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Lift industry: “We need good people”


The skilled labour shortage in the lift sector is a constantly recurring topic. Has the Corona crisis changed anything about it? What are its causes? We asked Andreas Hönnige about this.

Hönnige is the managing director of the VFA-Akademie, which is responsible for lift technology further training and education. He has been in charge of the Working Group Safety, Education & Training at the ELA European Lift Association. Hönnige is managing partner of Liftcore – a technology provider for the lift sector.

Some time ago, Schindler announced it would cut 2,000 jobs worldwide. Is the shortage of skilled labour in the lift sector still an issue in the era of the Corona pandemic?
Hönnige: The shortage of skilled labour will remain an issue irrespective of economic conditions, since due to technological developments and changing market requirements, the requirements for skilled labour will change constantly. Cutting jobs in big companies and the associated higher number of skilled workers on the labour market can only relieve the shortage of skilled workers regionally and for a short period.

Andreas Hönnige. Photo: © VFA-InterliftAndreas Hönnige. Photo: © VFA-Interlift

Does the situation differ in the sector or are all suffering - from lift builders to component manufacturers?
Hönnige: The activities and as a result also the knowledge required of skilled workers often differ considerably between lift builders and component manufacturers. The shortage of qualified workers does in fact affect everyone in our sector.

What are the causes?
Hönnige: The lift sector is relatively small and not very present in the media. Those starting their careers or changing them often do not perceive it as an interesting professional option. What counts is getting the idea of the lift sector as an attractive and forward-looking sector into people's heads via all effective media.

Will the situation ease in the medium term, because workers are entering the market due to the crisis of the automotive industry and its subcontractors?
Hönnige: When company bosses talk about the shortage of skilled labour in their businesses, they often say, "We need good people." What they mean are skilled workers who are highly qualified, motivated, high performers and as experienced as possible. Skilled workers, e.g. from the automotive industry and its subcontractors, who are becoming available increase the chances of finding employees who are motivated and prepared to work. By means of targeted further education and training in the lift sector, the shortage of qualified skilled employees can certainly be ameliorated for some companies.

In Europe, many envies our dual track training system. Would the situation be better if the lift sector had an apprenticeship of its own?
Hönnige: A training profession especially for lifts, e.g. lift fitter or lift technician, would at any rate boost visibility of the lift sector as a professional option and as a result contribute to improving the situation. In fact, there are already existing training professions that have a great content overlap with the requirements for lifts. The specialisation or deepening in the "subject lift building" specified in the training certificate has to be enforced vis-à-vis the chambers.

Photo: © Konstantin Pelikh/123rf.comPhoto: © Konstantin Pelikh/123rf.com

How can SME companies hold their own against the competition of big company groups if they headhunt employees with salaries the former cannot pay?
Hönnige: Money isn’t everything. Soft factors are likewise important for many employees, such as flexibility, the journey to the workplace, relationship with colleagues and superiors, appreciation, etc. SMEs can also deploy their strengths self-confidently in recruiting. On top of this is the fact that SMEs also have good wages.

You have been the chairman of the "Safety, Education and Training Committee" since the beginning of 2019. What is the goal of the working group – what has to happen at the European level?
Hönnige: In brief, the committee has two main objectives. First, this is defining practical rules for safe working on lifts and also for their safe use, and secondly defining the specialist knowledge that has to be acquired as a minimum according to the relative activity in the lift sector. When it comes to the subject of safety rules, we are well along the road with the "safety brochure" of the ELA, which will incidentally soon be available in a revised version. When it comes to the subject of qualification, only a few countries offer structured further training and education. Fortunately, in Germany, we really are in a very good position thanks to what the VFA-Akademie offers. Our experience in Germany will now help us to promote a minimum qualification level for Europe.

What do members saying about the situation in Europe?
Hönnige: The shortage of skilled labour is a European, indeed, a worldwide issue. "Good people" are sought after and welcome everywhere.

The questions were asked by Ulrike Lotze.

More information: vfa-akademie.de

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