SMEs find it increasingly difficult to recruit qualified personnel. This is primarily due to the demographic change in our society, which shows a significant ageing of the active population. As early as 2020, every third employee will be over 50. We will then see more 50-year-olds than 30-year-olds in our companies.
The struggle for smart people – or the “war for talent”, as it is rather menacingly called in English - will intensify significantly. This situation creates major difficulties especially for smaller companies. Even now, the share of vacancies in companies with less than 10 employees is approx. 20%, while it is only 10% in companies with more than 200 employees.
What needs to be done? The deteriorating situation requires new approaches in recruiting young talent and in selecting candidates. Throughout the year, the talent scouts of bustling companies populate recruitment fairs and use their university contacts at information events organised by universities. And exhibitors of leading global trade fairs such as wire and Tube are also familiar with this problem.
Quality control © WAFIOS AG
“In recent years, we have noticed a significant drop in candidates. And we assume that the number of candidates will continue to decrease in the next few years”, says Ms Kerstin Barth, Personnel Officer of WAFIOS AG. “But we are fortunate, as we have not seen any significant downturn in the qualifications our candidates already have”.
The WAFIOS Company from Reutlingen is considered to be one of the global leaders in the market for wire and tube working machines and has significant activities in the cold forming sector. It offers traineeships for occupations in the industrial (industrial mechanics, electronics technicians, mechatronics fitter), technical (technical product designers) and commercial segments (industrial clerk) with all trainees being trained in the standard dual system of vocational education.
“We also cooperate with the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg, DHBW) in several bachelor courses (Bachelor of Engineering: in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science). And we offer training according to the “Reutlingen Model”.
In this model, trainees go through a regular company-based two-year training course as industrial mechanics and simultaneously attend Reutlingen University of Applied Sciences (FH Reutlingen) for a first semester of their mechanical engineering studies. When they have completed their vocational education and are qualified as industrial mechanics, they continue their studies for another five semesters.
For the Personnel Officer, the advantages are obvious: “All parties benefit from the close ties between the students and our company, as special prior knowledge and contacts can be deepened by the training. And there are continuous contacts also during their university studies; we have created a roundtable event for students and alumni of the Reutlingen Model – the RT Modellers‘ Roundtable -, for example, which is also attended by trainers and personnel managers.“
Furthermore, the company offers summer jobs and mentoring for the bachelor‘s theses of students participating in the Reutlingen Model. Such an elaborate system of keeping in touch pays off for WAFIOS AG. Kerstin Barth: “This is all done on a voluntary basis, as the students are not tied to our company after completing their traineeship. But especially these bachelor‘s and master‘s theses have been an opportunity for us to recruit a dozen highly qualified employees in recent years.”
A highlight of the LSW plant tour at the start of vocational training: the new trainees experience their first tapping of the electric arc furnace. (Photo: Markus Kihm)
Lech-Stahlwerke GmbH, a company producing more than 1,000,000 t of reinforcing steels and high-grade steels per year. The company is a recycling company and a steel rolling mill in one. In addition to the building sector, its customers primarily include the European automotive industry and its suppliers.
The new vocational training year started at Lech-Stahlwerke on 1 September. Of a total of 150 candidates, 15 young persons were selected and have now successfully completed their first three months of training.
The trainee cohort of 2012 consists of five machine and plant operators, four industrial mechanics, three electronics technicians specialising in industrial engineering and one industrial clerk. This year will be the first, in which Lech-Stahlwerke also trains two materials testers specialising in heat treatment technology.
For Klaus Raab, LSW‘s Vocational Training Manager, this is also the start of the recruitment phase for the 2013 training year with the recruitment being managed completely online. Candidates, who are interested in joining the company for the next training year, will find information on the LSW website and can also submit their applications online.
This year‘s group of applicants already included 50 candidates for one position in the commercial segment, but only 35 candidates for the 12 positions offered for industrial occupations. “Especially when it comes to industrial occupations, good people are picked up quickly”, admits Klaus Raab. Following a two-week initiation phase at LSW, the industrial trainees go to the MAN site in Augsburg. They will spend most of their first training year at this site, as LSW offers training in cooperation with the MAN Company to offer its future skilled employees a better preparation for their wide range of activities. When they have passed the exam at the end of their training, they may look forward to a permanent career with Lech-Stahlwerke.
The training coordinator also feels that the company‘s cooperation with Leoben University in Austria has worked out very well. The company regularly takes in so-called ‘Ferialpraktikanten’ (holiday interns) from the University of Mining in Leoben, which is approx. 400 km away from LSW, and these seasonal interns can do the mandatory internship required for their study programme at LSW. In addition, up to 30 students from Leoben get seasonal holiday jobs.
The intensive familiarisation with the life of employment including a remuneration in line with their performance, and the more intensive contacts with the plant already attracted some students from Leoben who have joined the company as permanent employees. For Klaus Raab, this is a win-win situation: “We send our master technician/craftsman candidates to Austria for further education courses. This type of cooperation ultimately pays off for all parties involved.”
Recruiting and the digital media
Both companies use the platforms of universities or the Chambers of Commerce and Industry (IHK) for their acquisition efforts. And their vacancies are also found in the online job exchanges preferred by younger applicants. The company websites include search and registration pages for school leavers and jobseekers. This is the fast lane, underlines Klaus Raab: “The dossiers of the persons registering on these pages or posting an online application will basically land straight on my desk.”
“In the near future, we will also introduce additional interactive options on Web 2.0 platforms”, confides Kerstin Barth. “We would like to give our trainees an opportunity to set up their own Facebook site: and we also plan a comprehensive corporate profile on Xing.”
She believes that a company‘s affinity to the social media is not so much related to its size, but to the age structure of the company: “For young people, the Internet is something completely natural. And when you want to reach this target group, you will have to handle this issue appropriately.”
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1957 als eigenständige Weiterbildungseinrichtung innerhalb des Vereins Deutscher Ingenieure gegründet, hat das VDI Wissensforum mittlerweile 3000 Referenten, die in über 1000 Lehrgängen, Seminaren und Foren jährlich mehr als 25.000 Teilnehmer unterrichten.