Train Up A Child

Many parents buy certain toys for their little tykes in the hopes of influencing them down a certain career path, and now it appears that large German companies think parents might be on to something:

Germany’s shortage of engineers has become so acute that some of its leading companies are turning to nursery schools to guarantee future supplies. Industrial giants such as Siemens and Bosch are among hundreds of companies giving materials and money to kindergartens to try to interest children as young as three in technology and science.

What puzzles me is that since demand for engineers outstrips supply so greatly, wages for new engineers would presumably be soaring at the moment and encouraging many an indifferent German college student to speed up his studies or even switch majors. Even though an eager response to a wage-premium might take a few years to fill the gap, it would still be faster than waiting twenty years for preschoolers to get all growed up.

The answer seems to be that the scarcity is artificial:

The chairman of one large German industrial group said: “The loser here will be Germany, not the companies. We can always go to Asia to find our engineers. So everything we can do here – even something like going into kindergartens – helps.”

Companies like Siemens are virtually like institutions in Germany, so there’s a certain obligation that their workforce be made of the sort of industrious German that flatters the country’s self-image. The irony is that this not-so implicit requirement makes these companies less competitive and thus may be perversely encouraging their speedy decline.