Home News MEM industries aim to leverage Switzerland's skilled labour potential
Contact Person  Ivo Zimmermann Ivo Zimmermann
Head of Unit
+41 44 384 48 50 +41 44 384 48 50 i.zimmermannnoSpam@swissmem.ch

MEM industries aim to leverage Switzerland's skilled labour potential

The working population is growing older and the birth rate falling. These trends, together with the introduction of quotas for foreign workers, threaten to seriously exacerbate the current shortage of skilled labour within the mechanical and electrical engineering industries (MEM industries) over the next few years. Swissmem has therefore come up with a skilled labour strategy aimed at making better use of the existing labour force potential in Switzerland. It prioritizes the promotion of young talent and aims both to increase the number of women within the industry and keep older employees involved in the work process for longer.

According to a study commissioned by Swissmem and conducted by consulting agency B,S,S. Basel, there is currently a suspected shortage of skilled workers in five of eleven occupations typically found in the mechanical and electrical engineering industries (MEM industries). Specifically, these are MEM information technology specialist, MEM engineer, machinist, MEM technician and technical specialist. Over the next five years, 17,000 people will need to be recruited each year in order to replace MEM staff who are due to retire. In certain occupations, efforts to train new workers are not sufficient to meet this need.

Owing to adverse demographic trends and the planned introduction of quotas for foreign workers, the shortage of labour in the MEM industries is likely to worsen considerably in the coming years. In order to meet this challenge head on, Swissmem has been working intensively on a skilled labour strategy over the past few months. "We have to make even better use of the labour force potential within Switzerland", explains Swissmem President Hans Hess. Swissmem is focusing on three areas of action: "Promoting young talent", "Women/Families" and "Older workers".

Swissmem previously launched an initiative to promote young talent back in 2009. This has already met with success by allowing Swissmem member companies to fill an above-average number of apprenticeships in the technical occupations, for example.

Attracting women into the industry

With regard to women and families, Swissmem aims to significantly increase the number of female professionals within the MEM industries. "Boosting the potential of women as qualified workers is an important and challenging field of action when it comes to eliminating the shortage of skilled labour", Claudia Gietz Viehweger, Managing Director of Gietz AG Gossau, emphasized at the Swissmem media conference. The fact is that women are just as suited to a career in industry as men. Moreover, women working in the MEM industries receive equal pay for equal work, as a Swissmem comparison of salaries within the sector shows.

It is therefore imperative to invest in raising awareness and encouraging girls to take an interest in technology at an early stage. In addition, in its skilled labour strategy, Swissmem outlines ways in which companies can improve the compatibility of family and career and promote child care. Women (and men) who wish to work part-time also represent a further potential source of labour for the MEM industries.

Creating adapted models for older employees

Apparently, awareness among companies of the challenges presented by demographic change is still not strong enough in many instances, which calls for a rethink. Targeted measures are required to keep older employees involved in the work process for longer. Swissmem has come up with a series of recommended actions, its "Swissmem BestPractices 50+". These are currently being refined and prioritized before being presented to the member companies. Swissmem also recommends that companies facilitate the horizontal mobility of older employees at an early stage and introduce a health management system. Last but not least it is possible to offer flexible retirement models, and the law-makers should support this by adapting the Occupational Pensions Act. Swissmem generally recommends restricting access to early retirement. The greatest potential among older employees as a skilled workforce lies in the over-64s: their participation rate in all MEM occupations is practically zero.

Investing in employees pays off

Creative ideas and a willingness to implement them create opportunities for companies in the MEM industries to make better use of the skilled labour potential that exists within Switzerland. The Swissmem skilled labour strategy provides impetus for this to happen and delivers concrete modes of action. Hans Hess is convinced that: "Investing in employees pays off in the long term." Because, without enough qualified labour, companies – and therefore also Switzerland as a place for work – will be slowly but surely starved.

For further information please contact:

Ivo Zimmermann, Head of Communications

Tel.: +41 (0)44 384 48 50 / mobile: +41 (0)79 580 04 84

E-mail: i.zimmermannnoSpam@swissmem.ch
Philippe Cordonier, Contact for French-speaking Switzerland

Tel.: +41 (0)21 613 35 85 / mobile: +41 (0)79 644 46 77

E-mail: p.cordoniernoSpam@swissmem.ch