They earn outstandingly well, perform creative work, work also in the field, yet there are only few of them. who they are?

They earn outstandingly well, perform creative work, work also in the field, yet there are only few of them. who they are?

Notwithstanding that they receive wages considerably exceeding the Hungarian average and have extremely wide freedom of movement on the labor market - just as in the case of other construction professions - there is still a significant shortage of civil engineers. KÉSZ Group launched a competition titled Hexatlon with the non-hidden aim to make the faculty more popular and to find the country's best civil engineer student. We talked about the position of construction industry and higher education, the prospects of newly graduated students and the lesson of the coronavirus with Tamás Vida, CEO of KÉSZ Group.

It is almost commonplace by now that a civil engineer may choose among well-paying jobs as he likes. It is also commonplace that the rising Hungarian construction industry struggles with serious skills shortage, among others in this field, too. How can this contradiction be explained?

The construction industry has been struggling with capacity and labor shortage for years. It has several reasons and the problem appears on several levels. There is a shortage of specialized tradesmen, similarly as engineers. Although it is a prominently important industry in the national economy and – as we can see – it plays an important role also in restarting, judgment of the construction industry is not the best. Despite the demand, less and less people choose the faculties related to construction industry: succession is missing and less and less students study to become, for example, a civil engineer. The faculty itself is less well-known to students and does not belong to the easiest ones, however, dedicated students may find a lot of beauty and professional success in his career.

Is it an honored, "cool" thing to be a civil engineer today? According to my own experiences, in Germany even secondary school students prepare for the career consciously, it is a desired, popular career goal to become an engineer. Is it so in Hungary, too?

In Hungary we can meet more and more young people on the labor market who prepare for engineering consciously. Although civil engineering is less known and popular compared to the other engineering activities, we at KÉSZ Group think, of course, that it offers exciting tasks and splendid career opportunities. We can see each day how much they, their creativity and knowledge are needed. Moreover, we speak not only about an extremely diversified career but civil engineers may count on competitive salaries.

KÉSZ Group launched a competition named Hexatlon in search of the country's best civil engineer student. How many students have applied for till now and in what tasks should they prove?

We embarked on the multi-round Hexatlon competition with more than 100 applicants who have successfully completed the first round. The participants have to prove simultaneously their knowledge, creativity and fastness, i.e. they have to show the features they will need during their work from day to day. The students have to solve various tasks built on their studies and these tasks include, for example, a presentation before the professional jury. We are looking curiously to what ideas and solution proposals we meet.

The winner will receive a prize of two million forints, the students in the second and third places will receive prizes worth of hundred thousands. Does KÉSZ Group keep an eye on the best performing students? Can an internship or possibly a job offer come into question?

Yes, the main prize of the competition is internship in KÉSZ Group in addition to the money prize. Besides, we constantly have open positions, so we are always glad if we can be acquainted with talented young specialists. We do our utmost to achieve that KÉSZ Group can be an attractive working place in the eyes of Hungarian specialists, so young people, of course. We believe that we can provide a good perspective to employees. We consider important to show to young career-starters: they have opportunities to acquire wide professional or even international experience in Hungarian large companies, too.

How do you see the quality of technical higher education? How are you disposed towards career-starters and what do you recommend strongly to students on the first day of their university studies?

Hungarian higher education provides a lot of excellent specialists with wide knowledge. Now it is evident that practical knowledge plays an increasing role in training but there are still extremely many theoretical materials. Just for this reason, professional internship places are important since they offer opportunities for integrating theoretical knowledge into practice: young people can try themselves in live situations, they exactly know what their daily work will be like, what they will be engaged in and what expectations a working place has and what are the latest trends in the relevant special field. I would recommend them to be open-minded, to try themselves and to utilize professional practical opportunities. They should ask their more experienced colleagues, to breathe in as much knowledge as possible.

Is Hungarian civil engineering training competitive in international terms? What are young Hungarian civil engineers better or weaker at than their foreign colleagues?

Absolutely. Currently, it is not a problem to find a job for graduated civil engineers, their skills are highly needed. It is visible also from the number of specialists working abroad that there is a demand for the knowledge of Hungarian specialists, so I think that Hungarian training is fairly competitive. The strength of the training program consists in extremely deep lexical knowledge and improvement is needed mostly in language skills and practicality.

What can Hungarian companies do to retain young talents at home? Is financial motivation sufficient or is it possible to accept the challenge against foreign companies also in other fields?

It is of key importance in permanent increase in construction industry that it is able to provide appropriate perspective to Hungarian workers and to entice home and retain at home as many specialists working abroad as possible. KÉSZ Group launched the #maradjitthon (stay at home) campaign in March 2020 just for this reason and more than one thousand construction specialists returned from abroad applied for it. With the help of the campaign we would have liked to show that employment in Hungary could be a real alternative. In any case, we saw that largely 70 per cent of the European wages might cause Hungarian specialists to deliberate staying at home. Therefore, financial motivation is important but not sufficient. The feeling of belonging to a community, the continuous experience of success and the opportunity for developing are important to young people.

To what extent does skills shortage keep the development of the Hungarian construction industry back? Apart from civil engineers, what specialists would be in the greatest need? What can you do to provide skilled workforce?

Currently we have more than 50 open searches for positions in which civil engineering and specialized construction qualification is a basic requirement. Skills shortage does not affect development, however, it unfortunately affects feasibility and quality, so also the shortage of physical labor and appropriate qualification. The professional support of younger generations and promotion of succession training are highly important for KÉSZ Group: among others we launched vocational training programs in cooperation with educational institutions where students may study construction professions in shortage. Hexatlon was established just for this reason and we strive to take part in achieving that young people could consider the civil engineering career as an attractive one.

As I told in the beginning of the interview, the Hungarian construction industry is on the rise. Would it have been better to say it in the past tense? How does coronavirus affect the sector? What middle- and long-term effects do you expect?

Last year, due to the negative effects of coronavirus epidemic, the vigorous several-year development of the Hungarian construction industry was interrupted. We saw from the official data that the volume of production diminished by 9.1 per cent on an annual basis. Notwithstanding this fact, the Hungarian construction industry closed the year in a good position in international comparison. Last year production exceeded the 2015 level by nearly 49 per cent that can be considered one of the best results among EU countries. After the decrease in 2020, construction industry started this year vigorously. Anyway, it is shown by the fact that the volume of contracts became in the positive last November. This January a two-digit growth was recorded and the volume of new contracts for construction of "other structures" including also infrastructure projects increased considerably, by 327 per cent on an annual basis. However, in February the volume of construction production decreased by 16.1 per cent on an annual basis according to KSH's data, so this year the picture is rather mixed for the time being.

KÉSZ Group's performance was good also in the year of the crisis caused by the world epidemic: its consolidated sales revenue of 2020 is expected to achieve 125 billion forints that means a nearly 30 per cent growth despite the difficult circumstances compared to the consolidated sales revenue of 2019. This year we also expect a nearly 30 per cent growth. However, stable growth highly depends on how investment projects turn out both in the private and state sectors.

What is the greatest challenge for KÉSZ Group in a virus situation? Is there any experience or good practice you intend to retain even after descending of the virus?

Of course, the virus situation was a challenge also for KÉSZ Group, however, we managed to react rapidly: when the virus appeared in China, we acted and set up a working group to manage the pandemic. Our colleagues who can perform their work from home, are working in home office mostly even now. The focus on digitalization has already been strong in the company even till now but the virus situation has strengthened it further. For example, we take the advantages provided by digitalization with us also to the virus-free period. Of course, owing to our activities, physical presence is indispensable in respect of our several employees. Works are performed in construction sites without major stoppages, our colleagues have become experienced in observing the health protection regulations justified by the virus situation. The last year was about a serious learning process but the virus situation showed that we are flexible and can rapidly adapt ourselves to the changing circumstances.