Thomas Edig, the executive vice president of human resources at Porsche, was born in 1961. He studied economics in Karlsruhe's vocational college and management at INSEAD. He spent 20 years at Alcatel and, after a brief stint at Deutsche Telekom, joined Porsche in 2009. He is a member of the management board and deputy chairman of the executive board.
Mr. Edig sat down with Handelsblatt to talk about how Porsche is a leading company when it comes to hiring secondary school students as apprentices and how the carmaker is trying to be a more flexible employer.
Handelsblatt: Mr. Edig, 40 percent of the apprenticeship positions at Porsche are reserved for secondary school students. Why?
Thomas Edig: This was an agreement made more than a decade ago between the works council and the company management. From today’s perspective, it was good – and visionary. After all, more and more young people are completing their Abitur [the general qualification for university entrance] and going to college. At the same time, the overall number of students is going down. We also see it as a social responsibility. The Hauptschule [secondary schools which don't lead to university entrance] are having a huge amount of difficulties with their educational system. Actually, we should start earlier.
We are still losing too many young people who haven’t even graduated from Hauptschule, but who are certainly intelligent. These young people can be developed in companies, if you challenge and encourage them. In essence, we are talking here about young people who failed to get a diploma because of their grades.
What can Porsche offer these students?
Though our “Porsche Scholarship Year” – a joint initiative of our works councils and the training supervisors – we want to make these young people ready for training within nine months. Out of the 22 young people in the two first years, we took 20 into our work-study program. That was a tremendous success and we have, first and foremost, to thank our master craftsmen for that – they took these young people under their wings.
But that’s only a drop in the ocean.
Yes, but if no one does it, then there are no good examples. And a couple of industrial companies and workshops are now also taking this route. Employers and trade unions have contractually anchored the pay scale of this qualification here in the southwest.
Aren’t companies making it easy for themselves when they simply label young people as “not ready for training” and reject them?
As a company, you just can’t always whine about there being no young people coming out of the schools who fit your needs. And you can’t forget that modern secondary-school students or those with a school-leavers certification as a rule have no interest in working long hours on an assembly line. They’d rather go study and are then lost to the company as skilled workers. We are counting on the work-study program, where we can give our trainees a guarantee to hire them.
More and more young people are going to college, but for many graduates the bachelor’s degree is not enough in the long-term.
Twenty to 25 percent of those with bachelor’s degrees we hire go on to complete their master’s later. Some of those with bachelor’s degrees have either left right after graduation or within a year, to do their master’s. But we don’t want to lose these young people. That's why there is now a work-study master’s at the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University. This model is groundbreaking and is being supported by industry.
How will the digitization of car production, or "Industry 4.0," change the face of training at Porsche?
Industry 4.0 will affect jobs in all areas of production as well as in the maintenance and repair divisions. That has already been incorporated into our training plans today. But we will still have a handcrafted character in the production of our sports cars in the future because no one Porsche is exactly like another. So people will continue to be at the heart of it.
What consequences does it have for personnel management?
We never used to be that interested in the rankings of the companies that IT graduates would like to work for. But for the past five years, we have been making a bigger effort to be included in these rankings.
So you are seeking IT experts who think Porsche is more exciting than Apple?
It's true that we won't be able to get all nerds excited about the subject of cars today. It is interesting, however, what Generation Y [those born between 1980 and 1995] want from an employer. They seek challenges and want to realize their full potential. That’s where we have to start. If somebody at Porsche had asked for a sabbatical 10 years ago, the response would probably have been 'what's that?' Today we offer home-office working; flexible working hours; child care centers; sabbaticals; and much more – and not just for Generation Y.
So you are offering all these perks to attract people?
No, we as a company that perhaps wasn’t so flexible in the past are reacting to the changing times.
Many want to work less, particularly when starting a family.
That is, of course, also possible with our flexible work schedules. Our employees can decide every two years how much they want to work and can reduce their work schedule by up to 20 hours.