In Argentina, a group of university students may be the next generation of steelmakers. Our Acindar steelmaking business has nearly a dozen students from the Universidad Technological Nacional working as interns alongside our own R&D team. And ‘working’ is the right word: this isn’t a job-shadowing exercise. The students are assigned to a specific department and given real problems to solve because we believe that their fresh eyes and focus on innovation will help us advance.
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Why this is important for ArcelorMittal
In the 21st century, huge global trends from climate change to the digital revolution are transforming how we live and work, and how business operates. One of the biggest of these is demographic change, and part of that is a significant generational shift: a large proportion of the engineering and technical workforce is moving towards retirement at the very point when the economy needs these skills more than ever. These jobs are well paid and intellectually demanding, but there’s a growing shortage of people capable of doing them – the US Department of Commerce estimates that there will be more than 1.2 million unfilled jobs in this area by 2018.
Adapting to an increasingly complex workplace
Industries like ours, and companies like ours, need qualified people for traditional engineering and technical jobs, and those with skills in new areas like lifecycle analysis, robotics, data analysis, nanotechnologies, circular economics, and 3D metallurgy. Everyone will need to have solid professional skills, but they’ll also need to be able to adapt to change, exploit new technology, and thrive in an increasingly complex workplace. To do this well, such skills have to start at school – teachers need to foster creativity, and encourage curiosity.
Working with schools and universities
This is why science and engineering education and training is the number one long-term priority for our community investment programme across the world. We’re supporting schools and colleges with teaching aids and technological support, and we’re sponsoring an extraordinary range of technical and maths-based activities, from science fairs, to quizzes, to summer camps, site visits, and innovation competitions. We’re working at university level too, with long-term partnerships with leading academic institutions such as the universities of Stanford and MIT in the USA, Cambridge in the UK, Lausanne in Switzerland, McMasters in Canada, and the China Central University.
Attracting more women to the industry
We have two aims here: the first is to make a passionate case for careers in steel, both to young people in general, and to young women in particular. Our industry desperately needs a better gender balance, because without it, we’re cutting ourselves off from some of the brightest and the best. But we also believe that one of the best ways to help our communities thrive is by helping people to acquire the skills of the future.
Our sponsor to champion this outcome at group level is Daniele Quantin, who heads up human resources at global R&D. She is already developing a strategic approach to this outcome, described below.
As with a number of other outcomes, we spent 2015 devising the best approach. This is especially important here, because our investment in this area – nearly $8 million in 2015 – is necessarily for the long term. Our approach has four strands.
Inspiring future scientists
The first is to inspire and encourage high school students – and especially young women – to take an interest in metallurgy or mining. In Ukraine last year, we provided 16 internships to university teachers to help supplement their theoretical knowledge with practical information about steelmaking, and the potential for rewarding and stimulating careers for their students.
We work to attract young scientists to our industry and test their ability through projects like ArcelorMittal Brazil’s hugely successful Environment Award, which reached more than 200,000 students and 7,000 teachers across the country in 2015, and the new ‘Le Prix des Innovateurs’ that we launched in France.
Learning by doing
Learning by doing is the second element, for young student scientists – hence the many internships we offer to give students a real taste of what steelmaking is about. For example, in Argentina, students are working on real projects across different departments, developing their own skills while helping us advance. Across all regions, we supported final year engineering students in long-term internships at our sites, giving them the opportunity to experience R&D and other functions at first hand – these are described in our segment reports.
Twinning senior and junior employees
Our third aspect is to ‘twin’ senior with more junior employees – essentially a more intense version of a mentoring programme. A good example is the schemes now under way at our global R&D facility in Asturias, Spain.
Supporting external scientists
Lastly, we support scientists in their profession by providing scholarships for talented engineering students as well as laboratory time for research. Within global R&D alone we supported 50 PhD students in 2015, while our operations at Dofasco, Canada, also fund four research chairs at McMaster University.