Moving skills

25 April 2008

Although free trade agreements throughout the world increasingly ease the flow of products across national boundaries, restrictions continue to discourage skilled labour from shifting to countries where they are needed most, according to Dan Bumby.

“The shadow of illegal immigration in the United States today makes it difficult to bring in specialists legally,” he says. He notes that Bay Ltd in Texas has been successful at bringing trained welders, pipe fitters, painters and other craft workers in from Mexico. “These are workers you just can't find, especially along the Texas Gulf Coast,” he says.

“But it takes an effort – a lot of push and shove – to get the necessary work permits.”

He points out that the problem extends beyond craft workers. Even Pemex, Mexico's state owned oil company, faces challenges when trying to get its executives into the United States.

Bumby stresses that any workers brought in from foreign countries should meet US standards, but he does not perceive that to be a major concern. “The IBC operator training programme in Brazil under Nilson Rocha is the most inclusive programme I've ever seen,” he says. “They almost take you from the cradle to the grave, starting with basic mathematics and moving on to safe operation of complex machinery. They train some pretty good operators there.”

He also is very impressed with the Canadian Crane Operators Training Program developed for Ontario Hydroelectric Company. “For years, they led in the training of crane operator teams,” he says. “IBC has secured the Canadian programme and integrated parts of it into Brazilian training.”

Bumby also notes, “European requirements are more stringent than what we ask for in the United States.”

The globalization of major corporations ultimately will result in an upgrading of standards worldwide, Bumby forecasts. “Companies like Archer Daniels Midland will impose the highest of standards wherever they do business,” he says. “Within our industry, it's not unusual any more to see world-class consortium groups with the best talent coming together from several countries for a major project in one country.”

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