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Fit for the job market

Employability debates away from academics

Eckehard Betz, CEO of the POLIFILM EXTRUSION subgroup in an interview about

  • The role of employability for manufacturing companies
  • Recruiting abroad as a response to demographic change
  • Personal tips for attracting employers

The POLIFILM EXTRUSION companies are primarily production companies. In the employability debates, reference is often made to academics who start their professional lives in a top position and then fall behind. To what extent does the issue of expectations and being suitable for the labour market play a role for industrial employees?

It always depends on where industrial employees want to work.
In technical areas such as maintenance, appropriate training is necessary. As a production employee, previous education is desirable but not absolutely necessary. We, for example, do not necessarily require training, but are a training company ourselves. Production employees also have the opportunity to undergo structured training from production assistant to plant operator and on to setter, and make it to management level. There will be a new format that will enable newly recruited employees to see future career opportunities as soon as they join the company. But what applies to everyone equally is that they have the necessary interest and, above all, the will and stamina to take on the challenges.

What challenge do you see as the biggest for your company?

So far, we have mainly operated our facilities in Germany. Here, we are confronted with demographic changes. Our biggest challenge is to make our company attractive to all age groups. This is not easy, especially because we have a production process that must run around the clock, 365 days a year, which means shift work in practice. Not everyone enjoys that. So, we are now also recruiting in European countries. This brings the next challenge of integrating and retaining the employees recruited from there. After an initially steep learning curve, this is now working quite well.

What is particularly important for it to work?

Our executives, who are directly responsible for integrating foreign employees, undergo training in dealing with different cultures. However, it is just as crucial that they continually convince the existing team of the purpose of this approach – recruiting from abroad. And they have to do it over and over again.

You mentioned demographic change. To what extent do companies like POLIFILM EXTRUSION need to readjust job profiles and conditions to remain successful in the future?

The market situation for young workers and the personal situation of older employees require a continuous change in our demands. Recruiting young workers plays a significant role in the POLIFILM world. However, I see the increase in the retirement age as an opportunity for the company because we don‘t want to miss out on the experience of older colleagues. Also, nowadays, we are much fitter at an older age than we were 30 years ago, and we can still perform well if it‘s enjoyable. For colleagues who have done hard physical work their whole lives, this is more of a challenge, and we address it within the framework of the Company Integration Management (BEM). For those who can no longer meet the requirements, we try everything to find an adequate replacement position within the company.

Where are all these issues located internally?

Primarily in the Human Resources department. However, the topic is too important to delegate to a single department. That‘s why it is also a regular part of our meetings at the top management level and has a prominent place in our ten-year strategy.

Appropriate staff fluctuation is also an opportunity to counteract the “inbreeding” of managers.


It sounds like there will be plenty of measures to follow. Do you sometimes have concerns that, due to all the qualification measures, colleagues might be lost to the job market?

This is a natural development, and that‘s a good thing as long as it doesn‘t exceed reasonable limits. It means that the company occasionally hires executives and employees from other companies and industries. This primarily serves to infuse new ideas and experiences and counteracts the „inbreeding“ of managers.

Are changing job profiles during one‘s career and the rise of atypical employment arrangements, such as fixed-term contracts and temporary work, trends, or do you believe they will become a standard?

In recent years, there has been a trend towards a „patchwork career“ because this type of flexibility is primarily seen as an increase in personal freedom. How this will continue to develop under changing societal conditions remains to be seen. On one hand, uncertain times, such as COVID-19 or the Ukraine conflict, bring personal financial security back to the forefront. On the other hand, the shift in the job market from an employer-driven model to an employee-driven model also allows for experimentation without falling out of favor with traditionally minded HR managers. I expect that it will balance out: one or two adventures in one‘s younger years, followed by a focus on security later on when family, home, and predictability become more important.

Nothing is more appealing to future employers than people who are open minded to new ideas.


And a personal question at the end. You, not only through your previous roles as a board member and managing director of internationally active companies but also through your own experiences, have demonstrated a high degree of flexibility and openness to new things. What tips do you give to employees to appear particularly attractive to employers in terms of  employability?

As they say, „The only constant is change.“ Every change is a mixture of risk and opportunity. Keep your eyes open for the opportunities that arise and don‘t be hesitant, seize them. However, make sure to follow through on the tasks you take on. Nothing is more appealing to future employers than individuals who are open to new ideas, willing to take responsibility, and deliver results. Ensure that you can back up your achievements. If you also adopt the mindset of what you can do for the company (rather than thinking about what the company should do for you), that‘s a perfect pitch for future employers.

Eckehard Betz, CEO of the POLIFILM EXTRUSION subgroup


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