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A Bohemian rhapsody: workers set a shining example

Declining unemployment levels usually point towards a ‘healthy’ economy. Fewer jobseekers on the labour market, however, make it more difficult for companies to recruit. This was certainly the case for Crystalex, the largest producer of household glass in the Czech Republic and one of the leading European manufacturers in the industry. To tackle this problem, the company decided to establish partnerships with vocational schools, introduce innovative IT technologies to attract young workers and, last but not least, utilise the extensive EURES network to hire skilled foreign workers.

Bohemia, the Western region of the Czech Republic, has a centuries-old tradition and worldwide reputation for manufacturing crystal and glassware. Would-be employees were therefore proud to work for Crystalex, established in the late 1960s. However, shortly after the collapse of communism employment with the company began to lose its appeal and the introduction of the free market economy brought with it serious labour shortages. The impact of this period of change on the region can still be felt today: “Important car manufacturers in Bohemia’s industrial cities are now providing competitive job opportunities which detract from young people’s interest in glass manufacturing,” warns Ivana Mišáková, a EURES Adviser in the Czech Republic.

Ensuring a sufficient work-force became even more urgent after the company built an entirely new production line. “We had a shortage of workers and decided to address students, schools and labour offices directly in order to better market our company. Traditional recruitment channels were proving ineffective,” explains Human Resources manager Alena Štemberová.

At this point, the company also asked for advice and support from local EURES Advisers, who immediately disseminated information to the Europe-wide network. EURES focused their recruitment drive on those European regions where glass producing factories had shut down and unemployment was high. Jobseekers from all over the continent were approached at job fairs and via the EURES website. As a result, today there are 24 Polish workers, 11 Romanians and nine Slovakians working for Crystalex, while several Bulgarians and Ukrainians are set to join the team shortly. They are attracted by secure jobs in an environment where they can use traditional hand-made methods as well as learning more about modern IT production technologies. Automated manufacturing has become crucial to the future success of the company and graduates in relevant disciplines therefore have excellent career opportunities.

Sound EURES advice and guidance has simultaneously preserved and revived Crystalex, located in a region at the forefront of glass-making since the 13th century. Having found the right staff to lead the company forwards, Crystalex strongly recommends other employers follow their lead. “The current labour shortage means that Czech employers will have to start sourcing staff abroad. The sooner we deal with this issue, the better,” asserts Alena Štemberová. In the meantime, the staff at Crystalex can raise their glasses to another successful 40 years.

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