in Vol. 13 - May Issue - Year 2012
Young Talents In The Field Of Surface Technology – What Are The Prospects?
Acquire the right audience
Specialists of the future
Over the course of the last few decades, the world of surface technology has become more complex, more varied and more interesting. Can we manage to win over young people interested in technology for this field? What options do companies have for addressing the next generation? Let us think about which aspects are of particular importance.
Beautiful surfaces are IN! But is surface technology IN? Many products become valuable only once they have an appealing and high-quality look and feel. Designers, developers, marketing experts and end customers know this. And so the effort put into surface technology applications and the attention paid to them is correspondingly high during product development and production. There are products where surface finishing alone makes up 75% of overall costs.
Surface technology is thus assuming ever-greater importance within the production process and requires highly motivated and well-qualified staff. There is currently a lack of such staff, which is why these kinds of processes are outsourced to service providers. People are not familiar enough with the often very specific know-how that is needed to develop such processes, to master them and to reproduce them under production-line conditions. Service providers also need well-qualified staff and eventually, especially during times of growth, will have to recruit or train young and motivated new employees.
We hear from all sides that this is where the problems lie. Insufficient numbers of young people are being trained for the market by the specialist surface technology training establishments, by the technical colleges and by the universities. This is reason enough to take a closer look and see whether the subject of surface technology is being marketed well, specifically as far as the next generation is concerned. If you ask around, you soon find that many areas of surface technology that are of huge importance in industry are virtually unknown among young people. These include vibratory finishing with its many different areas of application, shot blasting, and also more exotic processes such as abrasive flow machining.
These and other areas of technology have an image problem among young people, or something that’s just as bad, namely no image at all. Given the low level of awareness in some regions, there is a lack of young applicants and potential candidates to meet these new needs.
The marketing departments of companies should therefore not just target potential customers, but ideally also potential employees. It is important that not only the customer benefit of the products and services be made the focus of such marketing campaigns, but also the company philosophy and the company’s role in society.
The presentation of prospects, development opportunities, networking activities, co-operations, social commitment and other such aspects have an impact on young people that must not be underestimated. What’s more, it is important to present these topics in a vibrant and modern way that appeals to the young generation on the internet, in the printed media and at trade fairs. Marketing managers are well advised to ask young students or technicians about the impression the company creates in the outside world. Sometimes the image looks very conservative, and so potential young recruits might be encouraged to look at sectors that seem to have a more modern image. Surface technology thus often becomes a last resort, thus seriously underselling itself.
Perhaps there are alternative ways of addressing young people? Perhaps a surface technology network could be established that interactively addresses and provides information at training fairs, in workshops, at university events etc.?
As the author of this column and as an enthusiastic surface engineer I would like to set up the initiative "Young people for the surfaces of tomorrow". Interested institutions and companies can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am grateful to MFN for supporting this initiative.
by Dirk Gather
Contributing Editor MFN and General Manager of GZO GmbH, Germany