The European steel industry has been through tough times. Low prices and competition in the global marketplace have led to the loss of thousands of jobs. But young people are still attracted to the steel industry.
The future of steel - Bernhard Osburg, 35, is searching for it
These days, steel production at the Thyssen Krupp works is fully automated and round the clock. More and more steel is produced by fewer and fewer people. They have been replaced by technology. 35 year-old Bernhard Osburg rarely comes here, even though it is where raw material for his work is manufactured … in the steel furnaces and rolling mills. An engineer, Osburg develops new kinds of car bodies for the company - from steel.
Osburg is fascinated by steel. He has been working for Thyssen Krupp for three and a half years. He grew up here in the steel city of Duisburg, which is still the centre of the German steel industry. Osburg was a child during the period of industrial action in the 80s, when thousands of steel industry jobs were lost. His career took him first to the car industry - until he received an offer from Thyssen Krupp.
Osburg tells us that all of his friends thought that he was crazy to consider going into the steel industry. But he decided to take the plunge. He says that after his interview, he drove around the site for a time, and it gave him a warm feeling, probably because it is where he comes from. "I thought the place was great", he says. "And I still think it’s great".
Osburg works in the development laboratory, with computers, 3D animation and model building - not a sign of steel-manufacture. This is where he and his colleagues are working on the car of the future. With a steel body, naturally. It is to be light but at the same time safe and inexpensive. The group is experimenting with new kinds of components.
In an attempt to keep ahead of the competition, companies like Thyssen Krupp are moving away from mass production towards specialist products. Osburg says that firms have learnt from the crises in the 70s and 80s and are taking more account of customer requirements. They have adopted a different attitude. These days, they are international combines operating as global players in the market. Osburg is not worried. He says that every company is under enormous pressure, and the steel industry is no exception.
Bernhard Osburg is sure that his job is safe. A third of Thyssen Krupp’s turnover now comes from supplying the motor industry. And Osburg thinks it could be even more.