Press: Lack of qualified staff seen as main threat to company growth

Photo: Klára Stejskalová

Czech companies regard a shortage of qualified staff as the biggest threat to their growth potential. In response they are looking to make hires in other countries and are boosting salaries and benefits in a bid to poach staff from rivals, Hospodářské noviny reported.

Photo: Klára Stejskalová
Over a third of 171 medium-sized and large companies regularly polled by the Confederation of Czech Industry and the Czech National Bank expect the problem to get even worse in future, the business daily said.

In 2015 domestic firms cited the high price of materials and raw materials as the biggest block to their expansion.

Low unemployment is making it harder for companies to find recruits. The jobless rate in February was 6.1 percent. This combined with economic growth creates pressure for wage increases.

Trades unions are pushing for pay rises of 5 percent this year. After threatening strike action the union at leading carmaker Škoda Auto recently won a 3.5 percent increase in salaries.

However, with add-ons and bonuses Škoda staff could get as much as 11.2 percent more in their pay packets. Hospodářské noviny reported that workers at the country’s biggest exporter now earn an average of CZK 40,600 a month.

Bohuslav Čížek of the Confederation of Czech Industry’s economic policy section told the newspaper that more and more companies were having trouble making hires – even when offering above-average salaries.

This has led some to turn down orders and to limit investment in expansion of production, Mr. Čížek said.

The official also warned that most companies were unable to follow Škoda’s lead. One good year doesn’t guarantee permanent subsistence, he said.

The Confederation agrees with union leaders on the fact that the investment in products with higher added value that will deliver better paid positions are the long-term way to go for Czech industry.

However, in the short term the industry body is advocating the opening up of the labour market, Hospodářské noviny said.

According to the Confederation of Czech Industry, two-thirds of companies are lacking university graduates in technical fields, around half need more secondary school graduates, and a third require qualified apprentices.

One company unable to find technically qualified candidates is the largest steelmaker in the state, ArcelorMittal. A spokesperson told the newspaper that after failing to hire people locally over several months the firm had eventually been successful in Ukraine.

In a bid to replace experienced staff taking retirement, ArcelorMittal now offers around 50 special training programmes for graduates every year, while another steelmaker, Třinecké železárny, has set up a new specialised school for staff. A number of other sectors are facing similar problems, Hospodářské noviny wrote.