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"Only the employer can motivate to live in the Far East"

The general director of the revived plant Amurstal Sergei Kuznetsov about cadres, metallurgy and Komsomolsk-on-Amur

In 2017, the Amurmetal plant (Komsomolsk-on-Amur), which was in crisis for four years, was bought by a group of companies "TOREX". In July 2018, the company that returned the historical name "Amurstal", gave 70 thousand tons of steel - it is already very close to the design capacity of 1 million tons of steel per year. On the eve of the All-Russian Congress of Engineers, which will be held in Komsomolsk-on-Amur on 5-6 September, EastRussia asked the plant's general director, Sergey Kuznetsov, whether people still want to work as a metallurgist after such a difficult history, just find skilled engineers in the Far East, and there are whether there are any prospects for the development of high-tech industries and population growth.

Photo: Press service of the group of companies "Torex"

- Let's start with the numbers. How many workers are there at the Amurstal plant, and how many of them are engineers?

- The company employs 3148 people. Of these, the "engineer" qualification of 539 people is 17,1%. 

- Is there a shortage of engineering personnel?

- I can give you an example. Amurstal is a processing plant. We melt raw materials - scrap metal, pour steel through a continuous casting machine into a billet, and then - produce long products, mainly for construction: rebar, angle, wire rod, circle. There is such a profession - a calibrator. This is the one who calculates what reductions of the billet on the mill need to be done in order to get a wire with a thickness of 6 mm. This is an art, calibration is based on experience, although certain calculations of three-dimensional deformation methods exist. In order to cut and calculate the calibers, you need a specialist. It is not at the factory. 

- Not at all?

- There was one, but left - they are in demand. At us some experts can count the separate moments, but the class calibrator is as the mechanic-lekalshchik at the machine-building enterprise which does high-precision preparations, processes products. And now such a specialist, who is difficult and long to prepare, is not at Amurstal now.

- And what's on the market?

- There are no calibrators in the market to southwestern Siberia, to Novokuznetsk. I went to Novokuznetsk, we turned to Evraz. The deficit of such specialists is everywhere. Young people who have such skills and knowledge - they simply do not, it must be a professional. To train is difficult, but from already trained people who want to move to the Far East there is not even in such a metallurgical city as Novokuznetsk. It may be necessary to apply to the Urals, to the west of the country or to Ukraine. 

- It turns out, in the Far East, metallurgists are not taught?

- In the Far Eastern Federal District, a full-fledged education in the specialty "metallurgist" is given only by the Komsomolsk-on-Amur State University, but the last set for the specialty "Metallurgy" was in 2014. In the Pacific State University in Khabarovsk, they teach art casting. The nearest town, where there is a full-fledged training of metallurgists in all the redistribution, from electric steelmaking to the rolling mill, is Novokuznetsk. Many graduates of the Siberian Metallurgical Institute work at Amurstal. At one time they came here in the direction, and I myself graduated from it. 

- Are there any prospects for recruitment of entrants-metallurgists in the KnAGU?

- I met with the rector of the University Eduard Dmitriev last year. They have a base for training metallurgists in the specialty "Metallurgy of ferrous metals and metal working with pressure", but there are no applicants. In Komsomolsk-on-Amur annually about 1 thousand. potential entrants. Most of them leave for Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Moscow, St. Petersburg. There remain units here, which for some reason can not leave. And if they can not leave, they do not necessarily want to study in higher educational institutions, since they must earn money for living. 


- The plant somehow can affect the situation, or it is stalemate?

- We can not not try to influence, because there is a shortage of personnel. This caliber we need one, and electricians, gas cutters and other workers - a lot. We need qualified distributors, rollers are the metallurgical elite. Of course, there is a shortage of managers, basically, are masters who should organize work and ensure the execution of shift tasks, shift supervisors, deputy head of the shop. With the engineering staff, everything is not very good for us. Therefore, with the KNASU, we came here to an idea - it is necessary to create a motivation for students to go to the metallurgists. The university's offer is to attract young people from the CIS countries, provide them with housing, pay for studies and scholarships and the prospect of obtaining Russian citizenship. 

- And the enterprise will pull it in economy? Housing, for example?

"We have no shelter." There are in the city, but they are single rooms in the hostel. Found understanding from the Ministry of Construction of Khabarovsk Krai on the need for government funding construction of hostels for young professionals. There are such opportunities, we are working on it, but it is still far from implementation. The scholarship is small, but there is nothing wrong with that. We could guarantee further employment through a contract that would oblige a specialist to work at the enterprise for some time in order to reimburse the funds spent on him. But what's dangerous here. From applicant to engineer - 5 years. Having invested money in applicants, it is not a fact that you will get a ready-made specialist at the exit. And even if he received "fours" and "fives", it is not a fact that he will adapt to our work. By the way, I know a lot of examples from life when the former "troechniks" successfully coped with the work of shop managers and even became production directors. Nevertheless, all this is an investment with a certain risk, an investment with no return. I repeat, it is necessary to systematically work with universities and colleges on targeted training for the enterprise, including the acquisition of related professions.

- And the mechanisms of industrial practice allow somehow to assess the quality of university training?

- We practice dozens of people. There is a problem - mostly girls. And they can not go to all places where there is a shortage of personnel. The department of technical control, technical department, control equipment is yes. But I did not see steelworkers-girls. The guys who come, as a rule, are drafted into the army for a year and after that they can not guarantee that they will return to the enterprise. Those who are not called can stay, but these are units. And there is no recruitment for metallurgists in KnAGU. Therefore it will be necessary to go, to search for specialists in other cities. 

- And that, the education system can not help at all?

- Here you can see the other side of the question. We have a lot of specialists invited to work as chairmen of state examination boards, and commission members. I demand that each of them report how many people he sagged to work at the plant. Otherwise, I just do not let go. 

"Let's go back to the calibrator." One specialist is needed, you have reached Novokuznetsk - there is not. What to do?

- There is. But there are no people who would like to come to Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

- And what can I do to make them wish?

- Probably, interest - money, better living conditions, perspective.

- What is the prospect of a caliber?

- Salary and its growth. A person here, with us, can make good money, but if he likes it - he can stay. But the main thing is that he becomes a great specialist, in demand on the market.


- In your opinion, the creation of attractive conditions for working in Komsomolsk-on-Amur is a task to some extent for the government or for the employer as a whole? 

- I doubt that the authorities will be able to provide the required number of people, will create a motivation for them to work at a metallurgical enterprise. I believe only an employer can. A young man who wants to work in a factory, you need what? For the first time, until he acquired obligations towards the family - to eat, rest, have tolerable working conditions, understand that he has a growth prospect - both career and in monetary terms. To understand that he will receive this salary steadily throughout the period of time planned by him, and the enterprise will not be in a situation when he can not pay for his labor.

- Nice picture. But, if we take the recent crisis past of "Amurmetal", everything was the other way round.

- The story with bankruptcy is over. The authorities played an important role here - they preserved the plant as a single production complex, did not allow it to be pulled apart piece by piece, which made it possible to preserve the core of the team. The backbone at the plant remained the same: people did not go anywhere, received a small salary, but, nevertheless, they waited until the plant began to restore its previous production volumes. In January, we produced 28 thousand tons. In July, they reached 71 thousand tons. From January to July, we increased production every month, which was very difficult. 70 thousand tons per year - it's already 850 thousand, and when we get to 80 thousand tons per month - that's 1 million tons, the design capacity of the enterprise. Gradually we managed to do this, and here the merit of the whole team, who remembered the skills, mobilized efforts, was able to ensure the equipment's working capacity.

- Why do you think these people remained true to "Amurstal"?

- Talking about patriotism is probably stupid. But why is the population decreasing in the Far East? I believe that if people were provided with jobs and decent wages, they would not leave. Yes, Komsomolsk-on-Amur is not a city like Khabarovsk. But I see how it changes after it has become a "city of presidential attention": a lot is being built, roads are being repaired, money is being invested - and it is getting prettier. Yes, it is far from Khabarovsk, but it is not a regional center either. This is the second city in the region, a hard worker. If we provide him with jobs, I think many people will come to live here. Magnificent nature, wonderful climate, proximity to resorts, close to Vietnam, Korea, Japan. Need work. By the way, in the summer, when most of the employees try to go on vacation, I weekly sign compensations for travel to a resting place for more than 5 million rubles. This is the so-called "northern privilege". And this is besides the raising factor to the salary. In this connection, I do not understand why qualified specialists, for example, from Khabarovsk, who has this benefit, do not go to work for us? After all, with a similar load, they could receive twice as much?

- You said, you also need motivation in choosing the profession of a metallurgist. Recently it is fashionable to talk about the need for a system of continuous engineering education - almost from the school bench. Will it help metallurgical enterprises?

- And when you were little, did you plan to be what? A cosmonaut?

- I do not remember. But not a journalist. 

- At least, you do not dream of becoming a metallurgist in kindergarten.

- And if mom and dad work for Amurmetal?

- I myself am from the dynasty of metallurgists. At one time, my father told me, and he was a well-known metallurgist: "No, you do not need to go to the factory." "They have a decent salary, a quiet job, a great vacation." What else do you want? " For those times it really was so. Now everything has changed. 

- Nevertheless, somehow you work with schools?

- During the period when the plant was in crisis, the profession of a metallurgist in Komsomolsk-on-Amur lost prestige. We take schoolchildren to our museum of labor glory, hold contests, quizzes, introducing the profession. Senior students are taken to the shops. 

- "Profile classes," like aircraft builders, are there? 

- We are working on this issue, it takes time. But we are already closely cooperating with the Governor's Aircraft Building College and the Sudomechanical Technical School, where they also train specialists in the working professions required in our production. 


"Although Komsomolsk-on-Amur is a city of machine builders, but in general the prospects of mechanical engineering in Russia are somehow sad, do not you think?"

- Problems with the cadres, of course, are for all machine builders of the city, and the engineering industry in our country works outside the market - on defense orders basically. I have a completely definite opinion on the machine building industry - in Russia it practically does not exist. 

- "Amurstal" is connected more not with mechanical engineering, but, probably, with the construction market, right? 

- The main demand for our products in the domestic market is really building. If their volumes do not decrease, Amurstal will exist. So far, the dynamics are positive. We have already increased wages four times - 1 February, 15 March, 1 April, 1 August. Gradually approached the average salary for the Khabarovsk Territory - it is 45 thousand rubles. per month. At us the planned average salary in August has made 43,8 thousand rubles. The productivity of labor has reached from 11 tons per person to 22. Everything is growing, the payroll at the beginning of the year was 91 million rubles, and will be 137 million rubles - this is a serious growth.

- Is it a low base effect?

- Of course. But, on the other hand, earlier 6 thousand people worked at the plant. Now that I came, it was 2800. We took 400 with more than one person, while "slowed down" - we recruit only for highly deficient and highly qualified specialties. If we continue the work of the second continuous casting machine, we will recruit people. So far, we have the task - 1 million tons per year, and next year Amurstal will come out on this million. People are inspired. When the group of companies "TOREX" as a new investor came to the enterprise, we were told: "Well, on this equipment you can give a maximum of 30-40 thousand tons per month. And we have already given 71! 

- Production is gaining momentum. Is the situation improving for finance? 

- There is, of course, a gap. Yes, we do not have enough working capital, we are credited. But, at least, we have been profitable since April.

- What are the tasks, other than achieving 1 million tons, for the coming years? 

- Modernization of the section rolling shop - with an increase in productivity, opening up bottlenecks, improving the quality of finished products, including packaging, and manufacturing fittings at lower costs to ensure the required mechanical properties. Reconstruction of the heating furnace with an increase in productivity from the current 400 thousand tons to 450-550 thousand tons per year. Next, we have a slab continuous casting machine, which is a rectangular billet for a flat rolling mill. And sheet-rolling production does not work. The slab machine has been mothballed, but it is in good condition, and produced only 80 thousand tons. The slab is not in demand on the market. It is necessary to modernize the car for a "square", or bloom, which is in demand on the market, this issue is being worked out. This is a mid-term perspective. 

- If you "land" on the footage, new specialists will be required?

- For service as such - no. People are trained and ready to service the equipment after reconstruction. The provision of personnel is more a matter of age. We have a lot of engineering workers closer to retirement age, and young people are few. The state, of course, tries - the pension age is trying to raise, but this is not a measure of support, from which there will be a big effect.
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