As of March 31, 2023 (the close of the business year 2022/23), the voestalpine Group had 48,231 employees excluding apprentices and leased personnel. Compared with March 31, 2022, this corresponds to an increase in the workforce by 1,293 employees or 2.8%. When 1,402 apprentices and 3,253 leased employees are included, the total full-time equivalent (FTE) rises to 51,202 person years, a year-over-year increase by 1.9% (+978 FTE). A total of 54.7% of the Group’s employees (28,010 FTE) work at Group locations outside of Austria, and 45.3% (23,192 FTE) work in Austrian voestalpine companies. As of the close of the reporting period, the Group had 1,402 apprentices. Of these, 67.0% were being trained at facilities in Austria and 33.0% at facilities abroad. Overall, the number of apprentices rose year over year by 33 individuals or 2.4%.
Employee shareholding scheme
voestalpine has had an employee shareholding scheme since 2001, which has been continually expanded since then. Besides the company’s workforce in Austria, employees in Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium, Czechia, Italy, Switzerland, Romania, Spain, and Sweden also have a share in “their” company. The voting rights associated with stock issued to employees are combined in the voestalpine Mitarbeiterbeteiligung Privatstiftung (employee foundation for the Group’s employee shareholding scheme), making this entity a stable, key shareholder of voestalpine AG. As of March 31, 2023, a total of about 25,500 employees have a stake in voestalpine AG. They hold about 25.5 million shares which, due to the general bundling of voting rights, represent 14.3% of the company’s share capital (previous year: 14.2%). In addition, former employees of voestalpine hold approximately 0.9 million “private shares” of voestalpine AG via the foundation, which equates to 0.5% of the voting shares. The foundation exercises the voting rights of these shares, too, as long as the given employees do not exercise their right to freely dispose of the shares. On the whole, therefore, as of March 31, 2023, the voting rights of 14.8% of the share capital of voestalpine AG are pooled in the foundation.
The Stahlstiftung (Steel Foundation) was founded in Linz, Austria, in 1987 as a legally independent non-profit foundation. Its aim was to provide employees of the VOEST-ALPINE Group (as it was called at the time), who had to leave the company due to a crisis, as well as employees of companies outside of the Group with opportunities for reorienting themselves professionally. Up to four years of training and continuing professional development (CPD) are funded for this purpose. The foundation’s services are funded by both employee contributions and administrative cost-sharing arrangements with all member entities. As of the March 31, 2023, reporting date, the Stahlstiftung was assisting 247 individuals, 184 of whom were former employees of the voestalpine Group. Overall there were 462 active Stahlstiftung participants in the business year 2022/23, i.e., 33.4% fewer than in the previous year (694 individuals). In the business year 2022/23, 86.0% of the participants looking for work were able to develop new professional prospects with the help of the Stahlstiftung. The fact that this number was about 6% higher than in the business year 2021/22 reflects the recovery of the labor market during the reporting period. The activities of 12 individuals related to educational leave were also supported during the reporting period over and above the participants covered by the Stahlstiftung in its capacity as a classic employee fund. Additionally, individual consultations were provided in the business year 2022/23 to a total of 115 employees of the member companies of the Stahlstiftung to help ensure their employability.
Apprentices & young skilled workers
voestalpine remains committed to its goal of offering young people solid training and continuing professional development. A total of 534 trainee slots will be available at the start of the training program in the Northern fall of 2023. The company invests about EUR 90,000 per apprentice in the comprehensive three or four-year training program. voestalpine AG has launched an advertising campaign geared specifically toward young people, as well as their parents and other relatives, which is designed to present apprenticeship opportunities in some 50 different skilled trades at the 37 voestalpine training facilities in Europe’s German-speaking region (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland). The aim is to support the Group companies as effectively as possible in their search for the young skilled workers of the future. Geographically speaking, the campaign focuses on the areas where the given voestalpine sites are located, using the global platforms TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram—i.e., social media channels that are particularly popular among young people. A simultaneous campaign directed at parents is being broadcast both via Facebook and Google and in print media based on cooperation deals with the Upper and North Austrian issues of the daily “Kronen Zeitung” as well as with the “Kleine Zeitung” newspaper, but the focus in all of this is on the young people themselves. Both the imagery and the wording were developed in cooperation with voestalpine apprentices, who also played a major role in the visuals and testimonials. The campaign slogan, “I choose,” stands for self-determination, but also embodies its youth-centered focus and serves as its lynchpin, creatively speaking. The campaign’s website www.voestalpine.com/ichoose has the same look and feel as the numerous short videos and photographs that it features; it also serves as the starting point for submitting an apprenticeship application to voestalpine.
The voestalpine Group Apprentice Day celebrated its tenth anniversary. Altogether, the ten events to date have attracted some 4,000 apprentices and trainees. The Group Apprentice Day is a special experience for those on the apprenticeship scheme. In the final year of the program, all trainees and apprentices are invited to the Group’s headquarters in Linz to spend an eventful day that includes a talk with Management Board members, a plant tour, team challenges, and plenty of fun and action. This day is often the first opportunity for the apprentices and trainees to meet the entire Management Board of the voestalpine Group or to tour the Linz plant. Each year’s event features a different slogan to inspire the young target audience. Throughout, these slogans have also expressed voestalpine’s pride in and respect for its young skilled workers, who form the backbone of the Group and its production plants. Some 450 voestalpine apprentices from 37 training facilities in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland participated in the 10th Group Apprentice Day on November 29, 2022. While the event was livestreamed from voestalpine Stahlwelt in Linz due to pandemic-related requirements, it was still designed to encourage as much interaction as possible, thus conveying a sense of commonality and connection. This included a live question-and-answer session with the Management Board, a selfie video of the participants, and a team challenge following the “escape the room” format with questions about voestalpine. Finally, the slogan for this year’s Group Apprentice Day—“I choose voestalpine”—matches that of the current apprenticeship campaign.
The Group’s excellent numbers with respect to completed apprenticeships create a solid base of skilled workers for the future: Fully 95.6% of all apprentices in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland who took the final apprenticeship exam in the business year 2022/23 passed it. Of the Austrian graduates, 63.3% even did so with good or excellent grades.
The large number of awards given to voestalpine’s apprentices confirms the quality of their training. They garnered 16 awards at the “Apprentice Award 2022” in Upper Austria, for example, and won a medal for Excellence in Electrical Systems at the 46th WorldSkills Competition—also known as the “World Championships of Professions.” A visit by the United States Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh, to the Linz training center in January 2023 further underscored the excellent reputation of the Group’s training. In light of the increasing lack of skilled labor, the U.S. and Austria are stepping up their cooperation and exchanges with respect to dual education. voestalpine’s skilled worker training is considered the touchstone for Austria’s industry.
Development of executives
In the business year 2022/23, the Group’s tried-and-tested “value:program”—an international executive development program—took place subject to only to a few remaining pandemic-related social distancing requirements. The Group’s approaches to pandemic control ensured that the program could be carried out safely for all participants. Given the positive experience gained, in the future the training and CPD programs tailored to target groups at all executive levels will be organized to incorporate both face-to-face and online courses, supplemented by external programs for postgraduates and business school students. What makes our approach so valuable over and above the comprehensive skills training imparted by international top experts is the intensive involvement of individual members of voestalpine’s leadership team. In their capacity as speakers, project managers, or sparring partners, so to speak, they engage with participants in a wide-ranging exchange of experiences. This mixture of external and internal expertise, along with the Group’s commitment to ensuring that employees possess advanced qualifications, makes the voestalpine leadership program a key element supporting the Group’s claim to being “one step ahead.” Every year, about 200 international employees participate in the multi-stage program. In the business year 2022/23, 215 employees from 19 countries took part in the program. The Group also succeeded in boosting the percentage of female participants in the program from about 16% prior to the pandemic to 23% at present.
Other employee development programs
In order to foster and boost relevant employee capabilities and skills in a manner specific to both functions and regions, the voestalpine Group offers a number of additional programs, such as the “Purchasing Power Academy;” the “HR Academy;” the “Early Career Program” in North America; and the “Young Professional Training Program” (YPTP) in China. Following the suspension of individual programs due to the pandemic, most of these programs as well as the value:program were carried out again in the business year 2022/23. Where possible and meaningful, some of them were also supplemented by new digital delivery formats. The positive experiences gained through this type of blended learning (i.e., combinations of face-to-face and online training) will enable us to take the next steps toward delivering executive training programs digitally. Most of the divisions’ and business segments’ comprehensive training and continuing professional development (CPD) programs were also restarted.
The most recent Group-wide voestalpine employee survey took place in the Northern fall of calendar year 2022. Of 48,421 employees invited, a total of 37,221 participated in the survey. This equates to a participation rate of 77% and underscores the consistently high response rate. Employees’ level of commitment, which describes the degree to which they identify with the company, is the key parameter. Compared with calendar year 2019, the level of commitment dropped by two percentage points to 54%. In addition to the level of employee commitment, ten additional topics were addressed, most of which largely elicited agreement. Employees’ respect for and willingness to collaborate with each other is of particular importance: On this issue, the agreement value within voestalpine surpassed the global benchmark. As part of the review, aggregation, and analysis of the survey results, each Group company is required to report two key action steps to the Management Board by the end of June 2023. Group companies have the option to conduct interim surveys until the next global employee survey takes place in the Northern fall of 2024.
Cooperation with educational institutions
Many voestalpine companies offer students the option of enrolling in internships. Among other things, this is focused on scientific work in cooperation with voestalpine companies. Currently, numerous diploma and masters theses as well as dissertations are being written in collaboration with the Group. voestalpine uses innovative formats tailored to different target groups to introduce itself to future personnel. This includes numerous collaborative training programs; sponsorship commitments aimed at kindling young people’s interest in technical degrees; and participating in job fairs and career expos or the so-called #voestalpinetalks (a collaborative event with all student representatives) at the University of Mining and Metallurgy in Leoben, Austria.
Measures related to the COVID-19 Pandemic
While the Coronavirus Task Force that was established at Group headquarters back in February 2020 continued its work during the first three quarters of the business year 2022/23 in close coordination with the Chairman of the Management Board and in cooperation with all divisional task forces, the regular meetings were suspended as of January 2023. This institutionalized framework was deactivated but can be reactivated at any time if required. The Group’s wide-ranging COVID-19 control measures were continually evaluated and adapted to the given situation. For example, aside from self-protection steps, minimum physical distancing requirements, the wearing of face masks or coverings, and preventive hygiene measures (e.g., handwashing and disinfecting), they also included pointers as to what to do in case of suspected infection and broad-based communication measures across the entire Group.
In connection with the incremental rollback of pandemic-related measures during the business year 2022/23, voestalpine’s employees put their best foot forward yet again, just as they had previously when working to control the pandemic, demonstrating flexibility, judgment, and preparedness. In doing so, they proved once again that they are the key driver of the Group’s resilience.