Believing is a must
Angolan workers see the Acreditar Program as an opportunity to grow and develop, and help their nation do the same
“Every human being has strengths they can develop, provided that they have character, talent, a calling, and motivation, find the right organizational environment and are guided by a leader who is truly committed to supporting their education. When these requirements are met, there is no limit to that individual’s development: they will tend to be the best in whatever field of work they choose.”
This statement by Norberto Odebrecht sums up the tremendous care the Organization takes in developing people, and its understanding that this is intrinsic to the business – as well as being vital for the existence of humankind. It precedes the introductory materials for Odebrecht’s latest educational initiative in Angola, the Acreditar (Believe) Angola Ongoing Professional Educational Program, first introduced in that country in 2009, based on the successful experience of Acreditar Brazil.
It is the “latest initiative” because, during its 27 years of experience in Angola, Odebrecht has carried out various educational activities with outstanding and assertive strategies. In this report, you will learn about some of these programs – including Acreditar, Young Builder, and the startup of Biocom – and how the people who take part in them are growing, living and learning to become part of this new era in Angolan history. It is a modest sampling of activities dating back to 1984 that have provided educational and work opportunities for more than 40,000 people, 70% of whom found their first job at Odebrecht Angola.
Tailored to local realities
“Based on its excellent track record in Brazil, beginning in 2008, we knew that we had to implement the Acreditar program here as soon as possible, although we hadn’t established our strategies at the time,” recalls Diana Ortiz, the officer Responsible for People & Organization in Angola. “So in 2009 we got started on the planning process, mulling over just how it would be implemented, and we realized that we couldn’t simply replicate Acreditar Brazil as it is because it would have to be adapted to local realities,” she adds, moving her fingers in the air as if to draw a timeline of the challenge she has experienced from the very start.
The first step was to produce a diagnosis of the Angolan situation through interviews, tests and visits to Odebrecht projects in that country. “We used all that data to set up Acreditar, and were finally able to implement the program in September 2010. It was a hard road, but it was definitely worthwhile. We want to contribute to community development in Angola. A lot of people here just need an opportunity,” observes Diana.
Yasser da Conceiçao Salukila, 28, is learning to operate a digger. He says he heard about Acreditar from his father and a cousin. “They told me there was this new program that offered the possibility of learning a range of skills. So I went to Odebrecht, was well received, and took the tests, the medical check-up and exams. Now I’m part of the class, learning useful things, which is something I never thought I’d be able to do,” explains Yasser. He says he is amazed at the kind of education he is getting, referring to the fundamentals taught in the classroom, which he had never known before. “I’ve come across people who make me understand things,” he observes.
While Yasser was recounting his experiences to Odebrecht Informa, sitting beside him was young Mateus Dumbo Kalei, 20, who nodded in agreement with his classmate’s comments. Enrolled in the mechanics course, Mateus was raised by his mother. Because of the financial hardship caused by his father’s absence, he began working at an early age, making a living at a small workshop.
Mateus signed up for Acreditar, took the tests, received the assessments and is amazed at what has happened since. He only expected to learn about mechanics. “First we were taught the fundamentals of health and the environment, which caught my attention. I found it all very special. I’ve never known a father’s love, and because of the hardships I’ve faced, this opportunity at Acreditar is unforgettable. It’s something that I believe will stay with me all my life.”
A hip-hop dancer and stage actor during what’s left of his spare time, Mateus sees Acreditar as an opportunity for youth. “It will help us discover more knowledge. I am very grateful for finding this opportunity now, because I’m not only growing and developing but I will be able to make a bigger contribution to my country in the future. We must seize the opportunities that, unfortunately, our parents did not have.”
Antonio Moisés Segunda, 21, shares Mateus’s views about opportunities for young people. Passionate about football and mechanics, Antonio says he spent a long time looking for a specialization course in mechanics. After applying for Acreditar, he was overcome by anxiety until he heard he’d been accepted.
“When I think about mechanics, I don’t feel hungry. I forget everything. And when I got the call from the Acreditar people telling me to go in for the medical evaluation, I thought, My God, how I’ve waited for this moment!” Antonio adds: “I hope the Acreditar Program won’t stop here. It’s time to start correcting our mistakes, to realize our dreams. I am living my dream, which is to get an education and a job.”
Acreditar includes a 60-hour basic module for everyone who enrolls in the program, which covers subjects like health, workplace safety, environment, quality and occupational psychology, and a specific module, which takes from 160 to 260 hours depending on the course. A second basic module is designed for participants who become Odebrecht members, including 20 hours covering information about the Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Technology (TEO), Labor Relations and Productivity.
There are already more than 2,200 students enrolled in Acreditar Angola, which has been active in the city of Benguela since September 2010. So far, 456 people have taken the basic module, and 228 have taken a specific module to learn to become a truck driver, digger operator, heavy equipment mechanic, motor grader bulldozer operator, bricklayer or carpenter. Soon, more courses will be added for steelfixers (rebar fitters), plumbers, bricklayers, carpenters and loader operators, among others.
Open mind, broad view
With a beautiful smile and speaking with the rhythm of “Morena de Angola” by Chico Buarque – in fact, it was in Benguela, the backdrop of this section of this article, that the Brazilian songwriter was inspired to write the lyrics – Selma Ottiliana Marcos da Silva, 31, has a degree in Social Work and currently leads the People and Social Responsibility team for the Águas de Benguela water supply project. She was one of the participants in the Young Builder Program – which aims to accelerate the education of young partners by giving them a broad perspective on the Engineering & Construction business, from winning contracts to demobilizing projects.
Born in Angola, Selma says she spent more than half her life in Portugal with her family, who in 1993 decided to escape the armed conflict in their country. While on vacation in Angola in 2007, Selma became interested in what she saw there. She sent in her resume to Odebrecht in 2008, and was invited to join the company. “The Young Builder Program makes you think with an open mind, because we get a very broad overview of the areas involved. All my questions were answered. We covered Logistics, as well as Engineering and Social Responsibility, among other topics. It was a tremendous experience for my personal growth.” When working in the field, Selma observes that every day holds a surprise, and that she always views each case she handles as a learning experience. “Being a social worker means helping others. There is no room here for the so-called syndrome of complacency,” she says with a smile.
In Luanda, another Young Builder recounts his experiences since joining Odebrecht. Ibrahim Oliveira Bravo da Costa, 26, loves Sidney Sheldon novels, has a degree in Civil Engineering and is working as a Production Engineer on the Expressways Project. He joined the company as an intern in 2007, when he was in his junior year of college, and was later assigned to the Young Builder Program.
“It was a very good thing for my leader to do, because I believe everyone wants to grow more with each passing day. And if you give us the opportunity to take a course in which we can have a greater focus on what we will actually be experiencing within our company, we have to make the best possible use of it,” says Ibrahim. He observes that his development has been intense, not only in his professional life but also in his relationships with his family, friends and girlfriend. “In every class, training session and activity I take part in at the company, I try to apply some of the concepts I learn to my personal relationships. This entire period has been wonderful. I’ve managed to grow and mature a lot. I have a different perspective. I’ve changed in terms of adaptability and coexistence.”
Located 450 km from Luanda, Biocom – Companhia de Bioenergia de Angola Ltda., an Angolan sugar company, has been based in Malange Province since its inception in 2009. The factory, which is currently under construction, will begin operating, and consequently producing sugar, in 2012. Biocom’s shareholders include Odebrecht, the Angolan state oil company Sonangol – Sociedade Nacional de Petróleos de Angola and the Damer group. In August 2010, 62 members of Biocom went to Brazil to participate in a training program including 1,200 hours of theoretical and practical classes in farming, industry and administration, taught at ETH Bioenergy’s Eldorado Unit in Rio Brilhante, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.
One of those Angolan technicians was Helder Fragoso da Silva Cardoso, Head of Biocom’s Sugar Production Division, who currently supervises the industrial assembly of the factory. “Building this facility is a major challenge, because Angola was a sugar-producing nation in the past. However, due to armed conflicts, those large sugar factories no longer exist, and today 100% of the sugar consumed in this country is imported.” In a determined tone, Helder underscores that the greatest source of wealth is shared experiences based on knowledge transfer and cultural exchange. He predicts that Angola will once again become a major sugar producer, which will help improve the living conditions of its communities.