In connection with the project entitled " Promotion of local economic development building on the Budapest airport through new labour market services of Budapest District 18 and Vecsés" that is implemented with the support of the Norway Grants, and with Municipality of 18th District of the Capital City of Budapest as the Lead partner, first we had a discussion with István Hunyadi, the City Manager of the Municipality.
What exactly is a city manager of a municipality and what are the related responsibilities in the operation of the municipality?
Currently there are few municipalities in Hungary using the term and position 'city manager'. When Attila Ughy was elected mayor in 2010, I was assigned as Professional Chief Advisor, however, it soon turned out that this position requires more than just giving advice. The position is more like a 'city manager' in Anglo-Saxon countries, which probably describes the work I do more precisely. This position is a kind of transition between the world of politics and public administration, but it also fills a gap: currently the head of the Mayor's Office tops the professional level of legal and administrative functions, however, there is a great demand to perform and manage the responsibilities of the Municipality - such as municipal economy, operation and urban development - at a professional level. The growing interest in the nature of the position is indicated by the fact that city management has been established at the Mayor's Office of the Municipality of Budapest as well.
Where did you get the idea or the inspiration for the project?
I suppose everyone remembers the bankruptcy of MALEV Hungarian Airlines a few years ago, as it was all over the press: when the airline ceased its operations, a lot of people lost their jobs, including many residents of this district: these people had the relevant, specific skills and qualifications, however, not all of them managed to find similar positions within a short time. We wanted to help them at that time; that's where the basic idea came from. In addition, the Municipality's own companies and organizations employ a relatively large number of employees in the district, and we are always on the lookout for appropriate workforce for our job vacancies. Therefore, our most important goal is to help people seeking employment find the right job, and we also find it important to empower them for these positions, as it helps the employer companies as well as the Municipality itself. Meanwhile, there has been an increased demand in the labour market for skilled workers with a decreased adequate supply due to the high number of Hungarians moving to work abroad, and the increasing number of unskilled workers with no relevant job skills, so the focus of the project had to be changed.
What possibilities are there for a municipality to better position its inhabitants in the labour market? How can it be fitted into the process of municipal urban development?
It is the aim of the Municipality to assist our residents in finding high-quality jobs with as favourable conditions and as close to their residence as possible. On the one hand this goal can be promoted by encouraging investments in the district and attracting new companies that offer new, high-quality jobs for our residents; on the other hand our goal can be achieved by targeting our residents with assistance in finding the relevant information - on job seeking and career opportunities - and by improving their competencies, as well as their professional and social skills. This concept is not widespread in Hungary yet; the above is considered a state administration task performed by the state via Government Offices, focusing particularly on those who have lost their jobs, and on job seekers - less attention is paid to those in employment or public employment relationship or on their training and development. However, the development of local economy is part of our district's Integrated City Development Strategy (ICDS) as well: our aim is to attract such undertakings, which add value to our community - this aim is assisted by infrastructural development and administrative measures, as well as by the development of human capital, which, (in case it is of good quality) plays an increasingly important role internationally and is an important value for companies. Performing proper market research is important to identify the labour needs of companies, and the needs of prospective employees or job seekers in terms of jobs and positions, as well as the necessary competencies.
As far as I know, a similar survey has recently been conducted within the framework of the project. Based on the results, what kind of training is most needed in the district? Which are the skills that need to be improved the most?
You are right, within the framework of the project we had the opportunity to carry out surveys with the HR managers of major companies working for the airport, and other companies in the district, but we have also conducted a survey assessing residential needs. On the basis of the surveys it can be concluded that primarily there are insufficient skills on 'soft' capabilities that are not subject to qualifications, like being able to find information on job and career opportunities, or preparedness for job interviews. That is, residents should be able to manage themselves in the job market, have adequate self-knowledge regarding their abilities and goals, they should be aware of what exactly they want, or what they are capable of, and be able to apply for positions accordingly. The corresponding competencies can be acquired. Just to mention the development of currently employed residents, there is a general competence - independent from any profession - that also needs to be improved in the case of almost all employees: customer-friendly attitude, which greatly contributes to improving the quality of services. This starts with basic elements like addressing customers properly, or helpfulness, which means that the employee would take all reasonable measures to fulfil the specific needs of the customer or guest, or even help to figure out what the customer really needs.
In order for the municipality to achieve such an ambitious goal it has to maintain good relationship with the local companies: currently what is the relationship between the district leadership and the district's largest employers like?
Currently this is rather just an emerging area. For the time being, the relationship between the two sides is limited to concrete interactions when one party needs something from the other party: a company needs a license from the local government, or the local government needs contributions from the companies in connection with an investment. The general attitude of companies is more like - using strong terms - "Leave us alone, we have already got enough troubles." In order to change this attitude, in my opinion, such long-term, personal (related to specific persons) relationships are needed at management level, which endure the test of time. All the above may take the form of bilateral relations, or even the form of clusters, just like in the case of the cluster operating in connection with the airport - however, the same is possible either by chambers or advocacy organizations. The key is to find the right type of cooperation with each organization that serves the interest of both parties in the long run. Hopefully, the work of the new Local Labour Market Committee will also serve to achieve this goal. It would be a great progress if the companies finally realized - as I have mentioned above - that high-quality human resource can be considered a capital value, and it is not easy to keep or quickly replace good workers. Our local government can also provide assistance to the companies in case their employees plan for the long run and want to move near their workplaces: we create attractive district environment and good infrastructure, which keeps new residents here, and also makes it easier for companies to retain their employees, as they prefer to work close to their residences. This could be a point of possible cooperation in the future.
One of the project partners is the University of Lillehammer in Norway, which recently hosted the Hungarian participants of the project. What is there to learn from the Norwegian partners in connection with the project, what experience has been gained so far?
Also, as a result of the growing number of immigrants, effective education is increasingly appreciated; not the traditional forms of education at school, but education at the workplace, as well as adult education. Another area where the Norwegians have extremely high professional experience is distance learning and the combination of the different forms of education: Norway, despite its large area, has a relatively low population, and its majority is concentrated around the capital. Due to the large distances and to the terrain conditions, traffic is often possible only by air (the airport in Oslo carries almost two and a half times more passengers than the airport in Budapest, and the majority of the flights are inland flights), so the role of such forms of education, which do not require personal participation and can be accessed by many people have become increasingly important. The Norwegian colleagues will hold a training for us in Budapest on 10-11 January 2017 in order to share their experience and good-practices.
What is the long-term goal of the project? Do you think the good model of the project can have an impact beyond the district?
In the present form it is merely a so-called 'pilot' project, which means that functionality and efficiency are not our immediate goals. All of these also allow us the freedom to try new training forms in the district, to test the attractiveness of the offered trainings and courses and the relationships between companies as well as new business models. In the future it may be formed into a method, a successful system, which may be an example for other municipalities in Budapest, or it may even be hoped that a part of the state budget will be reserved for supporting similar goals, if the project raises political interest. The building of the Training Coordination Office established within the frame of the project, which is equipped with the latest technology, may also be used in the future for internal trainings by the Municipality, however, we also hope that companies will realize the related possibilities.