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University cooperations and other approaches to student retention

The number of first-year students in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science has risen slightly – after a recent negative trend. Nevertheless, only about half of these students successfully complete their studies. This development poses a challenge to mechanical and plant engineering, where there is a particularly high demand for well-trained specialists. For this reason, companies are increasingly concerned with attracting the attention of the upcoming generation at an early stage – university marketing represents one possibility.

On August 16, 2023, ProduktionNRW organized a virtual exchange of experiences for the mechanical and plant engineering sector from NRW in order to exemplify the contact opportunities with students in the technical field at the University of Wuppertal and to discuss further approaches. For companies and universities, cooperation represents a win-win situation on both sides – university teaching gains practical relevance and companies in the region become visible to the future generation.

University marketing and cooperation with industry

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Peter Gust, Vice-Rector Third Mission and International Affairs at the University of Wuppertal, first presented the university’s cooperation opportunities with industry. Accordingly, companies can take advantage of recruiting offers (Stellenwerk job portal or recruiting days), presentation offers for students (JobTalks, skills workshops), involvement of alumni (KarriereTalk digital, Career Stories), visit formats at companies (excursion weeks) or support offers (Deutschlandstipendium).

In addition to these more general offerings, Bergische Universität Wuppertal also offers the lecture series “Special Mechanical Engineering through the Mechanical Engineering Network Bergisch Land”. This lecture series covers, for example, legal aspects of machine safety, automation or artificial intelligence. The corresponding lectures are held by lecturers from the Bergisch Land network and there is also the opportunity to carry out internships in one of the participating companies.

Practical report: Addressing students at an early stage

Christian Dorr, Chief Administrative Officer, K.A. Schmersal GmbH & Co. KG, and Siegfried Wolf, Head of tec.nicum, K.A. Schmersal GmbH & Co. KG, presented the company-related activities in the area of its own recruitment of young people. In addition to the training workshop and regional activities, the company also cooperates with universities and technical colleges. At universities, guest lectures are held, internships and projects for students are offered, and bachelor and master theses are accompanied. In addition, K.A. Schmersal GmbH & Co. KG also participates in the lecture series on special mechanical engineering at the University of Wuppertal. This is because the company is also endeavoring to highlight its own attractiveness as an employer as well as visibility for technical and business management professions among the next generation of employees.

Discussion on further approaches

The final discussion focused on the fact that university marketing activities are difficult to measure. Several years may pass before students successfully complete their university education. Nevertheless, it is important to be visible to the future target group – especially for possibly unknown hidden champions in the region. In addition, participants were encouraged to approach universities and universities of applied sciences and offer their own expertise on a special topic – many lecturers would gladly accept such offers, also to enhance their own teaching. In addition to cooperation with universities, cooperation with schools was also addressed. Those present were encouraged to try out new approaches, such as holding workshops for students in their own companies.

The participants also noted that mechanical and plant engineering in particular should approach the young target group with courage and creativity. Especially technical solutions that are not directly perceptible need new approaches to visibility.

Further information

The event was offered by ProduktionNRW. ProduktionNRW is the cluster of mechanical engineering and production technology in North Rhine-Westphalia and is run by VDMA NRW. ProduktionNRW sees itself as a platform to connect, inform and market companies, institutions and networks among each other and along the value chain. Significant parts of the services provided by ProduktionNRW are funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Protection and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.