Lack of skilled labor hampers Brazil companies-poll

* 70 percent of companies don’t find skilled workers

* Companies see training programs as way to ease woes

By Cesar Bianconi

SAO PAULO, April 6 (Reuters) – Seven in every 10 Brazilian
companies are currently facing a shortage of skilled workers, a
fact that is weighing on their competitive position and lifting
costs, a survey by the country’s largest industrial lobby
showed on Wednesday.

The National Industry Confederation poll with over 1,600
companies found the shortages are making manufacturers less
competitive relative to peers abroad. One major issue is the
precarious state of Brazil’s primary and secondary education.

“What brings the most attention is the fact that companies
are feeling the pinch of something that universities and other
specialized education institutions are too — the poor quality
of basic education,” Renato da Fonseca, head of research at the
Brasilia-based group, known as CNI, said.

That underscores a challenge for Brazil to keep growing
steadily ahead, as labor shortages push wage costs higher and
hamper profits in the long run. Nearly all of Brazilian
companies polled by CNI are at the moment not being able to
fill in open positions.

About 78 percent of companies are investing on their own
training programs to overcome the lack of specialized labor,
CNI said.

PETROBRAS

Brazil’s state-controlled oil company Petrobras (PETR4.SA: Quote, Profile, Research),
for example, set an 11-month-long training program for
newly-hired engineers, to strengthen their knowledge before
going on the field to work.

Petrobras has spent more than 100 million reais ($61.9
million) per year to qualify its engineers.

Education Minister Fernando Haddad told Reuters in July
that the perceived lack of qualified workers was a short-term
issue and said increasing education investments could help
close the gap.

The ministry’s budget for 2010 was 60 billion reais, 16
percent higher than in the prior year, and twice as much that
of 2006.

However, public investment in education in the past years
was less than 5 percent of gross domestic product. Some
analysts say the Brazilian government should invest at least 7
percent of GDP a year in order to improve the education
system.

($1=1.61 reais)

(Editing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Diane Craft)

Lack of skilled labor hampers Brazil companies-poll