Just as Mano a Mano’s clinics require highly trained physicians, nurses and dentists, our water and road projects simply could not happen without skilled mechanics and machine operators. For years we recruited technicians who already had work experience; they had essentially been trained by others. When a simple but costly mistake happened, we decided to create our own training program.
Jorge, a hard-working, recently hired machine operator had raised the bed of a dump truck to empty its load of clay-like dirt. Most of the load landed exactly where he intended but a portion stubbornly stuck to the bed and refused to slide off. “I grew up using a shovel to dig a hole. If dirt stuck to the shovel, I knocked it against a tree and the dirt fell off”, Jorge thought as he pondered his next step. He decided to approach a nearby tree and bump the elevated truck bed against its trunk – hard. The dirt slid from the truck bed. Success. Until he tried to lower the bed and found that the hydraulic piston that holds and moves it would not retract. Returning this truck to working order took a month and the full-time work of two mechanics. This incident pushed us to do our own training.
Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo Training Program
The formalized training program intends to:
- Respond to the need for trained personnel to build complex infrastructure projects
- Increase economic development capacity in Bolivia
- Create opportunities for disadvantaged youth
We use an Earn and Learn approach: the student earns a ½-time salary while receiving on-the-job training, first at the Cochabamba machine shop and then performing more and more complex tasks under close supervision on an actual project.
Heavy machine mechanic students like Walter Rios learn welding, hydraulics, motor repair, tire repair, sheet metal work, and painting. They graduate in six months with a certificate in heavy machine mechanics.
Student machine operators begin their training at the Cochabamba machine shop lot where they focus on safety requirements, then work under close supervision on real-life projects in rural communities. They learn to load and drive a lowboy; and how to operate dozers, excavators, front-end loaders, moto graders and dump trucks.
All ten of our program graduates are employed in their selected profession, five with Mano a Mano, and five with private businesses. We currently have five students; 25 others are on the waiting list.
Since initiating this training program in 2018, none of our heavy machine mechanics or machine operators, including Jorge, have had another misfortune.
Aviation Technician Training
Given the success of the Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo in-house training program, Mano a Mano Aviation decided to create an aviation technician training program in 2020. Aviation-related training requires oversight by the Bolivian government’s DGAC, its equivalent of the FAA in the U.S. Students must attend approved classes and then seek a practicum opportunity. Mano a Mano Aviation coordinates with the Bolivian government-approved program, providing the required hands-on training it requires. It seeks stipends for these students.
Students like Pato Enyo learn about the federal regulations that apply to the task at hand; engine repair, electronics, structural repair, sheet metal work, and working with weight and balance. Upon graduation after two years, they receive FAA-awarded power plant and air frame licenses that prepare them for full employment as aviation technicians. Pato says, “If lucky, I might have earned $B700 (about $US100) a month at some point in my life. Now, with my training, I earn $B2,500 (about $US360) at Mano a Mano”. Pato is one of two students who have graduated from this budding program. Mano a Mano has hired both of them. Three students are currently in training. Additional applicants are seeking stipends.
Learn More About Mano a Mano’s Projects
- Working Around the Pandemic: Mano a Mano 2020 Annual Report
- New Trailer: “Pilot of Hope” Documentary
- Transporting Heavy Equipment in Bolivia Takes Hard Work (and Many Repairs)
- Drone View: Sancayani Water Reservoir Full of Water
- Impact of Jusku Molle Water Reservoir One Decade Later
- Recent Mano a Mano Flights