Young Gain Job Advantage in Post- Communist Societies


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The symbol of Communism - the hammer and sickle - represents the main tools of physical labor used by industrial and agricultural workers.  But the collapse of the Iron Curtain 20 years ago coincided with a decline in heavy industry and the rise of the Internet and knowledge-based companies.  

The Gdansk Shipyard, birthplace of the Solidarity Trade Union that led the struggle against Communism in Poland, was a place where thousands of workers could expect a lifetime of employment under the old state-supported system.  Thirty four year veteran Ludwig Pradzynski says there are few young people there today.

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Pradzynski says the reason young people are not working at the shipyard is because the job is so hard.  He says that from the vantage point of his shop on the launch ramp, he does not know what is happening in the offices, where educated employees can be found.  
Sunreef Yachts, located just a few hundred meters from Pradzynski's shop, hired about 400 of the most energetic and adaptable designers, engineers and technicians who lost their jobs when the main shipyard downsized.  Sales representative Maciej Stompor says those workers were generally younger and willing to put in longer hours than most at the shipyard.

"People that used to work in the shipyards before, I mean the very simple workers, they did not feel responsibility for the work they were doing; for the part of the ship they were creating.  Nobody taught them," said Stompor.

Teaching young people about competition, marketing and innovation is the mission of the International Business School in Budapest.  The school's founder and chancellor, Istvan Tamas, says the change from communism was difficult for the older generation.

Tamas says that for those born in the new era or were very young, it was a very natural process; for them, there has been no change.

Many in post-communist societies say younger people can deal better with the uncertainties of unemployment than older workers who had guaranteed jobs under communism.

That attitude led to the creation of Poland's InteliWISE Company, a high-tech firm that creates avatars, or talking online figures for Web sites of international corporations.  InteliWISE vice president Marek Trojanowicz recalls his earlier business endeavor failed.
"It is the natural way that some things you do in your life, some idea is good for your business and you find a way for your business, and of course, some ideas just collapse and you should just stand on your legs and say, 'OK, it collapsed, let us find some other ideas and start a new business," he said.

InteliWISE is located at the Pomeranian Science and Technology Park, home to about 80 Polish high tech companies in the city of Gdynia near Gdansk.  Most of the employees are young.  Park representative Magdalena Zacharczuk says she knows of no former shipyard workers working there.

"The key factor is that they have to be innovative.  So perhaps it is a little bit harder to think of something innovative once you are a little bit further in your years compared to, for example, students who are still inspired by what they learned recently in the university," she said.

Zacharczuk says the Science and Technology Park receives subsidies from the city of Gdynia and the European Union, subsidies that Poland's aging shipyards no longer get.  She says this is a clear indication that the future belongs to younger educated workers; a future made possible by the successful struggle of Polish shipyard workers against Communism 20 years ago. 

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