Today, the realities are that many segments of the Russian economy are running short of qualified personnel.
Over the past 15–20 years, the labor market has undergone significant changes. A large number of new areas, specializations, professions have appeared. However, the demographic component during this period has not only not improved, it is rapidly regressing: the working-age population is decreasing. The mentality of a modern employee is also changing: the priority is lighter and more comfortable working conditions, partial employment, a shift in focus to family, recreation, entertainment. And this applies not only to representatives of generation Y and Z. In this regard, of course, industrialists especially face difficulties; those associated, for example, with heavy engineering.
Despite the rapid and widespread digitalization, robotization of industries, the Russian engineering industry has not yet kept pace with innovations, it still remains the field of application of heavy physical labor. The reason for this is the rather high cost of production equipment and, as a result, the duration of its updating processes. Most of the production base of industrial enterprises is represented by machines inherited from the Soviet period.
The staff involved in working with them should not only want to, but also be able to do this, given that training in modern universities and colleges takes place on more advanced equipment. Many graduates simply do not own mechanics skills, and without it you can not work in such a production unit. In addition, if there is a wide choice of job opportunities, not every employee agrees to such “deprivation.” Hence the age gradation of staff from 35–40 years, that is, those who studied the profession at the junction of the nineties, during the equalization of the production base with the students’ one.
Of course, young people do start working at heavy engineering enterprises, but 0% personnel deficit is not observed at industry enterprises in recent 20 years.
An important role in the problem was played by the situation that has developed in the last decade of the 20th century: the symbiosis of the growing economic and political crises, the unstable situation in the labor market, the closure of many industries, and the depreciation of universal human values. These trends could not but affect the younger generation, which, when choosing a professional path, shifted the focus from working directions to the so-called humanitarian sphere.
Young people stopped dreaming of working as machine workers, welders, locksmiths — these jobs becoming overnight inconceivable, and sometimes ashamed — choosing the sphere of economics, jurisprudence and other fields. Unfortunately, with the gradual restoration and development of the industry, the fashion for “work with hands” has not returned. What will happen in a dozen years, given the mood of today’s teenagers for the so-called blogging and the like, is difficult to predict. One thing is obvious: without a focused policy of business and the state, the infusion of significant means of popularizing working specialties into the industry, the situation will only get worse.
Is there a way out? I think yes, although quite costly, including costs in time. This, of course, is the modernization of production, the implementation of investment programs, the introduction of new technologies aimed at both facilitating labor and reducing human labor resources. Already, companies are ready to invest billions of rubles in the re-equipment of their sites (for example, the investment program of one of the largest transport companies in Russia — LokoTech LLC, which includes the Astrakhan Diesel Repair Plant, annually amounts to several tens of billions of rubles and in the long run plans only to increase). It is impossible to rearm overnight, but in the event of a favorable economic situation in the country and in the world, the task is quite solvable.
The second aspect is the motivation of the staff: both material and intangible one. Business needs to be aware: the better an employee works, the more versatile and qualified he becomes (including at the expense of an employer who invests in his development as a specialist, for example, by opening a training center on the basis of an enterprise), the more the employer makes a profit. So, the salary of an employee should increase proportionally, his working conditions should become more comfortable.
The relationship here is obvious. The loss of at least one link can destroy the entire logical chain – the employee will be pulled to the side of a more “loyal” competitor, the business will again have to spend significant funds to select the right candidate. In turn, the employee, wanting to receive decent wages and working conditions, should be ready for constant self-improvement, advanced training, shift for his universality, finally.
Avoiding any changes, as in good Soviet times, which they so often recall recently, will not work. Times have changed. A competitive employee today is a mix of knowledge, experience, desire not to stand still, but to learn and improve himself. All this, coupled with multifunctionality and stress resistance, is a guarantee of demand in the labor market.
Do not forget about the trend that stirred up both large and small companies during the pandemic – the development of internal communications. To one degree or another, they existed earlier, but they received close attention, a feeling of extreme demand — even, if you want, vital necessity – at a time when most of us were almost completely isolated.
Only after that, CEOs began to understand the importance of simple human communication within the company, supporting staff at the verbal level. As practice shows, it not only kept many workers at work in such a difficult period, but also continues to attract applicants during the period of lifting restrictions. The reason is the employee’s awareness of demand for him, his importance for the employer, and a sense of psychological comfort.
Well, the third aspect of the problem under consideration is the maximum interaction of industrial companies with higher and middle-level educational institutions in order to obtain personnel from mass professions for the business needs. So far, despite the numerous meetings of representatives of the parties, anyone graduates from most universities and colleges, except specialists, who are in demand actually. Or young specialists do not have the qualifications that industrialists need. Here the hope is only for the parties to be able to hear each other and understand that it is necessary to move in one direction, to one goal.
The combination of competitive wages, professional development opportunities, career growth, comfortable working conditions, successful vertical and horizontal communication will not only attract qualified specialists, but will allow them to be kept in production, giving an opportunity for development and promotion in the company, to maintain a sense of stability and confidence in the future among employees. Again: we cannot do without a competent policy and economy, because enterprises do not receive money, but earn money, but to achieve the goal it is necessary not only to stay afloat, but also to develop — we cannot do without it.
By Andrei Biryukov, HR-Director of Astrakhan Diesel Locomotive Repair Plant – a branch of Zheldorremmash JSC