OHB has concluded a cooperation agreement with the Ecumenical Grammar School (ÖG) in Oberneuland. What exactly is the goal of this project?
Klaus Hofmann: The aerospace industry in Germany is steadily gaining in importance. This is particularly due to the fact that the sector is increasingly succeeding in illustrating the everyday benefits of aerospace technology for society in general. In other words, aerospace has become significantly more relevant. We can see this by the fact that we are challenged by a basically void labour market yet continue to receive many unsolicited applications. In the light of demographic change, we cannot however rely on the constancy of this situation which can only be maintained if we approach young people as early as possible – and much more so than in the past – in an effort to arouse their interest in us. Apart from our longterm cooperations with universities and colleges, this will also increasingly include attracting the interest of schoolgoers for aerospace and technology, whereby our goal must be to inspire as many of these young people as possible for careers in aerospace and, ultimately, jobs at OHB.
What prompted you to seek a cooperation with the ÖG?
Hofmann: Due to its various focal areas in technology and research, e.g. in the area of MINT subjects (Maths, Information technology, Natural sciences and Technology), this school is ideal for attracting young people of schoolgoing age for our needs, especially for a partner in industry. Furthermore, the ÖG is also a very international school with numerous activities and partnerships all over the world, making it doubly interesting for a company with such an international alignment as OHB and a workforce representing 35 different nationalities.
This cooperation is something new. There is no comparable official contractual cooperation between a company and a school of a certain profile, at least not here in our region . . .
Hofmann: . . . which makes us proud as a company whose roots and headquarters are in Bremen. We want to use it to underline our role as one of the most interesting employers in this region. And a partnership with one of the best schools around will help us a great deal.
What contribution does OHB make within the framework of this cooperation?
Hofmann: The ÖG offers its students in 10th grade a special course in aerospace during their senior cycle with OHB providing support in the form of practical examples and elements relating to working life. This involves OHB employees investing approx. 2 hours a week. Furthermore, and within the framework of the profile, it is possible to visit OHB once a year. We also support the ÖG in the form of a MINT Camp, finding practical placements within the framework of the aerospace profile, and various other activities. But I also think it is very important to emphasise that this only represents an initial development. These initial activities under the umbrella of the cooperation agreement can give rise to any number of other projects – insofar as they are feasible and practical for us in terms of both financing and resources. We are particularly proud of the fact that numerous colleagues have declared their willingness to get involved, either as an instructor or by providing inspiration – and without any major additional initiative on the part of company management.
Is it conceivable that the project could also be extended to include other schools or even locations?
Hofmann: Of course, both of those are conceivable. But we must be able to free up the requisite resources in the company to do so.
It’s simply not a given thing that a sufficient number of young people will be interested in aerospace in the future.
What effect are you hoping that this cooperation will have on the company?
Hofmann: Our company is constantly growing within an international environment – yet with a clearlydefined profile as an employer in Germany. And this should remain unchanged. But this also means that we are obliged to address the topic of demographics in a German environment marked by a very tense employment market in our industry. And in view of the fact that for quite some time now there simply have not been enough graduates with a potential for jobs in our industry. Accordingly, we need to take things into our own hands when it comes to addressing interest in the careers we offer in the aerospace industry and at a very early stage. It’s simply not a given thing that a sufficient number of young people will be interested in aerospace in the future. And that’s why we need to take things into our own hands as a company.
What other cooperations are there along these lines?
Hofmann: It goes without saying that cooperations with thirdlevel educational facilities are of importance, both here in Bremen and at our other locations. For example, our dualstudy offer which we started with the University of Bremen and Bremen University of Applied Sciences, and for which we sponsor internships and doctoral theses. We also assign study projects to universities, with colleagues from our company acting as lecturers and incorporating professors in our projects. And OHB sponsors professorships as well as trade fairs where we recruit young talent and initiatives to which we lend our support, e.g. the CanSat competition.
How have the activities of HR changed within this environment?
Hofmann: We have had to realign our strategy. Until a few years ago, HR departments usually had the task of literally screening candidates within a demand market. Meanwhile, competition for the best candidates has become so tough that HR departments need to be very creative in order to attract the best ones to their companies. Along with the industry as a whole, we are currently investing all of our might in this competition. After all, many people are not aware of the fact that demand has multiplied and not simply increased. And this is in a time when we have to deal with void labour markets.
What are the consequences?
Hofmann: That we need to do more to present ourselves in an attractive light and make ourselves better known. There is no doubt that OHB is an attractive employer. But the competitive environment has been turned entirely on its head. And we need to react to it in a correspondingly clever and forwardlooking manner.
OHB is a comparably young company where the average employee is only 41 years of age. Does that not suggest that lots of things have already been done right?
Hofmann: As I have already said, we are certainly attractive and interesting. And we have the right approach to things, too. But we need to keep our eyes on the ball when it comes to integrating new colleagues in our company in such a way as to create a winwin situation for both.
But isn’t is normal for a company with a comparably young workforce to have a higher fluctuation rate?
Hofmann: Yes, of course! My generation has been very willing to remain loyal to a company if personal expectations were fulfilled. These expectations included job security, particularly in times when there were many competitors for attractive jobs. On the other hand, the framework conditions had to be right, enabling us to reveal our full potential at work. If both of these applied, people tended to stay where they were. But Generations Y and Z have much more volatile career concepts. These young people approach their jobs in a much more experimental manner, making very high demands of their employers, and are not willing to display a high degree of constancy. In fact, they are more interested in acquiring as much experience as possible as they kick off their careers. This is by no means a reproach. It simply describes the framework within which we as a company will be obliged to cope with in our future searches for the best employees. The following fact is evidence of the gravity of this development: of the soon to be 1,400 employees at OHB System AG in Germany, every second one is 35 or younger. These people are members of the two generations referred to above which are marked by a strong change in values.
What does the HR department need to derive from this?
Hofmann: That the primary objective must be to create a maximum sense of identification because identification promotes loyalty. And loyalty is essential, especially in the knowledge that we will probably only succeed with onethird of our employees.
How does a company manage to inspire new colleagues for the company?
Hofmann: When the market and economic situation mean that there is less focus on matters relating to job security, issues relating to job content and attractiveness as well as the purpose of the task gain in importance.
So, what message does the employer need to send out?
Hofmann: For one thing, a perspective of being able to develop over a longer period of time by means of interesting job content and tasks. And for another, employers need to have an answer to the question as to the purpose of a given task and the value of the contribution made by each individual.
OHB and SC Borgfeld: promoting young talent in football
In its capacity as the main sponsor, OHB is supporting the U17 team at SC Borgfeld during the 2018/2019 season. The team under coach Burak Bahar secured in its last season game its ascent to the Bundesliga where it will be up against clubs such as HSV, Hannover 96, VfL Wolfsburg, RB Leipzig and of course Werder Bremen. Every week and through the partnership with our local club, OHB attracts the attention of hundreds of adolescents playing on approx. 30 teams. The OHB communication team will be reporting regularly on the team’s development. For a small club such as SC Borgfeld, the Bundesliga represents a true adventure pitting David against Goliath. Just like the experience of OHB during its initial years. And there are even more parallels: like OHB, SC Borgfeld was established in 1981. . .
Klaus Hofmann, born in 1960, has been a member of the Board at OHB SE since 2015. Before that, he was Senior Vice-President of Wacker Chemie AG. Hofmann studied Business Administration at Munich University. He then worked as a research associate at the University of the German Armed Forces in Neubiberg. From 1992 to 2011, Hofmann held various positions at EADS/Airbus.