RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – The lack of qualified professionals in Brazil is forcing companies from different sectors to create their own training centers to educate workers.
The initiative is a stopgap in response to the combination of Brazil’s recent accelerated economic growth and its deficient educational system, analysts say.
As the number of airline passengers has grown continuously during the previous years, the aviation sector is offering extensive training programs to prospective employees to keep up with its increasing customer base. In 2010, 154.3 million people traveled by plane in Brazil – 20% more than in 2009 – according to state-owned Brazilian Airport Infrastructure Company (Infraero).
The main cause for the increase in air travel was the expansion of Brazil’s so-called C class – an economic classification that includes families earning between R$1,125 (US$826) and R$4,854 (US$3,566) per month. As Brazilians ascended the economic ladder, they stopped travelling by bus and took to the skies.
In addition, the introduction of new competitors to the air travel market – such as Azul airlines, which began operating in Brazil in December 2008 – increased competition, bringing down prices and attracting more passengers.
The result? More customers caused airlines to need more pilots, flight attendants and maintenance technicians.
But the demand is so high it’s difficult to find these professionals in the marketplace, airline officials say.
Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes – the second-largest air carrier in the country – created the Gol Institute, a pioneer employee training center launched this past December.
The inaugural class, which will begin later this year, will include 70 men and women under the age of 22 who studied in public schools, received high grades and possessed strong attendance records.
At the end of the course, which is scheduled to last two months, the 10 best students will be selected to work in the company as apprentices.
The classes are free and include mathematics, physics, Portuguese, English and aerodynamics.
In the beginning, all of the courses will be geared toward finding airplane maintenance technicians. It is no coincidence Gol Institute is headquartered in Lago Santa in the Minas Gerais state. The city is home to the company’s maintenance center, which is the largest in Latin America.
“The Institute grew out of a need to train a specialized workforce for the aviation sector,” says Felipe Sommer, director of Management and Employee Relations at Gol. “Gol has a focused business plan. Attentive to the outlook for growth, it took prior internal action that guarantees its sustainability, which includes an increase in the number of employees.”
Gol also is considering creating a pilot training center.
A study by the Boeing Corporation estimates 37,000 pilots and 44,000 maintenance personnel will be needed in Latin America by 2029.
OSX to introduce Naval Technology Institute
The situation is no different in the naval sector. OSX, part of a group of companies controlled by Brazilian businessman Eike Batista and focused on shipbuilding and leasing, also is planning to establish a personnel training center.
The measure is being taken as a precaution, given that OSX has not yet concluded work on its shipyard, located in northern Rio de Janeiro state.
Regardless, the company’s CEO, Luiz Eduardo Carneiro, already has plans for the Naval Technology Institute (ITN).
“It will operate in partnership with recognized educational institutes in Brazil and abroad, with the objective of being a national reference in naval construction,” he says.
More than 7,300 technicians specializing in equipment production, inspection and supervision are expected to be trained by 2013.
The creation of in-house training centers is a growing trend, according to the Hay Group, a human resources consulting firm.
“Companies have been looking for ways to train their employees, creating partnerships with schools, universities and suppliers, because there is a general lack of skilled professionals, not only at the management level, but also at the technical and operational level,” says Glaucy Bocci, a specialist in leadership and talent management at the Hay Group.
Lack of professionals in the oil and gas sector
The oil and gas sector is another area that’s suffering from a lack of trained professionals.
The sector’s deficit of experienced engineers has reached 15% in Brazil, which represents a shortage of 35,000 professionals per year, according to a recent survey by the Hay Group.
Figures such as these led the federal government to create a partnership in 2003 with the state oil company Petrobras, the sector’s most important player.
That year witnessed the creation of the National Oil and Natural Gas Industry Mobilization Program (Prominp), which has an objective to maximize the participation of Brazilian companies in all projects.
One of Prominp’s initiatives is the National Vocational Training Plan, which includes free courses for 185 different professional categories, at all levels of instruction.
Unemployed students qualify for a monthly grant of between R$300 (US$220) and R$900 (US$660).
By the end of 2010, 78,000 had been trained. Another 212,000 are expected to receive training by 2014.
Nearly 80 teaching institutions in 17 Brazilian states are involved in the initiative. Petrobras, which is responsible for a majority of the initiative’s resources, already has invested R$228 million (US$167 million) in the project.
Students who have taken part in the Prominp training have their résumés available in an online database, which can be accessed by 4,000 registered oil and gas companies.
The student employment index has reached 81%, according to the Brazilian Ministry of Labor.
Chemical engineer Rodrigo Stockmann, 31, is one of the project’s success stories.
In 2006, after graduating from the Fluminense Federal University (UFF), he enrolled in one of the Prominp courses.
The classes, which last for a little over a year, aim to train the students to be process engineers.
“Three months after the course began, I’d already been hired by Petrobras, and I work there to this day,” Stockmann says.
But a Prominp diploma does not guaranteed a job.
Eduardo Trindade, a 40-year-old civil engineer, saw the program as a chance to change careers.
He spent six months in the Plant Design Management System (PDMS) design course. He’s had two interviews, but has not received a job offer.
“I wanted to break into the oil sector, which is such a promising field, but I guess my profile isn’t a good fit yet,” says Trindade, who owns a telecommunications company.