On Finding a Job upon Graduation
Today there are more than 4 million 200 thousand students at Russian universities. But are they sure that their higher education degree will be a competitive advantage in the labour market? And will it allow them to start building a successful career? After all, business is often very sceptical of young people, especially when it comes to engineering specialities. What requirements does the management of enterprises place on graduates of higher education institutions today? And what should the latter do to improve their chances of employment? Forpost decided to ask these questions to representatives of the petrochemical industry: SIBUR Board Member Igor Klimov, General Director of PAO Nizhnekamskneftekhim Ayrat Safin, and Yokogawa Electric CIS Board of Directors Chairman Vladimir Savelyev.
Becoming a perfect employee
In Soviet times there was a very popular joke. A young man comes to work in a factory. They ask him, “You studied well, do you remember what the teachers told you?” He answers, “Yes, of course.” And they say to him, “now you can forget everything, now we will show you what to do and how to do it.”
Top management of modern industries, of course, can not afford such a thing. Moreover, university graduates who received a standard set of knowledge in the form of lecture material are not in demand anywhere else. In order to look to the future with confidence, they need a whole set of additional competencies, and it is desirable to acquire them while still studying.
“An engineer in our company is a specialist who is ready to make decisions,” explains Igor Klimov, a member of SIBUR’s management board. “They must generate technological initiatives and transform the processes he is responsible for. It is not as if they are just sitting and waiting for somebody to tell them something from above, but if they see a problem or an opportunity to improve some process, they make a suggestion and then implement the decision in practice. Knowledge of economics is quite essential because behind every project lies either an increase in profitability, or a reduction in the burden on the environment, or improvements in labor protection. Then there’s the command of English. We have entered the global market and our engineers, of course, must be integrated into international professional communities, they must understand what is going on in the world and know, for example, that Brazil is the best source of personnel today. It is mandatory to have a good command of digital tools, a desire, and the ability to work in cross-functional teams (a group of people with different functional experience, working to achieve one goal - ed).
The most important question: where do we get such employees? After all, it is obvious that it takes time to form an ideal specialist, just as it takes time to cut a diamond. Should we hire young people and then develop their skills and competencies? Or invite well-established professionals? And how to provide career paths for employees who were hired and received additional training? After all, young people want to immediately understand their prospects in the company where they came to work.
According to Igor Klimov, finding the right answer to these questions allows “the corporate culture based on the principle of equal opportunities.” It implies the constant development of talents and their lifelong learning.
“We have a competency profile for every position, and everyone who comes to SIBUR has to meet it. The engineering standard contains a set of activities that allow us to ‘fill in’ the missing knowledge and skills. In particular, we provide training at our corporate university Siburintech in Tobolsk. We are talking about webinars, theoretical classes, and internships at various enterprises. Another way is industrial mentoring. This was a popular mechanism in Soviet times to transfer best practices from generation to generation, undeservedly forgotten later. Classes on simulators are quite useful. They allow you to see what your mistakes can lead to but do not affect the real technological process. Then there is the unified qualification exam. Those who pass it at a high level get a significant bonus to their salary. So from the financial point of view, our employees are motivated to develop themselves and meet the highest standards,” noted the SIBUR board member.
He also considers cooperation with partner universities to be equally important, both in terms of organizing advanced training courses on their basis and adapting the educational programs to the demands of the modern labour market. Another important factor is an assessment by the authoritative professional communities, i.e., accreditation by internationally recognized experts. In our country, such a system was created by the International Center of Competence in Mining Engineering Education under the auspices of UNESCO. Its specialists received the right to independently conduct certification for the title of “Professional Mining Engineer” on behalf of the London Institute IOM3. This status is recognized in most countries of the world, including such an authoritativeorganization as the British Technical Council.
The power of personality
Ayrat Safin, Director-General of Nizhnekamskneftekhim, emphasized that today’s young people do not have as much time “to get up to speed” as their peers did a few decades ago. After all, the world lives in conditions of “very tough competition in the field of promotion of various goods and services.” Sometimes it happens in a fair fight, sometimes not. But in any case, to win the place under the sun, the head of any company must take a very careful approach to personnel selection.
"Even though many production processes have become automated and digitized, and people have been partly replaced by robots, the level of human resources still greatly affects the success of the business. And here everything depends on the position of the manager because it is they who must take certain actions to ensure the necessary indicators. They invest in the development of personnel, in matching the competencies of the employees to the spirit of the times. They also create conditions for the promotion of those who have the highest competencies and are familiar with the best practices. Investments in human capital are the most important. Those will definitely pay off,” assured Airat Safin.
Vladimir Savelyev, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Yokogawa Electric CIS engineering company remembered a case from 50 years ago when at one of the factories they were introducing arithmetic meters. The accountant did not agree to switch to advanced technology and continued to use accounts, assuring her superiors that they were more reliable. Today, the world is changing so rapidly that it is hard even to believe this story, let alone imagine such a thing in modern production. The rapid obsolescence of knowledge, the need to possess additional competencies, requires from today’s professionals, as well as from students, a very different kind of progressiveness than before.
“You can be a great automation professional, but if you don’t know a specific technological process and don’t understand why your automation expertise is needed in this particular case, how can you influence or contribute to the partner company’s bottom line? That’s impossible. That’s why we now require our employees to understand the operations that take place in production. They have to speak the same language as the technologist of the company to which we provide engineering services. Otherwise, there will be no result. Therefore I advise senior students to work as much as possible with their hands on the equipment with which they will have to deal in the future. It is mandatory to study on simulators that simulate real processes, so it will be much easier for them to adapt to the requirements of the employer after graduation. It is absolutely essential that their universities have adequate facilities, without which it is almost impossible to train qualified specialists today,” said Vladimir Savelyev.
It should be mentioned that discussion on the level and number of competencies which today’s graduates of the higher education establishments should possess took place in Saint Petersburg, during the panel discussion on “International Best Practices of Training and Assessment of Engineers”. It was the final chord of SIBUR’s second PetroChemSkills-2021 industry championship of professional skills according to WorldSkills standards.