Photo by Augusto Diniz
Photo by Augusto Diniz

At peak construction, the San Antonio and Jirau dams require a combined workforce of more than 30,000. As the jobs began to ramp up about five years ago, it soon became apparent that there was a shortage of skilled labor available in the remote Rondônia state.

Odebrecht, the lead contractor at San Antonio, concluded that the nearby city of Porto Velho could fulfill 30% of the necessary workforce requirements at best.


The company gave Antonio Cardilli, Odebrecht's administrative and financial manager with the dam consortium's civil-works arm, the resources to set up a full-scale training program, called Programa Acreditar (Portuguese for "Program Believe"). Based in Porto Velho, it trains prospective workers on the basics of jobsite safety and builds advanced skills in steel work, electrical, mechanical, heavy equipment, carpentry, masonry and rigging.

The program appears to be exceeding expectations. Acreditar graduates have gone into the San Antonio workforce, which comprises about 85% local residents. Odebrecht has replicated the prototype in seven other Brazilian states.

So far, more than 68,000 have enrolled in the program, Odebrecht says. The company has hired about 16,000 of the 27,00 graduates to date.

There is also a school program for workers' children that offers technical, administrative and financial training as well as computer classes. After school hours, students aged 14 to 17 can take additional courses that are designed to funnel them into the workforce upon graduation.

"Even when the dam is done," says project manager Leonardo Borgatti, "these folks will have skills they can take with them wherever they go."