Mexican air plant care

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Mexican air plant caretakers trained with 'green energy'

Children play outside the giant steel wheels of a tire at a plant owned by Mexichem, the

domestic Mexican partner of a national utility company, Televisa, in La Cazuela,


Tony Gutierrez/The Washington Post

By Kristen Gwynne and Jess Bravin

Text Size:AAA

Ten months ago, a group of 200 trainees from several Mexican states received their first lessons in energy management at the Conocer (“To Know” in Spanish) school, housed in a gray building in the city of Monterrey, Mexico.

Possibly the largest single teaching facility in the region, the school gives many other workers from the industrial sector the same skills.

Esteban Garcia, a former teacher who works in the warehouse section of the school, said that after about six weeks of classroom work he’d attend an eight-week apprenticeship in one of the manufacturing divisions.

“They’re taught to understand the process of how an assembly line functions,” Garcia said. “We need more knowledge to plan ahead for the processes, so there’s less down time.”

His advice to those just starting out is to learn as much as possible.

“The schools don’t teach you everything that you need to know, but you have to use what you learn to adapt to the processes of the company,” he said.

The school in Monterrey has grown to include a students’ center with a lounge and a reading room, and recently it underwent a remodel. Teachers and administrators tell students that their training could help their economic well-being.

“You are here for your own good,” said Sandra Canchola, an English instructor. “In this country, not many people can get the training they need. This can give people a way to continue working or to get a job, but also to stay in this country.”

Outside the school in Monterrey, teachers and parents told students that the industry for energy students is growing, but many wonder if the industry is ready for the skills they need.

“The demands are very high. People are always coming to school, and they have to give the best of themselves,” said Blanca Medina, a third-grader who attends the school. “The need for the number of energy experts is increasing every year, but they do not have enough of these professionals.”

Teachers, students and parents told the Post that companies like Conocer play a major role in the future of Mexico’s energy sector.

The majority of the trainees come from the industrial suburbs in Monterrey, which have historically lacked energy management training, unlike many of the commercial centers like Mexico City and Guadalajara, teachers said.

“They have been left behind in terms of training. They are teaching things from scratch,” said Jose Almonte, principal of the school.

Still, even in the industrial suburbs, the energy sector, unlike many of the country’s manufacturing sectors, has trained people in the past.

In the 1990s, and again around the turn of the century, workers’ unions built a large number of such training centers for energy education, according to a 2004 report by Mexican labor union group Consejo Mexicano de Trabajo, or Mexican Labor Council.

“These trainings are complementary to the trade union process,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of Consejo Mexicano de Trabajo. “You create workers’ councils, and then workers learn skills like logistics, to supervise the transportation of goods and how to maintain facilities.”

In 2002, a Mexican program was launched in five states that used the country’s Labor Ministry to train young workers on energy management, according to a report by Spanish research group Egrem. In addition, that year, the Mexican national energy company began offering a diploma on energy management to its employees, and, in 2007, the government issued the first batch of energy certificates for such training.

With little competition, “the schools in Monterrey get a lot of work,” said Enrique Jurado, who runs the Centro de Conocimiento y Educacion Econmicos of the Federal Electricity Commission of Mexico, which runs the certificate program.

But while there are a lot of professionals trained in this manner in Mexico, only a few employers actively hire people trained in the specialty, which according to the University of Waterloo’s School of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering is a good way for a firm to save money.

“You should start thinking of things that you’ve learned. You learn to appreciate things

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