Gaspar Gorocica
Director General
Puesta a Punto

The Building Blocks of Human Infrastructure

Wed, 01/20/2016 - 14:07

In order to capitalize on the opportunities brought about by the Energy Reform, the Mexican labor force will need to develop new skillsets. The boost of infrastructure developments will highlight a lack of talent for the construction and operation phases. “If we look at the amount of training natural gas pipeline projects require, we will find a great opportunity to build new skills in the communities adjacent to the developments. The main challenge of these projects will be to translate the way in which developers work in other countries to the Mexican population,” says Gaspar Gorocica, Director General of Puesta a Punto. He claims the Energy Reform is attracting new investments for physical infrastructure, but the development of human infrastructure is a situation that is not being properly addressed. “I hear plenty of talk about the talent gap, but no one talks about how to close it.”

In the next three years, Mexico will see considerable investments in natural gas pipelines, ports, and offshore projects, which will create between 800,000 and 1 million jobs that will require specialized skills that currently do not exist in the country. The demand will not be satisfied with the Mexican education system. One of the things Puesta a Punto learned for its experience in Etileno XXI is that only 15% of the people that participated in the construction stage had a degree, while only 40% had secondary education. This meant that the firm had to work with people that were not used to following processes or norms. Another demographic characteristic Gorocica noticed was the age average. “Training someone between 20-30 years old who has no previous experience in a job that demands following processes requires an intensive program that helps the person understand his or her role in the project. These people are not used to wearing security equipment because this was not imperative in their previous jobs even in the construction sector, so we cannot expect them to abide to ISO 9000 or OSHA norms.”

The challenge in Etileno XXI was to permeate a culture among 27,000 people working on a project that was only going to last for two years. Companies, Gorocica explains, can transmit a culture through a different means because they have a long-term vision, but in the case of projects with a determined duration, the best way to create a working culture is by repeating simple messages. In the case of Etileno XXI, Puesta a Punto focused on transmitting nine core habits that encouraged people to follow processes and look after themselves in terms of safety. “It is easier for someone to adopt a habit than a competency because a habit can be applied to several aspects of his or her daily life, and that is why our model is based on habits,” Gorocica details.

The main challenges companies in the oil and gas sector will find is attracting talent, according to Gorocica, and the shortage will be felt once the projects begin. The oil and gas sector will have to rely on professionals from other industries, and Gorocica is sure that the most attractive companies will be those that offer a medium and longterm career path. “Salaries are important in every industry, but it is no longer the only important component. Companies have to offer attractive career opportunities to workers at all levels.” Investments in the next years will concentrate on building infrastructure and then on the operation phase, and Gorocica claims companies with a medium and long-term vision will understand that labor in the construction stage can be trained so that it can work in the operation phase later in the project. “In Etileno XXI, we incorporated people that stood out in the construction stage by understanding and following procedures to the plant’s operation. It is a waste to have a team constructing and another operating, as the first already started following processes and is acquainted with the project.”

In the case of Los Ramones, Puesta a Punto coordinated developers, construction teams, local universities, and its own staff to develop continuous training programs, which led to operative staff becoming supervisors and managers at the end of the project. “Taking full advantage of the construction stage and using it to train the people that will operate the projects is one of the challenges Puesta a Punto works on. When I speak of human infrastructure, this is exactly what I am referring to,” Gorocica concludes.