|Energy & Enterprise|
|Tuesday, 10 May 2011 21:18|
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Part Four:¬†Human Resources
by Norman Gall
Petrobras is Brazilian, a source of national pride, but Petrobras is not Brazil. This truism, this obvious fact, gains new meaning as the giant state oil company seeks Brazilians capable of helping to develop its deep-water discoveries in the South Atlantic in what Petrobras President Jos√© S√©rgio Gabrielli calls the biggest investment program taking place in the world today, budgeted at more than $50 billion this year.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†photo Ag√™ncia Brasil¬† In an interview, Gabrielli said that the lack of skilled manpower is the biggest obstacle to the development of these huge discoveries, a view endorsed by many others in the industry.
Since its creation six decades ago, Petrobras developed from rudimentary beginnings to become both a robust knowledge system and one of the world's most successful state oil companies. But Petrobras is not Brazil because, since its creation as an expression of nationalist fervor, Petrobras invested heavily in the development of its technical staff, while Brazil's political class refused and still refuses to engage in the effort needed to give Brazilians the opportunity for a decent public education.
"There were only 64 geologists in Brazil when I got there in 1954," explained Walter Link, the former chief geologist for Standard Oil of New Jersey (Exxon) hired to organize the new Petrobras exploration department, whom I interviewed at his home in Laporte, Indiana in 1975. "We immediately sent 26 Brazilians to universities in the United States for training. Petrobras set up a geology department at the University of Bahia, near where oil was first found in Brazil, and then other Brazilian universities followed suit." (1)
In succeeding decades, Petrobras sent hundreds of its most promising geologists and engineers abroad for advanced study, enabling it to generate the knowledge that led to the deep-water discoveries of recent years. Meanwhile, basic education for most Brazilians was allowed to languish in failure, negligence, perverse incentives and political manipulation for the short-term benefit of mayors and governors. In an overheated economy, now famous as a huge consumer market and as a cornucopia of natural resources, the urgent need to find skilled workers is driving creation of ambitious government programs to build human capacity to overcome the failures of basic education.
In the oil industry, the Petrobras University trains and retrains 70,000 employees yearly. PROMINP (Program for Mobilization of National Industry) attempts to train workers for Petrobras's suppliers. There are bombastic announcements of new emergency programs: PRONATEC (National Program for Access to Technical Education and Jobs) aimed at offering eight million places by 2014 in 800 technical schools and federal institutes; E-Tec (Open Technical School) to provide distance instruction for 263,000 students by 2014; the Foreign Study Program for 100,000 scholarships at universities abroad by 2014, the year of the next presidential election.(2) These announcements overlook the lack of qualified instructors for existing technical education programs, which has left 20,000 students without classes in federal institutes. There also lacks a strategy and long-term effort to overcome, for future generations, the functional illiteracy is large swaths of the working class, even among those who have completed a deficient secondary education.
About PROMINP, launched in 2003, Gabrielli said "we are launching a program to train 247,000 people by 2013 who are not Petrobras employees but those of our suppliers. We will train welders, mechanical engineers, operators of cranes, tractors and machine-tools, engineers specialized in tubing and in 3-D and computer-aided design, in all more than 800 occupations."
Jos√© Renato de Almeida, a Petrobras veteran who directs PROMINP, says: "It was hard to fill 78,000 places in the courses because of the low level of schooling of the candidates. Most needed remedial courses in Portuguese and arithmetic so they could read printed manuals and make simple calculations before beginning training for work. We lack instructors and properly equipped workshops. Many pupils quit the course and their monthly stipend of R$300. President Lula went to Pernambuco to hand out diplomas, but the graduates still lacked the skills to Begin work. Businessmen refuse to invest in training our graduates for fear that would quit later, seduced by better pay offered by other employers."
PROMINP, with a budget of R$228 million (US$142 million), concentrates its efforts PM the "System S" training centers operated by business associations - Senai, Senac, Senap, etc. The National Confederation of Industries (CNI) doubted the results of training offered by System S and ordered an outside study of these programs. "The surging demand for trained workers far exceeds the training capacity of Senai," said one researcher. At the Atl√Ęntico Sul Shipyard in the huge industrial complex at the deep-water port of Suape in the old sugar-growing region of Pernambuco in the Northeast, 3,000 ex-cane cutters were trained as welders by Senai in the nearby city of Cabo, but nearly all were rejected by the shipyard.
At the ultramodern Estaleiro Atl√Ęntico Sul (EAS), digitalized machines automatically cut and shape steel plates that are carried by giant cranes, with hauling capacity of 1,500 tons, for assembly at the dry-dock. EAS is a joint venture between the Brazilian construction companies Camargo Correa and Queiroz Galv√£o with Samsung Heavy Industries of Korea. EAS has orders from Petrobras, worth several billion dollars, for 20 supertankers and seven deep-water drillships.