One career, one employer

17. Dez 2020

Josef Müller looks back on 48 years of employment with Paul Köster GmbH

Medebach. In today’s world of work it has almost become fashionable, and you find it on every CV: changing jobs mid-career! Different employers experience a wide range of reasons for this, including quality criteria that can be decisive when they come to selecting new employees. But this is not necessarily the case. In the end, a long-term employment relationship can offer many advantages for both the employer and the employee. A fine example can be found at special mechanical engineering company Paul Köster GmbH in Medebach. The company strives for continuity in its personnel, a solid apprenticeship concept and proven technical competence in its highly specialized work and production processes. Josef Müller, who retired early this year, proudly worked for Paul Köster for 48 years, embodied the company philosophy like no other and looks back fondly over his career.

So how was his first day at work? The 64-year-old from Medebach does not have to think for long. ‘On August 1st, 1971 I started my apprenticeship as a smith at Paul Köster.’ The young man, whose parents ran a farm, could surely not have realized then that he would remain faithful to his employer for another 48 years. Scarcely a year after leaving the company in January 2020, Josef Müller sometimes misses the daily interaction with his colleagues. After all, he had worked with some of them for several decades, since the mid-1980s. Sometimes he still turns up at the metalworking shop in the brand-new plant 3C just to chat a little during the breaks. On the other hand, he does not miss the early-morning starts. As a part-time farmer, the 64-year-old does not hit the hay until the small hours, but organizing his own time also brings many advantages. ‘With hindsight, looking back at the coronavirus situation that was just starting, I can now say that I made the right decision to retire when I did.’

Continual growth and development of the company over nearly five decades – experienced first hand

But he maintains that it was the right decision to take up the apprenticeship with the special mechanical engineering company in Medebach and to stay there for nearly five decades. ‘At that time the company was still situated on Prozessionsweg and specialized in locksmithing and agricultural machinery. Since my parents were in farming, I had come into contact with the company from an early age. After a period as a trainee it was clear that I would become a smith and wanted to start an apprenticeship at Paul Köster.’ Much has changed over the decades, starting with the ever-growing number of employees. ‘Together with the senior manager we were just four employees at first. That has grown steadily to a total of 300.’ The areas of activity have also undergone gradual change. While these were at first mostly  forging work and repairs to agricultural machinery, in the following years we became increasingly focused on building railings and fences, driven by the boom in the construction sector in the 1970s. ‘It was a smooth transition to many different activities in ironwork and smithery’, says Josef Müller.

On the topic of careers and career change, the 64-year-old, who enjoys skittles in his free time and who currently keeps 14 suckler cows and 18 hectares of land, has multiple views. On the one hand, he understand the desire, particularly among young people, to gain new experiences and to seek challenges. In today’s world of work this is important. For him personally, however, a change of job was never in question - for reasons that were just as good. ‘In all my years here I have never had negative experiences. As colleagues we were always open with each other, and we always had a close relationship with the management. This is very important. Even at times when the economic situation was less than ideal, such as during the global crisis of 2008, I always had a sense that I had a good and secure job.’

Consistency in the workforce ensures high quality

Hildegard Köster, head of personnel, sees the situation as follows: ‘It is always important to look closely at people’s career progressions and to see the context in which they are changing jobs. This also depends on the industry they work in.’ Thus for a cook, say, it might be advisable to change jobs relatively often in order to progress. ‘But in our field, a constant change in jobs alerts us to look closely at why this is happening.’ Paul Köster GmbH made it a clear goal to maintain continuity in its workforce. ‘Our own people, who often did their apprenticeships with us, know our philosophy, our products and our highly specific work processes inside-out. This makes it easier to manufacture our complex products according to special quality-criteria and to succeed in the market.’ To ensure this continuity, Paul Köster GmbH is highly committed to personnel management. A good example of this is the company’s cooperation with the business development agency for the Upper Sauerland district on the ‘Heimvorteil HSK’ project. This is aimed at people who have left the Sauerland and are looking to come back to their roots. ‘Of course, now and again we lose an employee - that’s perfectly normal. But in our experience, we know some of them will be glad to come back.’

Josef Müller, who was given a fitting retirement in December 2019, is also sure of one thing: ‘I would do everything again just as I did in the last 48 years. It was absolutely the right way for me and I always enjoyed going to work.’ After almost five decades one could hardly hope for a better outcome...

Text: Ralf Hermann, Textzeit Winterberg

far left: Ernst Köster (Managing Director and Head of Mechanical Engineering & Service), Josef Müller, Paul Köster (Managing Director and Head of Steel Construction)