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Young scientists wanted

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is creating more than a thousand new jobs this year. Various programs aim to inspire young people to go into research and technology, as well as recruiting well-trained scientists.

Fraunhofer is one of the most popular employers among engineers and natural scientists – an assertion confirmed yet again by surveys conducted in 2007. There are currently 13,700 people working at headquarters and in the research institutions and centers. And the head count is increasing all the time: 500 new jobs were created in 2007; 2008 should see the addition of another 1,000. The challenge is how to fill these posts with well-trained scientists. “Qualified engineers and natural scientists are urgently needed, not just to carry out ongoing projects in conjunction with industry, but to develop tomorrow’s new technologies,” says Professor Hans-Jörg Bullinger, President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft: “If we aim to be up there with tomorrow’s top R&D nations, then our staff must be creative today, come up with and implement innovative solutions.” But there is a shortage of well-trained natural scientists and engineers. 70,000 engineering posts went unfilled in 2007, with the figure set to rise to 95,000 this year, according to the Association of German Engineers VDI. The shortfall will increase sharply over the next few years, as not enough young people are studying engineer-ing or natural sciences. The upshot is that, for every 100 engineers retiring today, only 90 young engineers are graduating from German universities. Outside Germany there are 190 graduates for every 100 engineers retiring. “Part of our responsibility as a research organization is to promote the training of those urgently needed young scientists,” stresses Professor Bullinger. Consequently, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has set up various projects to inspire young people to move into research and technology. The Talent School gives interested youngsters an insight into the research activities at Fraunhofer. Fraunhofer also promotes young talent at its JuniorAcademy. Talented schoolchildren can build on their knowledge in workshops during the summer vacation. This year will even see a European JuniorAcademy organized for the first time. The Roberta® – Girls Get to Grips with Robots project demonstrates that girls can be just as interested in natural sciences and technology if the subject matter is tackled in the right way. The schoolgirls design, build and program robots, before, say, teaching them how to dance, all as part of the courses. The concept will now also be rolled out in other European countries. Retaining highly qualified scientists in Germany is just as important as inspiring young people to study natural sciences at university. The “Attract” program is one way of recruiting creative minds for the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Excellent young scientists have the opportunity to set up their own working group at a Fraunhofer Institute, honing their ideas into practical applications. They will receive annual funding of 500,000 euros for this purpose over a period of five years. Fraunhofer will be inviting applications for a total of 40 working groups through 2009; nine of these are already engaged in research work. There will be 100 million euros invested in promoting young scientists. “We aim to build on our leading position as an attractive employer for natural science and engineering graduates – not least because we owe our success to the outstanding work of our employees,” stresses Professor Bullinger.