs and to maintain our international competitiveness? This question is at the top of the agenda in the innovation policy dialogue between government, industry, academia and civil society. As well as training and professional development questions, the dialogue aims to address issues such as research and development, business models, knowledge transfer and the government’s policy framework. acatech has developed a methodology for a national competence monitoring system in conjunction with the Federation of German Industries (BDI) and the Hans Böckler Foundation. The partners tested the methodology by applying it to the two strategic issues of data science and smart energy storage systems. Members of the working group presented the findings of these two pilot projects at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in December 2017.

High-quality education as the key to innovation and inclusion

Digital education is not just about learning programming languages or increasing the number of computer science classes. Schools must prepare young people for living and working in a world where change and permanent transformation are the norm. In this environment, the most important skills are creativity, problem-solving and collaboration.

Barometer of Young Talents in the STEM subjects

In 2017, the Barometer of Young Talents in the STEM subjects published by acatech and the Körber Foundation focused on “Education in the Digital Transformation”. The Barometer of Young Talents reveals that digital education in schools is still by no means a given. Three quarters of ninth year students use a computer almost every day at home, but only one percent also do so at school. Primary schools have also been slow to make use of digital teaching resources. Just 20 percent of 6-8 year-olds regularly use a PC in class or during breaks and after-school activities.

Design thinking workshop

In response to the findings of the 2017 Barometer of Young Talents in the STEM Subjects, acatech, the Stiftung Bildungspakt Bayern and the Münchner Kreis held a workshop with education practitioners and planners in Bavaria to develop innovative organisational solutions for schools. The Munich Re Innovation Lab provided an ideal setting for this event, which was one of seven national education dialogues organised by the Digital Summit’s Expert Group on Intelligent Education Networks.

((BU)) Project leader Ortwin Renn presents the results of the 2017 Barometer of Young Talents in the STEM Subjects at a stakeholder dialogue on 22 June 2017 in Berlin. This year, the Barometer focused on “Education in the Digital Transformation”.

Expert panel at the start of the workshop held in Munich on 24 October 2017: Christoph Igel (German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence), Manfred Prenzel (Technical University of Munich, acatech Member) and Marc Wagner (Detecon Consulting; right to left) discussed future ways of living and working.

Rethinking STEM education

A round table organised by acatech and the Siemens Foundation in early 2017 addressed one of the key themes of the most recent PISA studies – the need for Germany to place greater emphasis on supporting its top STEM talents. This will require a systematic approach to discovering and fostering talent, similar to that employed in elite sport. Research centres for school students should be established, allowing them to engage in advanced scientific research and experimentation outside of the school environment. The event was organised in cooperation with the The National STEM Forum.

((BU)) Graphic recording of the results of the round table for lateral thinkers on fostering STEM talent.

Analysing and preventing student drop-out

acatech and TU9 carried out an in-depth investigation of the high student drop-out rates in the engineering sciences, which are a highly charged issue in the field of education. Their findings, which were published in December 2017, revealed that the university drop-out rate in the engineering sciences of about 23 percent is significantly lower than was previously thought. The study collected and analysed data for approximately 50,000 students. This allowed a distinction to be drawn between drop-outs and students who switch universities or subjects. An analysis of university best practices showed that aptitude assessments are the most effective instrument for reducing drop-out rates. Other factors that can make a valuable contribution include high teaching standards and targeted support for students when they begin their studies. One of the key recommendations made by acatech and TU9 is that the governments of Germany’s federal states should afford universities as much freedom as possible to provide attractive study conditions that prevent drop-outs. The joint acatech and TU9 project Student Drop-out in the Engineering Sciences was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

((BU)) Undersecretary Peter Greisler (BMBF), Wolfram Ressel (University of Stuttgart), Dieter Spath (acatech) and Eberhard Umbach (acatech); left to right.

acatech projects in the thematic field of Education and Skilled Professionals in 2017

Completed projects  
Student Drop-out in the Engineering Sciences Aug. 2015 – Dec. 2017
Barometer of Young Talents in the STEM Subjects July 2013 – July 2017
National Competence Monitoring (pilot) Feb. 2016 – Dec. 2017
Innovation Indicator July 2015 – July 2017
Ongoing projects  
Human Resources Working Group – Forum for HR Directors on the Future of Work May 2014 – Dec. 2018
The future of business processes: towards the future of office work with automation through artificial intelligence (SmartAIwork) Nov. 2017 – Nov. 2020