CeBIT 2001, the world's largest information technologies and computer fair held in Hannover, Germany, just closed its doors. More than 830,000 visitors and over 8100 exhibitors set new records and again reflected the economic importance of the IT sector in Germany and worldwide. While the first job cuts and pink slip parties in Silicon Valley may indicate the dawn of a global trend reverse in the area, as Next Wave found, Germany's IT sector still offers plenty of excellent job opportunities for university graduates.
People who have been frequent visitors to the CeBIT in the past years have noticed changes: Several years ago, CeBIT visitors frequently inquired how to apply and they were lucky if they found someone who could answer their questions. Now, most exhibitors have set up special jobs and career services booths, because they have learned that their potential employees may well be visiting the fairgrounds.
The reason for these tremendous recruiting efforts is clear: There still is a severe shortage of highly qualified IT personnel. At last year's opening of CeBIT 2000, Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had addressed this shortage as a national challenge for Germany. With a booming industry, Germany's schools and universities were not able to train sufficient personnel to fill about 70,000 job vacancies. To ease this problem on a short time scale, the German government introduced the "IT green card" last August, a working permit and visa for foreign IT specialists, as Next Wave reported. At the same time, the IT branch promised to heavily invest in training and education in the next couple of years to cover the medium- and long-term needs.
One year later, there is still a high demand for skilled IT people in Germany. Of the 20,000 working permits that can be issued each year, until now, only 6200 visas have been asked for. "It is not correct to say that we are disappointed, but still, we had expected a higher demand," says Elisabeth van der Linde of the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMA). And there are many reasons for the somewhat delayed acceptance of the German IT green card: Eligibility requires that the candidate either holds a university degree or is being offered a guaranteed annual income of DM 100,000 or above. Also, Germany is in competition with other countries. While most IT experts speak English, only a few have learned German. Naturally, they prefer to work in countries like the United States, where they don't have to learn another language to be able to participate in social life.
Although the global trend seems to be reversing slightly, the job market situation in the German IT sector still looks bright: "A lot of job opportunities for university graduates are still out there," says Ansgar Bock of Compaq Germany. "If people are flexible, they can easily find a job." With attractive conditions--annual incomes start at about DM 70,000 for university graduates. Since most employers operate on a global scale, employees who prove to be valuable may also get the chance to work in foreign countries, especially in the Western United States or the Asia-Pacific Region.
Besides a university degree as a requirement, many companies also focus on their future employees' "soft skills" or social competencies, such as the ability to communicate or to work in teams or independently. And in times of severe shortage of fully trained IT personnel, industry even offers attractive boarding scenarios for motivated graduates with a less complete IT training. In such cases, companies like Fujitsu-Siemens or Compaq have developed several ways to further qualify their candidates. Some companies cooperate with universities or IT academies, others offer trainee programs within their own company environment. But, as Bock says, "IT know-how and programming knowledge remain essential for many positions."
BMA home page, including information about the green card regulations and the IT sector