Retraining for the modern workforce

Retraining for the modern workforce 15/05/2009
Milan Nebdal

Milan Nebdal gets a fresh start on his career after gaining new computer skills from training co-funded by the European Social Fund.

There are three things that are important for Milan Nebdal from the Kromeriz region of the Czech Republic. “Family, health and work,” says the 53-year-old. However, when the factory he worked at closed down in October 2006, he wondered if he had lost one of these mainstays of his life forever.

Milan has worked steadily throughout his adult life. After studying at the university for textile machinery in Liberec, he worked in the textile industry for 27 years, going from the shop floor to become the general manager of a local factory. “I worked my way through the ranks,” he says.

“As a plant manager, I was in overall charge of all aspects of the production, ” he adds. “I organised the material for production, all the preparation, as well as managing the employees.”

Lack of opportunities

The Czech textile industry began declining in the 1990s. So when the plant he worked at finally went bankrupt, there were few opportunities left in that sector. “Being made redundant was a bad feeling,” he says. “And it was made worse by the stress of looking for a new job.”

He started searching for a new job immediately, but had little luck initially. “I sent my CV to over 140 companies,” he continues. “But I kept getting the same response – Thank you for your interest in our organisation, but we regret to inform you that we have no suitable opportunities at the moment…”

Not only was it difficult to find any jobs related to his experience, but he also found that the senior position that he held previously was a barrier. “It worked as a negative thing. When companies heard I had been a plant manager they wouldn’t look at me for lower positions,” he says. “They were afraid I would want to be giving all the orders.”

However, he kept on sending more job applications. “I had to go on. It was very important,” he says. “I’m an optimistic person. But it does begin to play on your confidence. I wondered if I would ever get back into work.”

New skills

Milan realised that his skills might need updating to find a job in the modern workforce. He started a course of retraining offered by the local labor office in January 2007. The project was prepared and organised by the non-profit Knihovna Kromerizska library, co-funded by the European Union through the European Social Fund. It consisted primarily of computer and IT literacy training, learning how to use hardware and software, internet searching, creating and preparing a variety of computer documents; as well as communication skills and environmental education.

“Before the course, I had limited knowledge of how to use computers,” he says. “I only started to use them at the end of my previous career. But the training was really practical and my computer skills improved a lot.”

It also helped to hone other abilities vital to gaining employment, such as writing application letters and CVs, dressing for interviews and communicating better with people. “Above all, it helped me to gain self confidence. I noticed a difference in my inter-personal skills,” he adds.

In the summer of 2007, the efforts paid off and his job search ended when he secured a position with a local manufacturing firm. His newly improved skills were vital. “A high degree of computer literacy was a pre-requisite for the job. And the firm isn’t scared of hiring older staff.”

The company, Chropyňská Strojίrna, specialises in the robotic arms that do the welding in car manufacturing, along with other products such as the moulds for plastic pressing machines for products such as car bumpers.

He works in the co-operation department. “My job is to secure the production of different parts of the supply chain from sub-contractors,” he says. “We don’t have the capacity to do everything on our own.”

Coupled with his wealth of experience in manufacturing, computer skills are essential to his new position. His job involves making enquiries and selecting suppliers, preparing orders and documentation of technical specifications and arranging logistics for delivery of various parts. For this he uses project management and engineering software. “The communication and coordination is all done by computer. I would have difficulties without computer skills.

“It’s completely different from my old role. Before I was always working internally. Now I need to communicate externally with other companies and organise the entire supply chain,” he adds.

Getting back into employment has made a big difference to his quality of life. “I feel much more secure now. I don’t think so much about the future, I’m happy with what I’m doing at the moment,” he says.

He enjoys gardening and spending time with his family. “However, I don’t have so much free time,” he admits “I work a lot.” And for a man who values work as highly as Milan, that is a good thing.