Poland-Scandinavia Round Table

Scandinavian inward investment account for almost a half of all FDI
in West Pomerania. Scandinavian companies already know
that West Pomerania is an excellent place for business. Now, they want
to convince Poles that it is an excellent place to work and live.

It is their reaction to the challenges of the labour market, which was one of the main topics discussed during the Poland-Scandinavia Round Table held in Szczecin.
Apart from the Marshal Olgierd Geblewicz, the event attracted Ole Mikkelsen,
the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Denmark, and Stefan Gullgren, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden, and a number of Scandinavian businessmen.

Despite many positive experiences, the business community and the local government have highlighted that the collaboration could be improved to produce better results.

‘Conditions for investment are right, location is good and there are well educated people. The local administration tries to help, and we would not reach this point if it was not for relations that we have developed. We have jointly created a supportive climate which complements the favourable location of West Pomerania and our proximity to Scandinavia’, said Olgierd Geblewicz, the Marshal of West Pomerania,
at outset of the event.

Until recently, infrastructure has been the main topic. Today, investors
from the north of Europe face other challenges, mainly related to the labour market and availability of employees.

‘The type of investment has changed. We see that more technologically advanced business centres and office facilities are developed. According to investors, infrastructure is excellent, including roads, railway lines, seaport and airports. Today, they need more flights to and from the region, since there are some missing links. Conditions for employees are increasingly important and we witness shortage
of labour’, 
said Ole Egberg Mikkelsen, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Denmark.

‘Your location and reputation are your major advantages. More than 100 companies have bene operating here creating jobs for over 5 thousand people. Companies struggle to attract employees, but this is actually the case all over Poland. We are interested in new transportation nodes, in particular air transport. Standards
in West Pomerania are similar to those in Sweden and we need to continue our cooperation, since results are excellent already’,
said Stefan Gullgren,
the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden.

Businessmen eagerly shared their experience regarding recruitment, both good
and bad. In their opinion, it is increasingly difficult to find blue collar workers
for production, but also white collars to fill office vacancies are a bit of a problem.

‘During our recruitment, we face shortage of candidates, especially for engineering jobs; it is difficult to find right people and then integrate them within the company. We consider changing competences of those who are available on the market
by re-training them. We gradually increase wages, and we have done that twice
in the past two years’, said
 Bożena Doroszenko, Kalmar, Stargard.

Some companies did not hide that they suffered the outflow of women once
the 500+ Programme was introduced by the government. The situation can be rectified by foreigners.

‘We employ a number of Ukrainian workers, but we also visit schools and try
to encourage young people to join our company’,
 explained Kenneth Thomsen, Ammeraal Belttech.

‘We employ people living more than 40 km away from Koszalin. We react to growing wages and rapid changes on the labour market. We have incentivised our employees by providing them with medical packages, sport packages, including fitness
and swimming pool, and free meals. All these, however, was efficient several years ago but today no longer works. We witness major rotation of workers from Ukraine, so we started to contract workers from Nepal’
, said Sylwester Szymanik from Koszalin-based Espersen, a company employing over a thousand people.

According to Edyta Hubska, a labour market expert, candidates are increasingly passive. Previously, a mere press job announcement sufficed, and today you need
to use social media to reach prospective employees, e.g. through social media. Although the main criterion is the salary, at higher ranking posts, work conditions become more important, and the same applies to the atmosphere at work
and work-life balance. Companies themselves come up with inventive ways
of attracting employees.

‘We need to promote our work culture and we need to promote the region to attract young people from other urban centres. West Pomerania and Szczecin are excellent to live and work. I have come from Warsaw and here I feel great’, said Elżbieta Adamowicz, DGS Poland, a company employing over 2.4 thousand people.

Entrepreneurs emphasise that universities are lagging behind the actual needs
of the business. For this reason, companies run excellence centres to train
and promote their employees themselves. The transport sector suffers significantly due to the shortage of labour, which was highlighted by Maciej Gonerko (Enterprise Logistics), Arkadiusz Prejna (Greencarrier) and Sebastian Goschorski (RSM Poland).
In their opinion, the job of a driver ceased to be attractive for young people. On top of that, companies face the consequences of regulations adopted by EU member states. On the one hand, member states try to protect their internal markets against transport companies from Poland, and on the other, they try hard to attract Polish drivers.

The group of Scandinavian companies established in West Pomerania includes those which, apart from traditional manufacturing, have developed their accounting centres, R&D, marketing and intellectual property divisions. Entrepreneurs have highlighted that although the region has been well known in Scandinavia, it is less recognisable in Poland, and a positive image of the region can be a factor
that attracts specialists. Although there are many talents in West Pomerania,
their number has been decreasing.

‘Nearly ten years ago, we picked Szczecin out of 60 locations all over the world.
From the very beginning, we focused on employing people with the right attitude
to work rather than based on required skills. Now, we contract specialists from other locations in Poland. People move here for the quality of life and clean air.
With that regards, Szczecin is very Scandinavian. Shortly after leaving your office,
you can start exercising, go to the forest, water, and there are golf courses
in the vicinity’,
 said Wojciech Faszczewski, Coloplast.

In the past several years, a recurring topic during the Polish-Scandinavian Round Table meetings has been the issue of scheduled flights between Szczecin
and Copenhagen, which could facilitate business operations in Poland and help attracting more investors.

‘Although local conditions are excellent, we still need to develop transport infrastructure and the route to the Tricity. There is a shortage of office space.
We need more air services
’, said Mariusz Karpiński, Netto.

Jacek Wójcikowski from the Westpomeranian Investors’ and Exporters’ Assistance Centre explained to people present that there is an airline interested in establishing a route to one of Scandinavian destinations and that a firm support of the Danish business community may help.

‘Szczecin and West Pomerania are the most suitable locations for us in Poland. Here we enjoy unprecedented promotion and support. The Scandinavian-Polish Chamber of Commerce have already attracted 68 companies and the membership is growing. Nearly every month we organise meetings. Poles like to work for us, which is particularly important considering today’s difficult labour market. We hope
that the development of off-shore wind picks up creating over 6 thousand jobs and I believe that many of those jobs can be established in West Pomerania’
, said Carsten Nielsen, the Scandinavian-Polish Chamber of Commerce.

‘When in 1998 the Westpomeranian Region was established we were the region
of the slowest growth in the country. Today, we are the third fastest growing region. It is the result of your presence and influence on Polish companies. And we hope
to continue growing’,
said Marshal Geblewicz while summarising the meeting.

The Poland-Scandinavia Round Table is an annual event and an opportunity
to discuss ways of promoting further growth. The event is organised by the Investors’ and Exporters’ Assistance Centre at the Marshal’s Office of the Westpomeranian Region, the Embassy of Denmark, the Embassy of Sweden, and the Scandinavian-Polish Chamber of Commerce. The recent meeting has involved dozens of business people, as well as Andrzej Preiss, the Honorary Consul of Denmark, and Marek Czernis, the Honorary Consul of Sweden.