The opening of the refining market brings growth to the sector and increased competition in Brazil, but it imposes challenges on those entering this segment. One of them concerns the workforce because the operators in activity in Brazil are mostly Petrobras employees, i.e., public servants. In 2021, when the energy company Acelen took over the Mataripe Refinery in the state of Bahia, the Northeast region of the country, we spotted an absence of qualified labor for the private refining segment. The acquisition of the refinery did not contemplate Petrobras employees, and our own staff was limited to the administrative sector. As a result, our mission in the period of up to 15 months established for the transition was to attract professionals in the market to set up a team to operate the refinery: a mega-structure of more than 70 years that occupies an area equivalent to 900 soccer fields and has very specific characteristics. 

Putting together a team of more than a thousand professionals with efficiency and safety in a short time is certainly challenging in a country lacking sector qualification. In the petrochemical area, an operator has to study and train for an average of 16 months in order to be qualified for the job. At Acelen, we found the solution to train operators in-house. Starting from scratch, we designed a model for training new operators in record time. It uses learning agility and agile methodologies, among others, theoretical and technical rigor and practice as its main tools. 

"We are creating a trail of training and career development opportunities for the society that can become a model for other large companies."

That is how we designed and inaugurated Acelen Acender, an unprecedented training center in private refining that is training new professionals to work in this activity. The first unit of the center of excellence operates in the Mataripe Refinery, 60 km from Salvador, and includes, in addition to the theoretical content, such topics as safety, environment, and specific leadership and management skills. It also includes practical activities, exchange of experiences, field monitoring, and performance evaluation metrics. 

We had 5,237 participants in training and 159 courses offered in just the first year of the center’s existence. We have already trained the first group, and 224 new operation technicians entered the field at the refinery qualified for their duties.  

However, our concept of qualification goes beyond our walls; it is not limited to serving our sector. We are using Acender to reach neighboring communities. In Candeias (state of Bahia),  Acelen Acender is a space for qualification and social experiences. In this month of August, two projects have been launched in partnership with AVSI Brazil and Fundação Banco do Brasil and  Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) of the Recôncavo Baiano for professional training of young people, who will be able to compete for opportunities in the market.

Among all the company’s actions for people development, Acelen Acender is certainly our biggest project: it goes beyond the operation of the units and aims at the future of the refining sector in the country. This market has been pointing to new paths and still has a lot of room to grow. The estimate is that there will be 500,000 job openings in the oil sector by 2025, as pointed out in a study by the Brazilian Association of Oil Service Companies (AbesPetro). The entity also projects investments of around R$ 102 billion per year in this period, which reinforces the pace of recovery and potential to increase Brazil’s participation in the international market.  

We see many opportunities and we need trained professionals to meet this growing demand. Therefore, we are also building other models to train people who, in the future, may be part of the refinery’s legacy. A partnership with Senai Cimatec, an educational institution associated with the Federation of Industries of the State of Bahia (FIEB), fulfills this role. We have already offered 380 scholarships completely free of charge: 350 for the Professional Oil Refining  Operator Qualification course and 30 for the Electrical, Instrumentation and Mechanical  Maintenance courses, both taking 18 months.  

A total of R$ 16.6 million was invested in vocational training only in 2022. And a few months ago, in another unprecedented initiative in the sector, we created a Young Apprentice program exclusively for women. It is aligned with priority themes in our ESG strategy of attracting, developing, and retaining people and building relationships with the community for local development. It is helping to include more women in Acelen’s industrial park, where they already account for 18 percent of employees. 

Our focus is not only on the human capital that will result from these initiatives. We also favor the know-how of those who have already worked at the refinery. When we acquired the refinery and its assets, we made these professionals a very attractive proposal for them to continue with us and stay in Bahia, close to their families. Today, 57.9 percent of the total operation headcount are former employees of the refinery, and they have 29 years of experience on average. They are critical to the company because they bring the knowledge we need to keep accelerating the refining market with excellence. Acelen currently has more than 1,350 employees, all 100 percent Acelen. 

We are creating a trail of training and career development opportunities for the society that can become a model for other large companies. We look at what lies ahead and, therefore, we see the need to encourage local partnerships and act to ensure the sustainability of this process. This is the most prosperous way to fulfill our purpose of actively participating in the country's energy transition, contributing to the growth and strengthening of the energy sector, and, at the same time, invigorating education and the local economy of the region where we operate.