Home Business Feralpi anticipates succession plans and grows technicians and engineers “at home”

Feralpi anticipates succession plans and grows technicians and engineers “at home”

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“We have extremely competent technicians and they will do such a high level of training that they will train the engineers themselves.” Joining a large steel company, today, is like calling into question an entire imaginary of the world of work, where there are workers who work, engineers who design and managers, executives and employees who deal with management. In his reasoning, the director of human resources of the Feralpi group, Antonio Cotelli, dismantles the image of the old organization of work to bring us into a world that never ceases to amaze, for its high technological content, not even the thousand people who every year they visit the site of Lonato, in the province of Brescia. It is a sector that has evolved and «by now the difference between white collar and blue collar has been narrowing, also from a salary point of view», he says. And he considers training a fundamentally important issue on which «we have seen the mutual benefit of creating collaborations with other companies, including competitors. Together with 4 other large Italian steel groups we have created an academy that is giving important results and I believe that it is extremely useful to try to strengthen sector projects to exchange and strengthen skills ”, adds Cotelli.

The generational change

But above all it is a sector that requires a lot of attention to prepare the turnover, given that with the misalignment of skills that is on the market, to replace people it is necessary to prepare the succession with plans up to 3 years. The time it takes in the steel industry to acquire the skills and enter the role, especially at a managerial level. Feralpi is one of the main steel producers in Europe and specializes in steels for construction, special steels, beams. It has over 1,700 employees, distributed between the two most important production sites, in Lonato and Riesa, in Saxony, in East Germany, and the other offices located in France, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Algeria. Cotelli describes it as «a large family-controlled company (headed by the Pasini family, ed.) That has always had a long-term vision. I only tell you that already in 2004, almost 18 years ago, it had a sustainability report. It has not entered into these issues now, like many other realities ». It is precisely this vision that has led to rethink the organization, always guided by business continuity and growth. So over time the group has worked “at the governance and organizational level, creating business units and divisions, both by product and by geographical area, since 2019”, says the manager.

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Over the next 5 years, over 300 million euros will be invested in various areas, but always with a very strong focus «on the challenges of the steel industry, ie decarbonisation, energy efficiency, circular economy, reuse of more sustainable production materials. All this is essential for our sector and will impact technical skills even more than it already happens today “, says Cotelli. It is thus a strategic priority to prepare in time even in a company where” there is a very limited turnover. , generated almost exclusively by people who retire – says Cotelli -. On average we have about thirty workers a year who leave at all levels of the organization to retire. In recent years we have grown steadily in total group numbers because turnover is not only being replaced, but there are also new hires. Against 25 30 exits, we make an average of 40 hires per year ». Our conversation thus enters the heart of the theme of the themes of manufacturing in Italy and, that is, the difficulty in finding people. A theme that does not concern only certain company populations, but is of interest to managers as well as workers. If we take the managerial level, «we must keep in mind that it takes from 3 to 5 years to accompany a middle manager to acquire the necessary skills to best fill a higher level role. Precisely for this reason it is important for the company to have succession plans – underlines Cotelli -. So we launched a succession plan that is not linked to specific needs, but has the aim of identifying, for each of the key positions, the potentials to grow and enable them to seize the opportunity when it presents itself. To ensure business continuity, the generational shift today requires thinking in the medium term “.

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The misalignment of skills

In manufacturing, the difficulties in finding people with the right skills are not lacking, as emerges, in general, from many statistical data, both territorial and national. «A practical demonstration comes from the fact that ITS foundations often struggle to start training courses because there are not enough young people to start the classes. Yet these are paths that guarantee the certainty of employment for 95% of those who follow them. We have been systematically at the forefront of ITS for many years now, as demonstrated by our relationship with the Mechatronic ITS of Lonato ». In fact, the generational change among managers goes hand in hand with that of technicians. «The misalignment between demand and supply of work means that companies today have to think in perspective, knowing that the field of education is struggling to keep up with business needs – says Cotelli -. Here the question of collaboration with the territory opens up where companies, in recent years, are not very generous in giving support and are often driven by utilitarian interests. But you need to have a broader view, at the system level. Companies must open up to the local area, collaborate very generously with schools and ITS, something we have always done because it is part of our vision and our DNA “.

The German system

In Germany everything seems to be simpler. The group has a site similar to that of Lonato in Saxony, where over 700 people work. Again it is not easy to find professionals, especially as the site is located in East Germany and there is a tendency for young people to migrate west. «Certainly the country has a very structured dual training system with very important numbers which helps. In Germany there are more than 800 thousand young people who follow professional paths, in Italy we have 19 thousand young people who attend ITS. This is also reflected in our numbers: if in Italy we have 4 trainees who come from the ITS of Lonato, in Germany we have 42 in dual paths. In Lonato, if we want to have 20 students from the mechatronic ITS, we should hire the whole class, which is why I say that companies need territorial support for ITS “. A lot of attention has been paid to the youngest in the alternation courses on which they have been collaborations started with 4 high schools in the province of Brescia. “All very demanding projects for the companies that make themselves available but, in our case, without a utilitarian purpose, so much so that the invitation to the students is to continue their studies: our goal is to pour a value on the territory, also, but not only, with the hope that the children will then be able to return to us in the future », continues Cotelli.Feralpi, in addition to collaborating on initiatives in the area, also develops its own programs and with other companies in the sector. From the siderplus which provides 148 hours of training and final tests to verify the skills acquired up to the courses to have the license to drive forklifts which provides another 140 hours.

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