Hitting the spot, soldering iron in hand

The Tecpetrol welding training program and its value chain have just opened a new chapter, inviting young people with disabilities to join the team and learn new skills as a way of honoring the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, celebrated every year on December 3. The occasion is also an opportunity for each of us to review the unconscious biases and judgments we make that can sometimes prompt us to cancel activities.   

The day started off with a mix of enthusiasm and apprehension, as it wasn’t just any ordinary working day. For the first time, young people with disabilities were invited to participate in Tecpetrol's Welding Communities Program, a course held twice a year and organized together with the ProPymes network of member suppliers. The initiative continues to grow with new opportunities to invite different groups from the community to acquire job-worthy skills; for instance, in May earlier this year, a group of women from neighboring communities was invited to learn basic welding techniques. And last October, it was the turn of a group of young people from an institution in Neuquén.

In preparation for the May edition, the authorities of the institution visited a welding day to see whether it would be viable, before selecting three boys and a girl, all aged between 15 and 20 years old, with different cognitive abilities. The youths attended the course alongside other learners and people from the institution, as part of a training day held at the Southern Competitive Strategies workshops, in the Alto Valle.

With some trepidation, they came forward to receive basic training about what welding is, the safety measures required, and then they tried their hand at a semi-automatic process, plucking up the courage to brave all the noise, sparks and smoke that welding involves. "You saw these young folk with an incredible desire to do something, and as the day progressed they really began to shine, both with the machines and with their own self-confidence," said Luis Lanziani, Supplier Development Sr. Manager, to TecpetrolHoy.

That morning, the instructors were themselves moved by the development of events, slowly increasing the challenges of each tasks and allowing them to join sheets together, warning them with care that the pieces were extremely hot. Then one of the boys, who had previous experience in carpentry, decided to inscribe his name on a sheet. The others saw what he did and immediately wanted to do the same. Result: everyone returned home with badges inscribed with their names.

By the middle of the day, the success of the initiative was such that the workshop owner was considering the possibility of incorporating one of the youths into the more controlled activities. At an internal level, the idea came up to hold a +d version for each Welding Communities course, with the idea of rotating this initiative through other operations.

"Our main objective was to show that this is an activity that everyone can do. With the proper preparation of facilities and machinery, and clear planning guidelines to ensure safety, there is no barrier to people with disabilities entering the energy industry," said Lanziani. He added that this message has a much broader reach, as it touches suppliers, and the families of the young people taking part, who can now look forward to job opportunities in a workshop, a small undertaking or even a company.

The shy girl who in the morning had timidly shown up, unable to look anyone in the eye, was by the afternoon glowing and brimful with pride. "That’s the great thing about the transformation capacity of manual activities, when you feel that you can build, that you can actually create something," explained Luis Lanziani, who was present at each of the Welding Communities editions. Being able to use a welder confidently was a pivotal moment for each of the participants.

"There’s always a chance things won’t work, but this time we proved that it can be done," he conceded, concluding that, "The idea is always to ensure we take calculated and controlled risks and not let our biases limit us, which can prompt us to cancel some activities."

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