Eureka — We are Learning in Brazil What We Forgot at Home

In The New York Times (July 2), we read: "The study by the Brazilian National Confederation of Industry last September found that more than half of the 1,715 industrial firms polled could not find the skilled workers they needed. Of these 69% said the lack of a qualified work force resulted in inefficiency; 36% said it led to lower quality goods; and 36% said it made acquiring or assimilating new technologies more difficult.’

"That reality is leading thousands of Brazilian companies into the education business. Some teach basic literacy and arithmetic to janitors and manual workers. Other more advanced courses help factory and production line workers better understand math, science and composition. And major companies are increasing the amount of on-the-job training they give to engineers and professionals.

"‘We are planning to invest $11 billion this year and $60 billion over the next five years just in organic growth projects,’ said Maria Gugel, director of human resources, planning and compensation at Vale, one of the world’s largest mining companies. ‘The people behind these projects are geologists and engineers whose specialties are ports, railways and mines. These are areas where we have shortages. It would be impossible to grow without the specialized training of this sort.’

"A typical program is the one at Embraer, one of the largest manufacturers of aircraft. The company has doubled in size since the start of the decade and currently has orders in excess of $20 billion. It expects to deliver nearly 200 aircraft to clients this year.

"That is because in 2001, company directors realized that with only three universities offering courses in aeronautical engineering, there would not be enough graduates available to help them design, build and sell planes in a rapidly growing market.

"So the company created a program that selects the country’s best engineering graduates and puts them through an 18-month specialization course. In Embraer’s classrooms, overlooking a shop floor scattered with fuselages, they learn the skills that will help them become aeronautical engineers.

– from Economic Reform, October 2008