If We Lack Trained Staff, We Need to Develop Them

The deficit of good management and social responsibility towards workers is the cause of labour shortage

Radomir Cholakov:

If We Lack Trained Staff, We Need to Develop Them

Снимка: EconomyMagazine/Krassimir Svrakov

360 ~ 4 мин. четене

Radomir Cholakov is the Executive Director of KAOLIN EAD. He was born in Plovdiv, graduated from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” and specialised in Germany. The activity of KAOLIN is related to the extraction and processing of industrial minerals, which are used in the chemical, porcelain, glass and metal industries. Since 2014, the company has a German owner, the Quartzverke concern, which is among the top 5 European companies in the area of industrial minerals.

The well-developed mining industry is one of the advantages of the Bulgarian economy. During the privatisation, most companies in this area fell into good hands. The industry itself did not allow any experiments to be made with it, but relied on experience and professionalism. That is why it is among the most sustainable industries. Today, there is a revival that comes from the large-scale investments made by large enterprises in the industry. Everyone who wants to remain on the market introduces new technologies and the latest generation of production means.

KAOLIN EAD has over 90 years of history and is an example of sustainability. The new owner of the enterprise, the German concern Quartzverke GmbH, has over 140 years of history. Currently, we

Invest in Modernisation

of the factories in Senovo, Vetovo and Kaolinovo, and also in the construction of the new large plant for processing of quartz-kaolin raw material near Dulovo. It will be the most modern one in Europe, with a total investment of about BGN 100 million. We reinvest our profit because we believe in the future.

Many new technologies are being introduced into the mining industry, Industry 4.0 is a reality for us today. But I don’t understand the passion with which people talk about how robots will displace people. Robots will not make people redundant, only the requirements towards them will become much higher. Currently, the machines that dig instead of the old-time miners are, in fact, robots. But they need to be managed, maintained and repaired by specialists with even better qualification and skills, since technology becomes more complex.

For many years in Bulgaria, we have been deceived by the saying that we have a lot of

Highly Qualified Workforce

Many people, however, were attracted by the higher wages abroad, and meanwhile, the secondary vocational education entered a crisis. Now, the question is how the people in Bulgaria can increase their qualifications. More and more companies are establishing their own training centres, because, over the years, there has been a major collapse of the education system and it no longer produces the staff needed to the economy. Bulgarian schools lack the flexibility to adjust to the needs of the businesses in the respective region. But big companies can’t wait for the educational system to react and they take things in their own hands.

Three years ago, on the explicit insistence of our German owner, we started a

Dual Training Project

This is a model aimed at children with an interest in technology and crafts, which gives them the opportunity to acquire practical skills. We introduced the new system together with Vasil Levski Secondary School with vocational classes in Vetovo. This is the former mechanical school, which was focused on teaching information technology. This speciality, however, was imminently sending graduates to Sofia and other places, where the outsourcing and technology companies were, and this led to the depopulation of the municipality. We received the support of the school management and started to introduce specialities that would find realisation with us, as well as in other enterprises in the sector: mining, laboratory technicians, electrical engineering, mechanics. In 2017, at the factory in Vetovo, we found a vocational training centre, equipped according to the highest German standards. The dual class enjoys great success, and practically, at the moment, all children are in the vocational classes of Kaolin. If the students want to develop professional skills, we will continue to give them the opportunity, even though not all of them will work with us.

KAOLIN is the

Best Employer

in this region and we have no difficulty in finding workforce. This is a German enterprise in each detail - the attitude towards people, the workplace and the pay. That is why I will say that everyone who wants to do serious business is obliged to be socially responsible. They must understand that the most important capital is people, and if they want a long existence, there must be an adequate policy towards their employees. An enterprise that is not socially oriented disappears quickly. Those that remain are the ones that, among other things, care about the social conditions of their people.

Our company invests in the future, and the future is people, not things. But there is no universal formula on how to keep the people in Bulgaria and qualify them. All this is done industry by industry. There are enough people in Bulgaria, but we lack quality. In this situation, I find it inappropriate to rely on a workforce from the outside, instead of

Qualifying the Available People

We must never come to cannibalisation, in which some people take the work of others, because it was easier for us to import ready-made professionals. This would be socially irresponsible and even dangerous. Every industry has to solve the problems of the workforce for itself. There is no magical solution. But I think that the fact that we can’t train our people and keep them in Bulgaria is not due to the people themselves, but to the managers. There are no bad people, only poor management. When we go to those for whom we say that they have no skills, we see that they want a chance. So, we have to give it to them. In Bulgaria, there is a deficit in management and a deficit in our social responsibility towards the workers. If we manage to change these two things, there will be no labour shortage.

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