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Published: 2 month

What can Debrecen do?

Competition for talent, for a quality workforce, is increasing. This is particularly true for Debrecen and its region, which is one of the most exciting parts of the country for investment. On 20 March, training institutions, leading local and national employers - with a German background - shared good practices and challenges in a business forum organised by the German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DUIHK) and HR Portal as media partner.

Debrecen munkaerőpiac német-magyar fórum-

\"Quality vocational education and training is the adequate answer to the labour shortage\" - began Éva Skultéti, Secretary General of the County Chamber (HBKIK). She added that, unlike in previous decades, workers are changing jobs more quickly. Thus, companies need to put more emphasis on retention. Barbara Zollmann, CEO of the German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DUIHK), also stressed that recruitment and retention are two key issues for business organisations, which is why this business forum was organised.

Barbara Zollmann DUIHK

Barbara Zollmann, CEO of the German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DUIHK): key question is how to find and keep employees

"Since 2015, €12 billion worth of investment has come into the city. Thiscould create 20,000 new jobs by 2030, and these are quality, well-paying jobs," said Zoltán Pécskay, CEO of EDC, the city's investment promotion company, outlining Debrecen's success story over the past decade. Of these, 7,000 jobs have been filled so far. The CEO said that German companies have always been present in the city, with Schaeffler, Manz and Deutsche Telekom having set up in the city in the past. In the investment boom that started in 2015, Krones was the first to arrive, followed by BMW.

In ten years, the number of workers in the city has risen from 84,000 to 91,000, 60,000 of whom are employed by companies, two-thirds of them small and medium-sized enterprises. Debrecen started from a big disadvantage compared to other economic powerhouses in Hungary, but has made up for it. While 79% of the working-age population in Budapest and 85% in Győr are employed, the figure in Debrecen is 69%. This is still a low proportion, but Zoltán Pécskay hopes to close the gap by 2030. "The 69 percent employment rate also indicates that there is still a labour reserve in the city. We are also seeing more and more former Debrecen residents returning home from Budapest, the west of the country or abroad because they see opportunities here."

Zoltán Pécskay said that the city's strong educational background, its vocational training institutions and university were important factors in the investment decisions. In recent years, the number of students has increased, which also indicates that there will be a greater draw for companies when these young people graduate. Ten years ago, there were 11,000 unemployed young people starting their careers in the city, now there are only 4,500, meaning that almost everyone can find a job immediately.


Zoltán Pécskay: 20,000 new jobs in Debrecen by 2030

The EDC Debrecen will focus on small and medium-sized enterprises in the coming period. They will help them to improve their HR and work efficiency through training, and they are also working with the German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce on this.

The labour resources of the North Great Plain region were highlighted by Erika Salamonné Maráczi, training development expert at the German-Hungarian Knowledge Centre. Citing KSH figures, she said that unemployment in the three county capitals of the region - Debrecen, Nyíregyháza, Szolnok - is below 3 percent, which already means full employment. In contrast, the average for the three counties including small towns and villages is 5.8 percent. He considers important the recently announced government programmes (we wrote about them here earlier - editor's note), which aim to get young people into work, support their mobility and target the inactive.

Local educational institutions play a key role in providing the workforce in Debrecen. It was said that a strong educational background was necessary for so many companies to locate in the city.

Vocational training is no longer a dead end: competition for places

The local base for training graduates is the University of Debrecen, where more than 10,000 people start their studies every year, including 2,000 foreigners. The institution is one of only three Hungarian universities (along with Pécs and Szeged) that offer a full range of higher education courses. Most of the foreign students study in English, and with degrees in engineering, IT and economics, they can easily find jobs in international companies. Elek Bartha, Deputy Rector for Education, also drew attention to the specialised further education courses: these are more flexible, can be started more quickly and the content is developed in cooperation with the company partners.

The 11 schools belonging to the Debrecen Vocational Training Centre, which is in contact with 250 corporate dual partners, teach seventy professions and train 12,000 young people, said Zsolt Tirpák, chancellor of the Debrecen Vocational Training Centre. Since 2015, the number of students in vocational education has almost doubled. "However, it is not enough to attract children to vocational training, we also need to offer them a vision of the future and a career path, which we can only do together with our corporate partners", the Chancellor stressed. "The advantage of dual training is that companies have a greater role to play, with more 'enterprise-ready' students graduating from them".

R Zsolt Tirpák noted that the perception of vocational training has changed over the last ten years. "There is now serious competition for applications. Those who come here do not choose a dead end. You socialise in a corporate environment, you get a profession that you can get a job in immediately after graduation. The doors of higher education are not closing for them either." They are currently working with the University of Debrecen to enable students to enter university through a simplified admission procedure. That is, if they meet the requirements in the final year, they will automatically be admitted.


From left to right: Zsolt Tirpák (Debrecen Vocational Training Centre), Péter Szabó (Schaeffler Debrecen Kft.), Zsolt Boros (Vámosgép Kft.), Elek Bartha (University of Debrecen), Erika Salamonné Maráczi (German-Hungarian Knowledge Centre)

Automation is coming, skills levels need to be raised

One of the longest-established German-backed multinationals here is automotive supplier Schaeffler Debrecen, which arrived 25 years ago. Managing director Péter Szabó said 700 of their 1,600 staff have been with the company for an average of 13 years. They initially trained their staff themselves and then joined the dual training system. He noted that thinking three to four years ahead is the key to succession planning.

P Péter Szabó drew attention to an important trend, automation, which is challenging the labour market. It means that typically low value-added jobs are being replaced by machines. As a consequence, there will be no need for people to do this kind of work, but there will be a shortage of more highly skilled workers. This is why the level of skills needs to be raised.

This is how Manz Hungary trains and retains the next generation

"We don't just build machines, we also build professionals" is the motto of Manz Hungary, which set up in Debrecen 20 years ago. The German group was founded in 1987 and employs 1,500 people in six countries, 160 of them in Debrecen. The Hungarian subsidiary is engaged in classic machine manufacturing. Welding, CNC machining, solvent painting and assembly are some of the main activities. Their expectations are defined by the fact that their products are custom-made. They can standardise the technology, but not the production steps. You need a specialist with basic expertise in each of these areas. Managing director Csaba Juhász said that they employ 50 students in addition to their 160 full-time employees. They are involved in dual vocational training, dual higher education, work with a school cooperative and are also looking for new employees through traditional advertising.


Juhász Csaba (Manz Hungary): we don't just build machines, we also build professionals

"The key to retaining young people is to give them a predictable, clear vision of the future", says CEO Csaba Juhász. Manz has developed a two-year career programme for young people, a career contract is signed with them, and it is clearly defined what the employer and the employee are committing to. The programme is divided into six-month parts: young people are supported by a mentor, they receive and give continuous feedback, and there is a partnership approach. Learning does not end with the career programme. In 12-month periods, all employees are trained, with soft skill training such as leadership, competency development, coaching, lean, in addition to professional courses.

Juhász Csaba drew the attention of company managers to the creation of a supportive work environment and workplace culture. "When someone comes to us, their first impression is that they are here to help." He also stressed that mistakes are not seen as a negative if employees learn from them and share them with the company. That way, no other employee will make the same mistake next time.

The manager believes that dual students should be integrated into the company's bloodstream from day one. Students are full members of the company, they get the same work uniform as everyone else, everyone is on a first-name basis. It is also essential that all employees are aware of the company strategy, where each department is in the implementation process and what they can add to it. At Manz, pay is also handled transparently.

Funny programmes contribute to a sense of belonging. Sometimes, on a Friday, one department cooks for all the employees.It is important that the programme plans do not only come from above, but that the workplace teams organise them themselves, which is also supported financially by the company. Examples include visits to local star team DVSC handball matches, football and bowling. These programmes help young people to integrate into the team and give them a sense of belonging. Last year, Manz Hungary entered the German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce's "Reliable Employer" competition and was awarded the title.

At the business forum held in the building of the Hajdú-Bihar County Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the legal (CMS Hungary) and HR (Work Force) aspects of recruiting foreign staff were discussed and two companies - Continental and Güntner-Tata - shared their experiences in this field.

Picture of the Reformed Church of Debrecen

FPhotos by Zoltán Karácsony

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