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Creative countermeasures

How the Marzahn-based family-run company LKM is fighting the search for skilled workers

“The pension is looming,” explains Kai Hessel. Almost a third of the workforce at the Marzahn-based family business LKM will be retiring sooner or later, taking their experience and knowledge with them. “Hard to cope with,” says senior boss Gerd Hessel. The entrepreneurial family is fighting this with all its strength and, above all, ingenuity.

Not so long ago, Hamse Solgi was repairing oil pipelines on land and under water in Iran. A dangerous and unhealthy work. After fleeing his home country, he came to southern Germany and finally to Berlin. Here he found work at LKM GmbH Berlin Laseranwendung für Kunststoff- und Metallverarbeitung in Boxberger Strasse. The company is a group of companies in which almost the entire family implements entrepreneurial ideas – from the production of a transport box for cargo bikes to a machining operation for large components. “Only a few people in Germany can do that,” says Junior Kai Hessel, Managing Director of Hessel Metall+Kunststoff GmbH.

LKM itself is a service provider for sheet metal processing and laser technology and manufactures custom-made products to customer specifications. What the companies have in common is that they all need well-trained specialists with highly specialized know-how. And these are becoming increasingly scarce, Gerd Hessel knows. A training period of two years is required to prepare employees for their tasks in the company. With the “impending retirement” of a third of their employees, the Hessels have long since pulled out all the stops to creatively tackle the “skills shortage” problem.

Das Portfolio der LKM GmbH reicht von Laseranwendungen für die Kunststoff- und Metallverarbeitung bis zur Produktion von Transportboxen für Lastenfahrräder. | © LKM

Hamse Solgi is now one of four employees from Syria, Ukraine, Tunisia and Iran, who have found a new professional home here by taking detours and overcoming various geographical and bureaucratic hurdles. “Nationality plays a subordinate role for us,” explains Hessel senior. Cooperation with the employment agency is also showing “good results”, he says. But the Hessels don’t want to rely on this alone and are putting out feelers in all directions in their search for new employees and trainees: in schools, universities and, above all, on social networks. This is where they have had the most promising experiences so far. Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and similar services are not only used constantly, they also provide the most targeted and personal access to the coveted target group of “young talent”.

However, both Gerd and Kai Hessel know how difficult it is to make their own job description – that of a metal and plastics processor – “sexy” in the eyes of the target group. In times when the influencer or model is the ideal, three-shift work and physical labor are hard to sell. As a result, it is not uncommon for a third of students to be “gaming” on their cell phones during information days at the company. “We need to find out more about the needs of students and schools. Questions such as ‘What do you earn during training, what afterwards? What does the day-to-day work actually look like’ are of interest to young people. What’s more, we as employers also need to make ourselves interesting and tell them more. As a company, we have to advertise ourselves in schools.”

A project was also launched with the Weißensee School of Art. The response has been good, the idea of working together on the development or design of new products in particular. “But we’re still at the very beginning,” says Gerd Hessel, whose second son Sven initiated the cooperation. In order to be successful, you need to address precisely those who are already interested in the company’s field of activity or who work there. “We want to show what is possible,” says Hessel.

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