Making our workers shine

Moscow is one of the busiest cities in Russia. As reported by RIA Rating, the unemployment rate here is 1.5% with 75 unemployed job-seekers for every 100 open vacancies. The second city with a similar low unemployment rate is Saint Petersburg. However, the job market there is more competitive, there are 147 unemployed job-seekers for 100 open vacancies.
The Moscow industrial sector offers plenty of job opportunities, but in fact it is not always easy to find suitable specialists on the market. Alexander Prohorov, the Head of Moscow Department of Investment and Industrial Policy, has shared with us what professionals Moscow factories and plants are craving for, why they often can't find them, and how to provide businesses with new age talents.
Alexander Prohorov,
the Head of Moscow Department of Investment and Industrial Policy
– Alexander Vladimirovich, at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum, Moscow Government, state development corporation VEB.RF and Agency of Strategic Initiatives (ASI) signed a cooperation agreement on a Moscow Technical School project (MTS). Could you tell us about this initiative, this project and how it will address staffing issues.

– To my mind, this agreement is an essential step towards transformation of the whole staff training and retraining system in Moscow industrial sector. By signing the agreement, VEB.RF and ASI became strategic partners of our Moscow Technical School project. They possess solid expert knowledge, long standing experience in staff issues and evaluation and standardization within this field, and they collect and research the best practices applied worldwide. All these competencies will help us to organize our activities and to build further strategy.

Moscow Technical School is designed to establish an educational virtual cluster, which is a network of technological and industrial knowledge centers created on the basis of educational and scientific institutions of the city. The project was developed by our department and Moscow Industrial Development Agency. It is planned to be a cross cutting platform providing both basic training and professional skills improvement programs for employees, shaped by actual demands of industrial producers. The project brings together enterprises that serve as our industrial partners, and Moscow higher-education and scientific institutions that became our educational partners. Our department coordinates this process and together with our strategic partners we will provide expert and informational support as well as other assistance for all interested parties.

– In brief, enterprises will specify their demands on skills, while institutions prepare the staff?

– Exactly. Moscow Technical School will take a comprehensive approach to this process. We'll be able to form collective recruitment requests while the staff training platform will draw together several educational institutions. It is crucial that educational and industrial partners of the project are not mere customers and contractors. They define the way MTS will function, and to make it work we foster collaboration with core higher-education institutions that form educational trends in the industry. Industrial companies working with the cutting edge technologies are ready to join the program as industrial partners. QRate is one of these companies. It offers brand new information security solutions based on quantum communication technology. Its expertise will allow us to figure out true employment demand in the industry.
– What does HR demand look like today? In general, what does industrial personnel supply market look like in Moscow? Is there a staff shortage?

– As for manpower shortage, there is no such thing in Moscow. However, due to the specific nature of the industry, Moscow producers need specialists with a unique professional background, with unique skills, meeting modern production standards. Rapid growth of technologies changes these standards apace, that is the core issue. Moscow industry shows an impressive rise within the city, being financially supported by our department. New technologies are emerging, factories are being equipped with robotics and digitalized, ecological systems are being purchased and installed. It all leads to a shortage of engineers and middle-level professionals in a range of areas since all the processes now have to be managed, and production itself has shifted towards intelligent systems (even cables now are smart!). On the one hand, the current situation gives our products access to successful national and international markets, but on the other hand, every decent well-credentialed professional is worth their weight in gold.

– But how about a common belief that Moscow has the strongest engineering school in the country? Perhaps, it is the salary which is not high enough for such requirements?

– Moscow really is a place where high-ranked engineering universities function, with great teaching staff members and brilliant scientific foundation. And another thing: most of our production employees and research institute members are bright and talented, however they need a way to upgrade their skills in order to offer what's really valuable on the market to their employers, and build successful careers. Fresh graduates at the outset of their professional paths normally lack practical skills, and their first years of work they devote to developing these skills. They are being educated at their working places but the most brilliant are worth pumping up further. And that's where our project MTS steps in.

As for remuneration, Moscow industry shows positive dynamics, and salaries in this sector appear to be quite competitive. In 2019, average salary was 75 000 roubles, last year it grew to 80 000 roubles, and by the end of Q1 2021 it reached 83 000 roubles. I'd like to emphasize that these are average numbers, and Moscow does have companies paying their engineers and leading technologists over 300 000 roubles.

– As far as I know, factories and universities in Moscow have strong ties. Students tour production facilities, do internships there, and when employed, they get mentorship from masters of engineering. As for experienced workers, there is an opportunity for targeted retraining. Is this really not enough?

– Moscow manufacturers and universities interact on hiring issues and use all the standard paths of such cooperation. It is necessary to scale this process up, to make it reachable for more companies, and take into account producers' present-day needs. It is not a pointless initiative; we've got numerous requests from producers and developed this project to help them.

Turning to masters of engineering, if you wish to use this language, they have limited capabilities as humans living in a fluid technological reality. Typically, they are classical engineers who can share basic professional knowledge with a newcomer, provide him/her with a strong foundation, but even these masters are not able to keep up with the high-tech of these days. When diving into specific, modern trends formed over the last 5-7 years, classical engineers also lack critical skills. We are now experiencing groundbreaking changes that we haven't seen before.
– So, going back to MTS. Who are these unique professionals with cutting-edge technological skills who aren't around today? What kind of experts will be coached by MTS?

– First of all, these pioneers are cross-cutting technologies professionals, which are highly desirable on the market today, in different areas from aircraft production to civil engineering and construction. Today these technologies are the driving force of the world economy. Moscow is marching in step with the trend, including its industry that needs relevant workforce (creating VR technologies, digital avatars, AI etc.). MTS will create an environment for engineers to enhance their deep classical knowledge with such highly sought-after skills. And yes, I agree with you, it's almost impossible to find suitable workers in these fast-growing areas.

Keeping this in mind, we designed MTS. Communication technologies is one of the training programs, and it is almost ready for interested parties to enroll. Several competence centers are kicking off in Q1 2022, devoted to robotics and sensorics, AI in production, VR technologies, digital avatars, new manufacturing technologies and self-driving transportation. When the project is fully functional, we will train over 150 professionals a year, in line with today's industry needs and even with a 5-year perspective.
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