E.ON Energy, Germany: Increasing the labour market participation of underrepresented groups – young people
E.ON Energie, one of the leading private energy service providers in Europe, is involved in various training promotion programmes. The aim is to improve job opportunities for young people on the labour market. Both top management and the works councils of the E.ON Energie Group are fully supportive of the programmes offered.
E.ON Energie is the largest subsidiary of the E.ON Group, which is one of the leading private energy provider companies in the world. E.ON Energie supplies 17 million customers with gas and electricity. With a workforce of almost 33,000 employees, nearly half of the E.ON Energie Group’s total revenue is generated in Germany, with a turnover of EUR 28.38 billion. Since 2000, the proportion of female employees at E.ON Energie has risen by 3% to the current level of 21.6%.
The aim of the E.ON AG parent company established in 2000 is to secure its position on the highly competitive gas, energy and electricity market. This will be achieved not only by developing its investments in Italy and Russia, but also by an investment strategy with a total volume of EUR 18.7 billion, of which a total of EUR 12.6 billion is to be invested in different target markets. Around EUR 6 billion is to go into the modernisation of power plants and supply grids, as well as into researching environmentally friendly fuels.
E.ON Energie places particular emphasis on social partnership. Co-determination institutions, works councils and the supervisory board reflect the close cooperation of the company with its employee representatives. Good working relationships also exist with Verdi and IG BCE, the two most important trade unions within the sector.
Description of the initiative
E.ON Energie supports young people starting their career with an active training policy. This policy includes three programmes in particular: traditional training at a national level, the in-house internship programme ‘Entry into the world of work’ (‘Einstieg in die Arbeitswelt’ – Eida) and the programme ‘Taking part with energy’ (‘Mit Energie dabei’), which is aimed at unemployed young adults. This commitment came about, on the one hand, from the need to reduce the average age of the E.ON Energie workforce: in 2004, almost 80% of employees were between the ages of 35 and 55, while the 16-25 year old age group only made up 2.5% of the workforce. On the other hand, the management was, and is, also aware of its social responsibility as an employer. In the Ruhr area, as well as in the east of Germany, regions in which E.ON Energie figures among the most important employers, youth unemployment was particularly high in 2004.
In the same year, E.ON Energie employed 2,128 trainees, 530 of whom were employed in the commercial sector and almost 1,600 in the industrial sector. On average, around 600 young people begin a traineeship with E.ON Energie each year, and just as many complete training successfully. The chances of being kept on are promising. Out of the 673 people who completed their traineeship in 2004, 566 were given at least a short-term position with the Group – representing an 84% retention rate.
During salary negotiations in 2004, the E.ON Energie Group committed itself to employing a fixed number of trainees after they complete their traineeship, regardless of economic performance. The Group also encourages its former trainees who complete their traineeship with top marks to go to university under the programme ‘Challenge 4 you’. The companies of the E.ON Energie Group subsidised these students with EUR 500 a month.
‘Taking part with energy’ is a special programme for unemployed teenagers and young adults who, for various reasons, cannot pursue the standard methods of training due to learning difficulties, social problems or a lack of qualifications. ‘Taking part with energy’ was originally introduced in Gelsenkirchen because youth unemployment there was over 20%. The programme is now offered not only in North Rhine Westphalia, but also in Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, Hesse, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Thuringia, with a total of around 500 positions. It is planned to extend the programme to other regions. ‘Taking part with energy’ includes a three-month training programme and a seven-month internship, in which the practical and theoretical knowledge and interests of the participant are tested and developed.
The long-term internship is designed to be an integration process, which enables both the company and the trainee to get to know each other. This makes it easier for the employer to decide if the potential trainee has the attributes needed to carry out their tasks. At the same time, the young person has the opportunity to find out if the job and employer are right for them. In the first three months, in which the local employment agencies and working groups undertake the financing, the participants are given help with planning their professional career, getting the necessary qualifications, writing applications, improving their knowledge of languages as well as assessing their strengths and weaknesses. E.ON AG takes on all costs of the long-term internship and pays the participants a nominal wage as well as their national social insurance contributions.
‘Entry into the world of work’ (Eida), on the other hand, is an in-house internship programme which aims to give participants an introduction to working life. The participants are assigned to an E.ON Energie employee who acts as their mentor. The mentor’s main task is to provide support and assistance, as well as making contact with the participants’ families if necessary.
Exemplary and contextual factors
E.ON Energie’s comprehensive training approach surpasses what is usually offered. The wide-ranging programme is not restricted to the development of a future company workforce, but is underscored by a strong social responsibility. The latter is shown in particular by the company’s commitment to support socially excluded young people both directly and indirectly in their search for employment.
E.ON Energie records a high success rate with its ‘Taking part with energy’ programme: around 70% of the participants were offered a training position. Under the the Eida internship programme, over 60% of the interns employed in 2006 received in-house training.
As part of the traditional training policy, the works council was able to increase the number of trainees that E.ON Energie commits to taking on at a later date.
The social dialogue within E.ON Energie is making a real impact. It has, notably, put the issue of youth unemployment on the company agenda and, in so doing, has gone some way towards alleviating the problem. The ageing of its workforce also undoubtedly played a decisive role in the employment of young people becoming a key issue.
In developing training programmes and offering financial support above and beyond conventional approaches, the company has contributed to helping young people integrate into the labour market. Thanks to the various training promotion programmes, E.ON Energie is able to combine the often conflicting goals of business requirements and social awareness.