Photo: Belle Djerberg
07-03-19 DI Business News

Opinion: Many nationalities – but too few hands for too many jobs

We generally don’t care where our employees come from, as long as they want to work and show up on time, writes Mads Ploug, CEO at Allan Ploug A/S, in an opinion piece about the labour shortage in skilled trade businesses.

When managers in skilled trade businesses get together, the most common question is: “So, are you able to keep yourselves busy?” And for a while the standard reply has been: “Oh, not too bad,” usually followed by: “If only we could get the workers”.

Lack of labour in skilled trade businesses is neither a secret nor a new problem. But it’s the first taste of the new reality that all projections regarding the labour force in Denmark are predicting, because there are too few hands and too many jobs.

We have trouble attracting young people to physically demanding jobs. And even if we were able immediately to reverse the current tendency of young people opting for academic educations instead of vocational ones, there still wouldn’t be enough hands.

Many nationalities among us

In our company, we use both skilled and unskilled workers who are upskilled through peer-to-peer training. We have many different nationalities, and without making this a political discussion about integration, cohesiveness, benefits and quotas, we can simply note that as long as people show up to work and want to contribute, it’s a success.

The challenges we face with our employees are fundamentally alike, regardless of whether they’re from Hvidovre, Syria or Macedonia – be they problems with family, housing, partners, coming to work on time or understanding piecework.

Language is a rare challenge we have with the ethnically Danish fitters. But it continues to be our biggest problem on construction sites where the language spoken is generally Danish. But this may change over time, as has been the case in many other industries. We generally don’t care where our employees come from, as long as they want to work and show up on time. In the words of a larger Danish company: “Hire for attitude - train for skill”.

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