A company is only as good as its people. But first you have to find them. Here INCH looks at what INEOS is doing to attract – and retain – the best
MANUFACTURING is becoming ever more complex and highly-skilled employees are becoming increasingly sought after.
The problems are global and well documented; the action and solutions less so.
In April last year Michael Collins, President of MPC Consulting, told Industry Week magazine that it was time to act.
“We have done enough ‘shortage of skills’ surveys,” he said. “We know what kind of skills and training programmes are needed. It is time for corporations to quit stalling and make the commitment to long-term training by seeing it as an investment, not an expense.”
As a company, which needs a continuous supply of highly-skilled, highly-disciplined and motivated employees to survive, INEOS has always believed in the importance of training and development, and knows it cannot afford to wait for government initiatives to solve the deepening crisis.
And it is a deepening crisis.
In America, a looming shortage of skilled workers could cut short its manufacturing renaissance.
“Over the next decade, nearly 3½ million manufacturing jobs likely need to be filled,” said a spokesman for US-based Manufacturing Institute. “But two million of those jobs are expected to go unfilled due to the skills gap.”
In a poll conducted last year by the Foundation of Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, 52% of American teenagers said they had no interest in manufacturing, seeing it as a ‘dirty, dangerous place that requires little thinking or skill’.
The UK fared no better. In October the UK-based Manufacturing Institute said teachers needed to understand that manufacturing was a good career.
“We are in the middle of a war for talent and it is concerning to see that this is beginning to hold manufacturing businesses back,” said Chief Executive Dr Julie Madigan. “Just to stand still, UK manufacturing will need hundreds of thousands of recruits in the next 10 years.”
In March this year business group EEF also highlighted the problem, saying Britain’s manufacturers were struggling to recruit skilled workers and keep pace with global technology.
But it’s not all doom and gloom.
Companies, like INEOS, are fighting back. And winning.
At INEOS Köln in Germany, O&P in the US and Grangemouth in Scotland, successful apprenticeship schemes are reaping real results.
Germany is perhaps the country that has been making real headway.
“People who get a job here say they feel like they have won the lottery,” said Dr Anne- Gret Iturriaga Abarzua, Head of Communications at INEOS Köln. “We take care of our people and we don’t have a problem recruiting. We don’t need to spend a lot on advertising. We don’t worry about the future but we are not complacent either.”
Andreas Hain, head of apprentice training at the German site, said every year about 1,800 young people applied for about 60 jobs.
All are asked to take part in an online questionnaire. From those almost 500 are invited in and interviewed for at least an hour each.
“We do invest a lot of time and effort,” said Anne-Gret. “But this is a high investment so we need to get it right, because if they start working for us, they stay. We have quite a lot of people who have been here for 45 years.”
Once INEOS has chosen its 60 apprentices – and all are likely to be highly motivated, enthusiastic, openminded souls with an interest in their communities – they are treated as part of the INEOS family.
“We take care of them from the moment they come in,” said Anne-Gret.
The apprentices learn on the job and attend the college on site. All the teachers are ex-workers.
“It means we can mould them in the way we want and bind them together in the company,” said Anne-Gret. “We want them to understand the company’s culture.”
Finding people who understand a company’s culture and ethos – and practise it by example – is key to any organisation that wants to grow and prosper in today’s competitive world.
In 2008 INEOS joined forces with Forth Valley College and Heriot Watt University in Scotland to launch its five-year modern apprenticeship scheme Engineers of the Future.
The scheme, which was modelled on the success of INEOS’ Köln site, combined a full university education with relevant, workplace experience.
“The concept of work experience placements, as part of a university education, was nothing new but the thinking behind it, was,” said Robin Westacott, director of the Engineers of the Future programme.
The work experience created ‘work ready’ graduates familiar with the site’s processes and procedures, and focus on safety.
“We want them to understand INEOS’ culture so that when they go down to the site to do their on-site training, that culture is already embedded,” said Kenny MacInnes, deputy head of engineering at Forth Valley College.
Jennifer Prentice, Duncan Paterson and Mark Skilton were among the first graduates to complete the bespoke course. All now work full-time for INEOS.
“The quality of these graduates showed clearly that the rationale for the programme had been fully achieved,” said Gordon Milne, Operations Director at INEOS Grangemouth. “They set the bar very high.”
INEOS Olefins & Polymer USA’s college recruiting campaign is also paying dividends. It has been so successful that it has effectively helped the business to establish a ‘talent pipeline’ for the future.
“We have been able to bring in and develop some terrific people who, have and will, continue to contribute to our company’s success today and in the future,” said HR Director Sam Scheiner.