Across recent decades the European steel sector has undergone substantial transformation. The industry has restructured and consolidated, with ownership now largely comprising several large multi-national companies, following merger and acquisition activity. The latter went hand in hand with transforming the steel industry towards high-technological production processes and products. Such developments have had implications for the industry workforce, which is now much reduced i.e. as the sector has consolidated, it has retrenched, plants have closed and jobs have been shed. Parallel to this, and driven by processes of consolidation, technological developments and changing market conditions have led to changes in the workforce profile in a numbers of ways.

  • First, new technologies (including digital transformation processes, Industry 4.0) have contributed to a smaller and more streamlined and high skilled workforce.
  • Second, and related, old patterns of recruitment based on recruiting men from generations of family skilled by experience, have given way to recruitment of the more highly skilled and qualified. (There are however, serious recruitment issues - the age structure in most European steel-producing companies is such that more than 20% of the workforce will have left the industry in the period 2005-2015, and close to 30% will leave during the following decade up to 2030.)
  • Third, the reduction of workforce numbers, technological developments and changes in patterns of recruitment have facilitated changes in work organisation and the introduction of high performance working systems.

The restructuring of the European steel sector has been necessary to meet i) increasing consumer demands and preferences for high specification products (e.g. lighter and stronger steel); ii) meet stringent energy efficiency targets and reduce carbon emissions, and iii) compete globally in a world sector that whilst manifesting cyclical patterns of market demand operates with excess capacity – European markets, in particular, have experienced dumping from outside the EU region (e.g. China, India).

The rapid and constant changes detailed above requires the industry to continuously update the skills of its workforce. To remain competitive the industry must facilitates the development of a highly qualified, specialised and multi-skilled workforce. However, the industry faces skills shortages, recruitment difficulties and talent management issues. Hence, it is necessary to improve the capacity of the industry to forecast, identify and anticipate skill needs – towards the optimisation of skill use and skill utilisation in the immediate and long-term, including recruiting skills. Thus, sector stakeholders aim to identify skills shortages and mismatches – as a precondition for the efficient design of employment, skills and training policies and strategies.

The core objective of this project is the foundation of a i) Skills Alliance and ii) Blueprint Strategy (together the ESSA project) to develop the approaches necessary to sustain a competitive industry, which is environmentally responsible and promotes sustainable growth, innovation and the creation of highly skilled jobs.

The skills sets that comprise the typical occupations and job specifications for the European sector must be transparent, recognisable and comparable as a basis for the development of training content in correspondence with national VET systems, utilising EU and international classifications, mechanisms and frameworks, such as, ISCED, ISCO, EQF, ESCO, ECVET, EQAVET, Europass and ECQA for the standardisation of a sector occupation skill-sets database, as well as inform the skill needs analysis (i.e. Foresight) and training programme design and delivery. The future steel industry (e.g. cleaner [e.g. ULCOS, hydrogen based steel production], more energy efficient (e.g. HIsarna processes), and with new products, etc.) will require complex technical and general skill-sets, which are in development (e.g. GT-VET) but necessitate stakeholder partnership (Skills Alliance) for the development of a holistic Blueprint sector strategy to meet current and emerging skill needs systematically and in time.

Co-funded by the Erasmus + Programme of the European Union
Agreement Number: 2018-3059/001-001
Project Number: 600886-EPP-1-2018-1-DE-EPPKA2-SSA-B
Last updated on: 30/04/2019 9:24am