The recent event in Brussels did, however, provide some pointers as to the steps that need to be taken before any real progress can be made in this area.
Eurostat figures presented at the conference showed that, in 2013, 7.9 percent of the rubber industry’s workforce was below 24 years old; 77.9 percent was aged 25-54; and around 14 percent 55 and older.
To replace the large number of retirees, industry needs to highlight the exciting technologies involved in designing and manufacturing tires and rubber products, according to Christian Koetz, ETRMA’s president.
Whilst many of the brands in the rubber industry are well-known, the industry is seen as “un-cool” by much of the tech-savvy younger generation, he said.
“To attract these ‘generation Y’ people, with the connected, virtual world on their radar to join a rubber company is a challenge,” commented Koetz.
Meanwhile, Koetz who is executive vice president, replacement EMEA PLT, at Continental, said that while there are many industry skills initiatives, they are run “very much on a company-by-company basis.”
Global tire makers, added Koetz, have a good understanding of how many people and what the types of skills they need to hire over the next 10 years – but, again, very much on an individual company basis.
There are, of course, also differences between the requirements of tire companies and those of general rubber goods (GRG) manufacturers, who generally lack the critical size and capabilities to do stand-alone activities.
“For GRG companies it is even more demanding than for the tire companies because the technical challenge behind their products is less known,” said Koetz, emphasising the importance of local and regional skills programmes to this sector.
On the way forward, the ETRMA president said that the tire and rubber manufacturing sector needs “to emerge from individual activities to more co-ordinated, joint approaches so that we can align forces.
“We must exchange ideas about best practice in recruitment and training: not just talking within the industry, but also with educational organisations and regulatory agencies.”