Schleswig-Holstein's west coast is becoming a battery cluster: Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck gave the go-ahead for the establishment of a qualification center for battery specialists today, Monday, in Itzehoe with the handover of a funding decision. The federal government is supporting the project with a good 20 million euros. From 2026, up to 900 specialists are to be trained there each year. The project is unique in Germany and has a pilot character. The education and training initiative is being implemented by five equal partners: the two battery manufacturers Northvolt and CustomCells, the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology (ISIT), the Renewable Energies Hamburg Industry Network (EEHH) and the training company Heinze Akademie GmbH. The project is sponsored by VDI/VDE Innovation + Technik GmbH.
Battery cell production has developed into a key sector in Germany. High-performance energy storage systems are an essential component of the energy and drive turnaround, on the road, but also in the air or on water. The rapidly increasing demand for batteries is creating an extraordinary market - with forecast growth rates of 30 percent annually. The main driver is electromobility on the road: in Germany alone, the German government is planning for 15 million registered electric vehicles by 2030. But the Europe-wide shortage of skilled workers is threatening to slow the industry's high pace of innovation and growth opportunities. To counter this in the up-and-coming lithium-ion battery industry on the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany's Economics Minister Robert Habeck handed over a federal funding decision for around 20 million euros to a five-member consortium group of the battery cluster in Itzehoe.
A battery miracle in Germany is possible - and an opportunity of the century. The representatives of the QuW-LIB competence team (qualification and further training of specialists along the entire value chain of sustainable lithium-ion batteries) from the Hamburg metropolitan region are certain of this. The consortium analyzes the battery industry's need for skilled workers and designs tailored qualification profiles and qualification concepts. In particular, advancing digitalization, sustainability and the entry of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) into production require a holistic approach to education and training. This commitment is intended to sustainably close the looming skilled labor gap - and serve as a role model for the whole of Germany.
Background: According to estimates by the German government, more than 10,000 jobs will be created in battery production, use and recycling in Germany alone in the coming years. With the announcement of new and future projects - especially in the field of electromobility on the road or in the air - this number could again increase significantly. Also in the far north, the innovative energy coast: On the occasion of the planned settlement of the Northvolt battery cell factory in Heide in 2026 and the expansion plans of CustomCells - battery premium manufacturer for the automotive and aviation industry from Itzehoe - the location in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein alone will need several thousand workers in this field until 2030.
More than 20 million euros for the development of occupational profiles of the electrical future
In order to take account of this positive development, fast, unbureaucratic and flexible help is needed. This has now come from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK) in the form of a funding decision for job profiles for a green and electrified future in the amount of 20,101,480.65 euros. The project was put out to tender two years ago, the competence group from northern Germany participated and won.
Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection Robert Habeck: "Battery technology has a key function. It is enormously important for the mobility of the future, the energy transition and thus for Germany as a business location overall. Well-trained specialists are of immense importance for this. That's why we are funding six projects across Germany to secure skilled workers in the battery sector. Here in Itzehoe, it becomes tangible how this implementation can succeed. In this way, the project can also serve as a blueprint wherever the need for skilled workers cannot be met on the current labor market. Together, this will bring us decisively closer to a sustainable and highly innovative battery ecosystem in Germany."
The Fraunhofer Institute is one of the five consortium partners involved in the battery cluster on the west coast: In addition, these are the two battery manufacturers Northvolt Germany GmbH and the CustomCells Group, as well as the industry network Renewable Energies Hamburg (EEHH) as a network builder and Heinze Akademie as an education and digitalization innovator in the process. The project's sponsor is VDI/VDE Innovation + Technik GmbH, based in Berlin.
Energy coast setting an example for the whole of Germany
Dr. Dirk Abendroth, CEO of CustomCells, which initiated the funding project together with Heinze Akademie, says: "The electrification of mobility is central to the energy transition. For this, we need powerful lithium-ion batteries. And we can only meet this demand if we produce battery cells quickly, economically and in high quality. This can only be done by specialists who have been trained on the latest equipment. Our project is therefore a milestone for securing skilled workers in Germany as a battery location and an important step toward a sustainable future."
Christofer Haux, Managing Director of Northvolt Germany knows that the search for specialist expertise must go beyond the local market and above all requires uniform standards. Says Haux, "The European battery cell industry is an industry on the rise. While other industries already have fixed professional role models and training paths, we have to lay these foundations first. Training cooperation with our partners at the Fraunhofer site in Itzehoe will play a key role in this." Northvolt is planning to build a gigafactory 50 kilometers to the north, just outside the town of Heide, with 3,000 jobs and an annual production volume of 60 GWh. The planned annual production could equip one million electric vehicles with batteries.
Qualification program includes up to 900 professionals annually
Within the next one and a half years, a competence center will be built at the site of the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology (ISIT) with a learning street that will teach all process steps of the production value chain. From 2026, 600 to 900 specialists per year will then receive further training there at various levels of the German Qualifications Framework (DQR) - from offerings at the level of industrial-technical training, to specialist expertise at the academic level.
"Renewable energies are the engine of progress for Germany as an industrial location. Schleswig-Holstein plays a pioneering role in the energy turnaround and the West Coast in particular, with Fraunhofer ISIT, stands out as a beacon in the field of research and development far beyond regional borders. I am all the more pleased to contribute our many years of expertise in the development of innovative battery systems to this unique project," says Prof. Dr. Holger Kapels, Managing Director of Fraunhofer ISIT. And Dr. Andreas Würsig, Head of FAB-SH, adds: "With QuW-LIB, we are creating a talent factory at the highest level for the urgently needed skilled workers in the rapidly growing battery industry."
Cluster structure with enormous potential
"Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein benefit from good economic cooperation, as with the planned establishment of Northvolt in Heide. The educational offering we are developing in QuW-LIB is highly relevant for the energy transition and for many of our cluster members," affirms Jan Rispens, Managing Director at Branchennetzwerk Erneuerbare Energien Hamburg (EEHH).
Jan Heinze, managing partner of the consortium leader Heinze Akademie GmbH, adds: "For the entire region and for Germany as a business location, the project is a very great opportunity and we see it as our responsibility to seize this opportunity in an entrepreneurial way. This means that we will not only develop the most innovative and maximally scalable specialist training, but also implement it on a large scale at the earliest possible time."
Positive for the battery site: with the help of Heinze Akademie's digitalization expertise, the use of formats in virtual environments (VR and AR technology) means that the number of participants can be increased even further if required, as well as implemented independently of location and time, in order to meet the rapidly growing demand for skilled workers and at the same time simulate the use of future technologies. The focus is on the "green battery", which consumes as few resources as possible and can be recycled efficiently.
Further information on the project can be found at www.quw-lib.de. In addition to Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck, members of the Bundestag Mark Helfrich (CDU/CSU), Birgit Herdejürgen (SPD), member of the Schleswig-Holstein state parliament, as well as Ralf Hoppe, mayor of the city of Itzehoe, and Claudius Teske, district administrator for the Steinburg district, were present at the handover of the funding notification to the five-member consortium group in Itzehoe.