Study "Fachkraft 2030": German university research made in Maastricht

Launched in the summer of 2012 as a rather modest doctoral project at the Department of Macro, International and Labour Economics at Maastricht University, the study series "Fachkraft 2030" has since developed into an extremely wide-ranging student survey in Germany. And possibly, a prime example of how research can be initiated and sustained with comparatively little funding. 

In the meantime, in 22 surveys almost 400,000 students across Germany have been asked about their situation while studying and their expectations of the labour market. The results not only enrich the academic and media discourse on education but have also long been applied at the corporate level. Above all, to question objectives and set a strategic course based on data. 

The start of Fachkraft

Was all this foreseeable in the summer of 2012? Not at all, as a brief review shows. The idea for the "Fachkraft 2030" study came from Philipp Seegers, who prior to his Ph.D. on education economics did an internship for the Cologne-based start-up company jobvalley (Studitemps GmbH), one of the largest student job agencies in Germany. 

As early as 2012, about 300,000 students were registered there to be passively informed about job offers. "At the time, I was looking to collect a large sample of university students for my research on decisions in higher education and their consequences. Jobvalley was and has been the ideal partner as they enabled me to contact hundreds of thousands of students", says Philipp Seegers, describing the original idea for the research series. An idea that immediately found favour with his former supervisor, Lex Borghans. 

What followed were talks with the jobvalley management about a cooperation from which both sides would benefit right from the start: On the one hand, researchers gained access to a large student sample, which was of much higher quality than initially thought. And on the other hand, jobvalley, because they could use the findings of the study to fine-tune their business model and educate their customers. "The study Fachkraft 2030 clearly distinguishes us from all other players on the market," says jobvalley Managing Director Clemens Weitz, for whom it is clear. "The regular surveys clearly help us to better understand our target group, the students." 

A bright future ahead

In terms of content, the study not only addresses questions that concern students in the here and now, like rent prices, part-time job interests or satisfaction with their studies, but also looks ahead: where and how would students like to work later and how much salary do they expect to earn? What do students expect from professional life and life in general? "We are always amazed at how intensively many participants devote themselves to the survey," says Philipp Seegers. "On average," and this might be the greatest mystery of the study, "students take 45 minutes to fill out the online survey and leave very positive feedback on how it helped them to think about their studies and future career." 

Participants even have the option to request the results of a psychological assessment like personality and cognitive ability that are part of the study for research purposes. "All sides really benefit from this project," says Clemens Weitz and he emphasises: "As a human resources company, we experience in a concrete way how applicable scientific knowledge can be in our day-to-day business."

It comes as no surprise that the corporation - which started as a singular data-collection in 2012 - is now going into its 12th year and shows no signs of running out of steam. There are many more questions to ask to students, for practice and research. The largest research sample of higher education students in Germany will continue to be collected by researchers at Maastricht University.​

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