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Into the professional life without a university degree

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April 14th, 2022

How important is a university degree for professional life? Some time ago, Deutschlandfunk spoke to Dr. -Ing. Mathias Bohge about this. His company R3 Solutions is currently looking for new employees, which is not easy. There are not enough graduates in the IT sector to meet the needs of companies.

With my coffee cup in my hand, I switch on the interview again. Mathias Bohge is an electrical engineer and co-founder of the young industrial company R3 Solutions. The former start-up develops a highly specialized networking technology. Today, Mathias Bohge leads the company as one of two managing directors. His thoughts on the thesis "A university degree is always good, but not always necessary" make me ponder. Our society has imprinted itself - I perceive - with the idea that only with a top degree will I have top opportunities in professional life later on. But I have my doubts about whether that is really the case - at least since I heard Mathias on the radio.

The IT sector is growing. According to Bitkom, the number of vacancies for IT professionals has increased by 12% from 2020 to 2021: there are currently 96,000 open positions. And more and more IT start-ups are emerging with ever exciting new solutions. But there are not enough qualified graduates with a university degree. One thought keeps me thinking: what do we actually mean by qualified staff? Mathias Bohge clarifies his view in an interview with Deutschlandfunk: a degree is good; ability and enthusiasm are better.

Job market: totally empty

When it comes to hiring new staff, young companies like R3 Solutions first use their own network of contacts. But at some point, as Mathias Bohge describes, this pool is exhausted. That's where the six-year-old company he and his colleagues have built up is now. They are searching everywhere - at universities and sometimes even with the support of headhunters. However, the search is proving more difficult than expected. There are simply too few graduates, at least fewer than are actually needed. But there are also good people without a university degree, and R3 solution gives them a chance.

"We have to find people who want to get involved, who are smart and intelligent," says Mathias Bohge in the interview. Young companies competing with large corporations cannot pay the same salaries. Therefore, developers and programmers without university degrees come into focus. Do they have a chance? "Yes, definitely. If there are people who are good at it and who are able to programme at that level." The cover letter, personal commitment and how the applicants present themselves are of greater importance. Mathias Bohge says he looks primarily for potential and whether the person will be an asset to the company in the foreseeable future. If he can answer these points in the affirmative, nothing stands in the way of getting to know the person. Mathias Bohge is also aware that it takes time for people to adjust to a new working environment: "We are all different.

According to Mathias Bohge, applicants must have "what it takes". But what does that mean? His explanation: "I have to see that the person does it because the task is exciting. That it´s not just about earning money, but that there is a certain fascination. Because a lot is demanded of the employees in the company in order to realize the customers' ideas. This can only be achieved with "great personal commitment", says Mathias Bohge. For this commitment, R3 Solutions grants its employees a lot of freedom and also freedom of choice. Basically, anyone with a strong interest in the IT industry has a chance for an interview at R3 Solutions - whether with or without a university degree, with a passed degree or an aborted study.

Self-study: program

"It is important to be able to programme at a very high level," emphasizes Mathias Bohge, "But that doesn´t necessarily require a degree in computer science. He describes that he himself has successfully completed a degree in computer science, but still: "I can't programme what my employees partly programme. Accordingly, those who can are of course worth their weight in gold for us".

The electrical engineer draws on his experience. He worked for a management consultancy for several years, where he got to know smart graduates from top universities. But he also met people who had a degree in their pockets but were nowhere near as good as expected. Accordingly, dropping out of university does not mean that an applicant is inferior. Rather, the profession of a developer requires a talent for development. This can be learned at universities but can also be achieved through self-study together with a lot of practice. After all, there are enough "tutorials on any video portal", says Mathias Bohge.

The university degree does not count primarily, but one's own ability and will - This view was something new, unfamiliar, almost exciting for me personally. And at the same time, it was reassuring. It is pleasant that people who make decisions in the application process see the aspirations - especially at a time when more and more pressure is being put on young people from outside to have a university degree as the only starting point for the professional world.