I read two unrelated accounts of brain drains today.
First, the Financial Times reports that Germany – Germany! – faces an acute shortage of engineers. For every 100 “old engineers” (a term not defined in the article), only 90 young engineers are being trained in Germany. Worse, many of the engineers that are being trained are leaping to Switzerland, which faces its own engineering shortages.
One of the principal reasons Germany is the world’s leading exporter is because of the excellence of its engineer-heavy manufacturers, particularly the Mittelstand companies that dominate global markets in highly specialized niches. I can’t imagine a more worrying portent for the future of Germany’s economy than a shortage of engineers.
In a very different context, Haim Watzman argues that Israel should seize the opportunity to recruit the world’s best and brightest to its universities and companies. I had a conversation this morning with someone about the chimera many regions chase of being “another Silicon Valley”. The truth, we agreed, is that there is only one Silicon Valley. We also agreed that there is one possible exception – Israel.
But as Watzman explains, Israel isn’t seeking out the world’s talent, unless they are Jewish. Like many other Jews, I take vicarious pride in little Israel’s continuing abilities to push out world-class innovations. But the blinkered strategy described by Watzman can’t last forever. There is a continuing brain drain and no reciprocal flow:
We’re draining brains because the Israeli meninges allow brains to flow only in one direction–out. It’s time to match the drain with a funnel that will bring new brains in.