Which company needs metallurgy engineers

The steel industry urgently needs engineers

Metallurgy and materials engineering students are individualists. Like Thomas Myslowicki, born 1973, is doing his doctorate at the TH Aachen. He was attracted by the wide range of scientific disciplines, the good career prospects, the wide field of work as an engineer and the financial support. Thorsten Böllinghaus decided on the metallurgy discipline because the courses with only 40 to 50 students and personal contact with the chair are "almost family-like". Eva-Maria Nüsperling studies metallurgy because here as a woman she is no longer a "lone fighter", because the faculties are clear, the job prospects are good and the income opportunities are very satisfactory.

Engineers in the steel industry have become scarce. After around 500 beginners enrolled at the leading universities of Aachen, Clausthal, Freiberg and Duisburg in 1990, of which experience shows that around half graduate, the number of those enrolled fell to a good 100 in 1996 after reunification. Since then it has stabilized at around 180. However, the graduates only reached their lowest point in 2003 with just 50 fresh engineers in metallurgy and materials technology, although the annual requirement is around 200.

So the scissors gape a lot. Far too few engineers come from universities. At the same time, however, the share of engineers in total steel employment has risen from three percent in 1985 to 7.2 percent today - with rapid growth. Innovation and globalization force higher qualifications. Even if the number of employees in the steel industry has fallen from 417,000 in 1960 to around 103,000 today and will continue to fall, the need for engineers is growing. With 46 million tons of crude steel, Germany is the market leader in Europe (28 percent). The industry ranks fifth worldwide. Number one is China with 15 percent of the world's steel production of 847 million tons.

The fact that graduates from grammar schools, secondary schools and technical colleges are rediscovering metallurgy and materials engineering as attractive professions with a great future is not least due to the fact that the steel industry is more intensely recruiting than before. Dieter Ameling, President of the Steel Federation and Chairman of the Association of German Ironworkers, points out the importance of steel as a material. "Steel is ultra-modern," says Ameling, not least because of its close connection to innovative sectors such as the automotive industry, mechanical engineering and plant construction.

It is not only the supervision at the university that is unusually individual because of the relatively low number of students. The industry itself and the steel trade association go to great lengths to attract students and school leavers. The financial support system for students is also attractive. Those who show their hard work receive scholarships between 100 and 250 euros per month from the Association of German Ironworkers. This grant is granted for a maximum of ten semesters with a standard study period of eight semesters if the graduate has worked for a member of the industry association for at least three years. In practice, however, companies that do not belong to the Association of German Ironworkers pay back the scholarship for the graduate if they recruit him.

The starting salary for engineers in metallurgy and materials technology is usually around 37,000 euros. If the companies are on the hunt for the next generation of management staff, they will add something. After about six years, the salary increases to 50,000 to 65,000 euros per year with the first managerial responsibility.

Ameling also justifies the good future prospects for metallurgists in the steel industry with the strong increase in the number of steel engineers. A total of around 6200 engineers are currently employed, 3400 of them with university degrees and around 2800 from universities of applied sciences. But rejuvenation is necessary. 40 percent of engineers are under 40 years of age. Around 30 percent have passed 50.

The steel industry is an international branch. "Nothing works without English," says Ameling. The areas of application are correspondingly diverse. International contacts can also be made in Germany, and internships (at least six months) are also offered. The French-Spanish-Luxembourgish group Arcelor (45 million tons of crude steel) with locations in Bremen, Eisenhüttenstadt and Thuringia offers global applications. The Indian group Ispat (22 million tons of crude steel) is represented on all continents except Australia, here in Hamburg and Duisburg. "The career opportunities for engineers in the steel industry are excellent," says Ameling. All career paths and the whole world are open to a committed university graduate.