Internationalization or brain drain?

– di Carlo Gorla, Politecnico di Milano

Prof. Carlo Gorla, Politecnico di Milano, Italy.

Occupational mobility in Europe is increasingly becoming a reality, even as a result – but this is certainly not a positive aspect – of the different economic trend of the member States. Even engineers of the industrial area are experiencing this trend and although in Italy, according to statistics, almost all engineering graduates find a job within a year, the offers that North European companies, primarily Germany, propose to the Mediterranean area are increasingly growing. Germany “actively recruits” more and more brains (also Italian) as headlined in an article by the Sole 24 ore last April. And it’s easy to be confirmed: EURES “European Employment Services”, which belongs to the European Commission, has held in Barcelona last March, the “Engineer in Germany” job fair, which culminated, with the signing of some contracts, and with a selection process started a few months earlier with the publication of announcements and sending of résumés. I did a quick search on the net and I found an announcement expiring in May and job interviews in June in Mestre Italy too. Engineers specializing in mechanical and aeronautical design, stress analysis, fatigue and damage tolerance, risk analysis and FMEA, software development: these and other leading professionals were required, even in this case, by German companies. Among needed requirements, also the knowledge of languages which, fortunately, are no longer a barrier to our youngsters.

The numerous available opportunities meet with the increasing tendency towards internationality: also in my daily experience I notice more and more interest of students for experiences abroad, such as periods of study at foreign universities, thesis abroad, double degrees, or initiatives for international cooperation.

On the one hand, all this is the natural consequence of a positive process of internationalization that we must continue promoting, supporting and sustaining; on the other hand, having no evidence of a symmetry or at least significant bi-direction in the mobility of skilled technicians, it is also an opportunity for some inevitable consideration. However, it would be a defeat if the proper effort of Italian training system towards internationalization, necessary for a preparation that should ensure competitiveness of our graduates on an open market, would end only in order to encourage a one-way “brain drain” towards other States.

The only solution is to make our labor market more attractive for our engineers, at least for those who wish to come back after a few years, but here the story gets complicated….