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Company News, 2009-08-24, 01:14 PM

Safeguarding jobs for trained workers

Around 100,000 young, highly qualified skilled workers from all professions will complete an apprenticeship in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2009. For many training companies the economic crisis is posing a dilemma: Given the shortage of skilled workers, they have an urgent need for the people they have spent so much money and effort to train. But at the same time, the economic situation is preventing many companies from offering those completing apprenticeships skilled work straight away. In a project that is unique throughout Germany, ThyssenKrupp Nirosta and the employment agency Agentur für Arbeit Krefeld have been taking a new approach since July 2009.

Christiane Schönefeld, head of the North Rhine-Westphalia branch of the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit), and Klaus-Peter Hennig, Human Resources Director at ThyssenKrupp Nirosta, presented a new concept for safeguarding jobs in Düsseldorf today (August 24, 2009). Through short-time work and further training, companies are securing their skilled labor needs and offering viable prospects to skilled workers who have completed their apprenticeships. Everybody wins. Young skilled workers at ThyssenKrupp Nirosta are given additional training in all areas of the cold rolling mills and melt shops, with the focus on production, maintenance and quality assurance. 100 trained employees who are not required to work in the company’s operations are combined in a personnel pool and placed on “0” short-time work. The employment agency pays short-time compensation (60 or 67 percent). ThyssenKrupp Nirosta tops up this amount to 90 percent. The short-time work runs for a period of 12 months, during which time the young skilled workers undergo further training at the Krefeld, Benrath, Bochum and Dillenburg sites. They learn basic theory that goes beyond their apprentice training and reinforce this through practical work. The trainers are experienced employees of ThyssenKrupp Nirosta with differing qualifications covering all areas of the cold rolling mill and steel melting shop. They were trained by ThyssenKrupp Nirosta to be trainers. In order to guarantee quality, ThyssenKrupp Nirosta agreed with the employment agency that a trainer should only be responsible for five trainees. This training program is being financed with money from the European Social Fund.

Schönefeld understands the dilemma facing companies: “Young skilled workers who are not offered any reliable prospects in the profession they have learnt because of the economic crisis will look to find work in other areas, accept temporary employment as semi-skilled or unskilled workers, or become unemployed and fall behind altogether. These skilled young people are lost to the company. In many cases, they are also no longer available as skilled workers. Anyone who can offer intelligent solutions and viable prospects will be at a definite advantage when the economy picks up again.”

The training measures are supported by external trainers, who guarantee the quality of the programs. This is a condition for obtaining TÜV (technical inspectorate) and Chamber of Commerce certificates (e.g. as a quality technician or under AEVO – the German law for the qualification of trainers and instructors). In this way ThyssenKrupp Nirosta is bridging the difficult situation regarding the recruitment of apprentices and is gaining time for personnel adjustments. The most important thing is that well-trained young employees stay “on board” and that know-how is safeguarded and passed on.

Hennig sees this as a logical continuation of the project “Jung und alt für Nirosta” (JAN – Young and old for Nirosta). “In recent years the apprentice training policy at ThyssenKrupp Nirosta has already been responding to the demographic shift, focusing on strategically reducing the average age of the workforce and building up a strategic personnel pool as a labor reserve. The company has also provided apprentice training beyond its own needs. The guided transfer of knowledge under the JAN project met with a very positive response from young and old. But due to the economic crisis ThyssenKrupp Nirosta has had to rethink its personnel policy in the light of new conditions such as underutilization of capacities, personnel overhangs, short-time work and a lack of opportunities to use this strategic personnel pool. A new HR strategy takes account of the need for flexibilization and optimization and aims to adapt the shift model from 21 to 18 shifts. To sum up, the aim of all our measures is to safeguard jobs for the employees of ThyssenKrupp Nirosta in the company and also for the labor market.”

As the school year came to an end and the summer break started, marking the end of apprenticeship training programs, unemployment levels among the under 25s soared across North Rhine-Westphalia. At the end of July 2009, 101,520 unemployed people were below the age of 25, a leap of 16,580 or almost a fifth compared with June. Year-on-year unemployment in this age group was up by 17,660 or more than 21 percent. In purely arithmetical terms, some 90 percent of the roughly 18,000 increase from June to July was accounted for by young unemployed people. In July, 14,330 people registered as unemployed in North Rhine-Westphalia after completing an apprenticeship. In the first seven months of 2009, the number of newly registered unemployed people totaled 26,650, almost 19 percent more than in the comparable prior-year period. Whereas unemployed people in the 25 to 55 age group with a professional qualification have to wait an average of 161 days before finding new employment, younger people find new jobs much faster, after just 75 days.

“Even though young skilled workers find new jobs more quickly, the commitment to retaining trained employees in the company and providing them with further training both maintains and expands their skills. And given the need for skilled workers, that’s something our economy desperately needs,” said Schönefeld.

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