Training courses: Revitalizing links, one weld at a time

In May we launched the 2022 edition of the Welding Communities Program in the Neuquen Basin. The initiative, developed by Tecpetrol together with its value chain, is a transformative experience that will be repeated until July 2 in Salta, Tucuman and Comodoro Rivadavia.

Born in 2021the program was designed to integrate Tecpetrol suppliers into their community.

At 8:30 am on a chilly Saturday morning in Patagonia, a group of men and women were getting ready for a transformative experience in a metal-mechanical workshop on the outskirts of the town of Cipoletti. This was none other than the training session marking the launch of the 2022 edition of the Tecpetrol Welding Communities Program, an initiative driven by the company in the three Argentine oil-producing basins where it operates, together with its network of suppliers.

The program centers on full-day training courses in workshop activities for nearby communities. It began life as a pilot project in 2021, with the idea of getting SMEs to open up their workshops to teach welding. On each occasion, the plan revolves around the training needs detected in the neighboring community and the company's hiring requirements for qualified labor. The goal, however, goes far beyond merely teaching people techniques.

Beyond the technical skills training providedthe program has an important human and social dimension.

"We’ve joined forces with a selection of SMEs making up the ProPymes Program and we develop these training days together after surveying the needs of the neighboring community, often with the support of local public and private-sector entities. It’s a true value chain," explains Luis Lanziani, head of Supplier Management, to Tecpetrol Hoy. Luis explains that the idea is to hold the program twice a year in May and October, and add three suppliers to the program with each cycle with the aim of getting fifty companies on-board in each edition. 

This May, there were seven men and eight women interested in learning to weld, a basic practice which is always in demand in the hydrocarbons industry. After listening carefully to the talk on theory, with an emphasis on safety culture, they gathered around four workbenches to learn from experienced workers dedicated to building metal structures and equipment for the industry, who were supported by welding experts trained on the ProPymes Program. Each bench was equipped with a machine and an instructor who showed the apprentices how to stand and move, as well as the technique and tricks required for a neatly welded seam. Time flew by, as, each decked out in their regulatory facemasks, the eager participants took turns to try their hand at expert welding. 

The communities living around the operations are different in each of the three region, and so are their needs. For instance, in Neuquen it became clear that the community requires basic technical skills training to meet local industry needs, whereas in Comodoro Rivadavia, the focus was on technical night schools, and in northern Argentina, the emphasis was on training for members of native communities. The training day brings all kinds of ancillary benefits to the skills taught, as it enables a person to make themselves known to a company, and encourages them to plan their own business.

Enthusiasm and commitmentwere the chief features of the training day.

“When you’re going to weld, first you have to grind the materials, prepare, measure and cut, which are all the activities that take place around welding carried out in the workshop,” explains Lanziani. The potential for future development in the region is clear, as "the workshops demonstrate how necessary it is for people to develop concrete technical skills, the basis for access to a skilled profession," finishes Luis, who attended the May workshop and experienced its human and social side.

“The fact that the instructors giving the course are themselves workers makes the relationship a genuine one, and those people who turn up with a bit of an attitude visibly relax as the day goes on,” describes Lanziani. “It really is a transformative activity, as on the one hand, those with few resources feel that they are able to build something with their hands, and that’s empowering. It’s also very important for the workers giving the courses for the first time as they recognize that they have something to give. And it’s a lifeline for many women, who maybe had soldering equipment at home, but their fathers or husbands wouldn’t allow them anywhere near it as they considered this to be a man's job.”

Those normally working at the Cipoletti workshop acted as the instructors of the group of local would-be welders who joined the training day.

The sense of commitment evident under the shed’s tin roof was every bit as great as the number of electrodes used by the end of the day. The apprentices were so eager that they even wanted to work through the lunch break, according to Marcelo Guszul, Supplier Management analyst, who was actively involved throughout the day. "It’s extremely important for people to lose their fear of welding, to see what they can achieve, and here, they were able to use the most advanced machines in the workshop," he adds. Completing this course means that many can envisage embarking on a technical career, or aspire to a job as an assistant. The diploma is not only a testament to a new skill but also the memory of a day of shared learning, whose benefits can spread further afield.

For Tecpetrol, given the situation in the country, the Welding Communities Program is born of ambition combined with responsibility. "If we can meet this goal of holding fifty training courses, every year, we’ll be able to reach a thousand people in a genuine and practical way," enthuses Lanziani. “That’s a vital task that our suppliers perform.”

There were as many women as menon the last day of Welding Communities, in Neuquen.

The 2022 edition of the Soldando Comunidades Program is ongoing in workshops in Comodoro Rivadavia, Neuquen, General Mosconi and San Miguel de Tucuman, in staggered sessions until June 25.

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