Sao Paulo state’s contribution to the economic map of Brazil is phenomenal. Representing almost 40 percent of the country’s GDP, it has an output equal to Switzerland and the weight of the nation on its shoulders, but it has also been underperforming. The focus now is on supporting previously overlooked mid-sized companies to uncover the star of tomorrow. Hopes are high that Sao Paulo can create a Facebook or Google of its own to underscore its efforts in boosting entrepreneurial creativity.
The explosion of investments over the last decade in vocational training, the creation of major new institutions like UFABC and the rise in distance learning have all helped decentralised the knowledge base from the main metropolis. Today, smaller companies are just as likely to look to the interior of the state, where there is an increasingly skilled workforce, improving infrastructure and world-class logistics.
The vital interplay between research, private investment and government support is becoming easier thanks to its prioritisation by agencies like Fapesp and Investe Sao Paulo. The latter, created in 2008, is responsible for facilitating investments in the state and helping boost exports. “Sao Paulo represents the best of Brazil in terms of technological innovation and products with aggregated value,” says Juan Quiros, president of Investe Sao Paulo, “but efficiency needs to improve. We need not look at the future of Brazil but build the present”.
To that end, under the state’s present governor Gerardo Alckmin, investment in the Sao Paulo Technology Faculty (FATEC) has boosted the number of units throughout the state from 16 in 2004 to 63 today. State investment in its headquarters, the Centro Paula Souza, also rocketed from R$252 million to R$1.8 billion in that same period, allowing these FATECs to offer broad as well as niche courses focussed on the market’s needs.
The rise in student numbers is in sharp contrast to the prevailing opinion that such courses are no longer relevant to students. “Regular education doesn’t motivate them. They need training that is relevant to their reality, that is organised, safe and connected,” says Laura Lagana, director of the Centro Paula Souza. “Since we have more students than seats, candidates have to be selected, so they have to study to get in. If they have to study, it means they really want it.”
The state also helped fund the centre’s schools in two of the poorest suburbs in the city of Sao Paulo, Heliopolis and Paraisopolis, as well as creating the Neither/Nor initiative to give training opportunities to underprivileged and vulnerable youth. Offered basic courses in tourism, culture, road safety and first aid, they have the opportunity to become ‘municipal coordinators’ under the employment of the state. It is progressive measures like these that underpin a concerted effort to reach Sao Paulo’s huge and varied demographic.
Q&A: Laura Lagana, Director of Centro Paula Souza
Under Governor Alckmin, the number of technical schools (FATECs and ETECs) in the state of Sao Paulo has seen rapid growth over the last decade. The Centro Paula Souza is at the heart of these massive investments, offering flexible, free courses to a varied demographic.
What is the role of the Centro Paula Souza in the development of the state?
Our main goal is professional training, which we do at on all levels from basic training to secondary schools and higher education. At a higher-education level we have our quick courses, called ‘initial and continuous training’, and 100 and 200-hour courses, which are in high demand. Our schools offer courses that are very much in-line with the job market.
How popular is this kind of vocational training?
Sao Paulo state has the largest network of technical schools in the country. The secretary of economic development, science, technology and innovation hired us for an initiative called Via Rapida para o Emprego (Fast Track to Work) and in 2014 alone we trained around 90,000 people in different areas thanks to our mobile labs. Both the federal and the state governments have been investing in it heavily, and there has been great demand.
Who is your demographic and how successful are your students?
We train everybody from construction workers to automation specialists. At night, people come who have finished high school and who work during the day. They come here and after 18 months to two years, they leave with a professional degree. Thirty-seven Paula Souza schools were among the top fifty institutions in Brazil for the national secondary entrance exam (Enem).
Our image is built on such results, as well as the fact that our students go straight into the job market easily.
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