Production capacities in the German battery industry will increase significantly in the coming years. Fraunhofer ISI recently projected a tenfold increase in production capacity in Europe by 2030, which also means tens of thousands of new jobs. “Production is only one part of this. Research and development are becoming increasingly important, and the same applies to green batteries and holistic digitalization. To keep pace with this worldwide, we will need well-trained specialists,” says Dr. Dirk Abendroth, CEO of the Customcells Group. Abendroth sees a particular opportunity to attract more well-educated women to the industry than has been the case. “The gender gap has also grown historically in many industries. We must avoid this mistake in the battery industry from the outset,” Abendroth says on International Women’s Day (IWD) this year.
Women are still a minority in STEM fields
Although the proportion of women in MINT has increased over the past few years, women are still less likely to choose to study in this field. The proportion of female first-year students increased by just 3.7 percentage points between 2001 and 2021, to 34.5 percent at last count, according to recent figures from the Federal Statistical Office. A look at degrees also shows that in 2020, only 22 percent of bachelor’s degrees and equivalent degrees in STEM in Germany were earned by women. Across the EU, this is the lowest proportion. “Ever since my first lesson in chemistry at school, it was clear to me that I wanted to become a chemist,” comments Dr. Anne Baasner. Baasner studied the use of silicon-based anodes in lithium-ion full cells at TU Dresden and has been working as a project planner at Customcell’s Itzehoe site since 2019. “A mix of curiosity and a positive attitude. That’s exactly what’s driving us forward in the battery sector right now.”
Shaping the future of the industry to be as diverse as possible
“Of course, we at Customcells are striving to further increase the proportion of women and make the future of our industry as diverse as possible. But ultimately, there is also a task behind this for society as a whole,” says Dr. Daniela Werlich, CTO at Customcells. “This includes getting girls more excited about scientific issues in schools and, at the same time, ensuring more visibility for women in relevant fields. For example, I, myself, promote scientific professions every year at the Science Summer School of the Freie Walddorfschule with us in Itzehoe,” says Werlich.
The CTO of the premium battery cell manufacturer adds about Customcells itself that visibility within the company is also important. “A certain amount of flexibility in terms of time on the job also helps women to find a better work-life balance. Here, we will certainly have to discuss corresponding offers more in the future,” says Werlich. To this end, Customcells relies on flexible working hours and the option of remoting work, among other things. The new sustainable office complex at the Itzehoe site, which will be ready for occupancy this year, offers the best conditions for this.
“Customcell’s motto is ‘powered by people’ – and that also means ‘powered by women’. We are convinced that diversity makes an important contribution to achieving top results,” says Christina Hein, Head of Manufacturing Engineering at Customcells. “The technology and manufacturing of batteries are ultimately only as good as the team that works on it together, especially in the field of battery cell research.”
Expansion and extension of sites create new jobs
Customcells is currently expanding its production capacities at its Itzehoe and Tübingen sites. In Itzehoe alone, this will double the total number of employees working in development, production, and administration. The number of employees will also continue to rise in Tübingen, where production capacity for battery cells that enable electric flying is being expanded. “To what extent the battery industry’s production capacities in Europe will be sufficient remains to be seen. In particular, the electrification of the aviation sector still offers tremendous potential that has yet to be tapped,” says Customcells CEO Abendroth. “But to do that, we need women and men on board in equal measure. At Customcells, we want to do everything we can to ensure the best talent – regardless of gender – joins our mission.”
Here is a summary of the current job postings at Customcells: