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CORPORATE VIRTUAL UNIVERSITIES IN BRAZIL

A GLIMPSE OF THE SCENARIO IN 1999

FREDRIC M. LITTO

SCHOOL OF THE FUTURE, UNIVERSITY OF SÃO PAULO

BRAZILIAN ASSOCIATION FOR DISTANCE EDUCATION

frmlitto@usp.br

 

Brazil´s vast geographic extension and its solid positioning as one of the ten largest economies of the world make any such survey of manifestations of a new tendency in the productive sector necessarily sketchy and uneven. That I have been able to pull together some threads of information is due, in part, to help from my colleagues at the University of São Paulo, Marisa Eboli, of the School of Economics and Administration, who earlier this month published a book which is a collection of essays on corporate universities in general and offers about twenty pages briefly describing four Brazilian examples; and Allen Habert, of the School of Engineering, who has been accompanying the phenomenon for the last several years as part of his work in organizing continuing education for engineers. My thanks to both of them.

Brazil´s total population now is approximately 165 million inhabitants, and although it is in large part a very poor country, with many homes lacking conveniences like stoves and refrigerators, nevertheless about 90% of the total number of homes have television sets (44 million). There are also about 8 million computers in use, and of these, about 4 million are connected to the Internet. Hence, it is safe to predict that this essentially audio-visual culture, rather impatient with printed materials, will welcome and easily adapt to modes of continuing education such as corporate virtual universities.

There are currently ten examples of corporate virtual universities up and running in Brazil, and another sixty cases of companies which have announced their beginning efforts in this direction. An overview of the ten examples, which will be analyzed individually below, permit several generalizations:

    1. basic or advanced competencies of the business or technical worlds;
    2. corporate "citizenship" – the cultural values of the firm – tying the employee to the objectives of the company;
    3. general culture, such as foreign languages or the conclusion of primary and secondary school education;

The ten corporate universities which I will now examine are: Universidade Algar de Negócios; Universidade Martins do Varejo; Academia-Universidade de Serviços (Accor do Brasil); Petrobras; Banco do Brasil; Boston School (BankBoston); Unimetro (Metro de São Paulo); Universidade Datasul; VISA Training; and Odebrecht Engenharia e Construção.

 

Universidade Algar de Negócios

Algar is a large and strong group of companies in the areas of telecommunications (manufacturing and services) and agribusiness, located in Uberlândia, Minas Gerais, a middle-sized city in the interior, about midway on a straight line between the cities of São Paulo and Brasília. Its corporate university is a non-profit educational institution juridically separate from the group of companies. Its mission is to promote the knowledge management and the development of the intellectual capital of the Algar Group, by means of the process of continued learning. Its specific objectives are to disseminate the company’s values and culture, instill and reinforce a culture of total quality, develop essential competencies among the firm’s leadership, recycle and up-date knowledge, and make education permeate all levels of the organization.

At the present time, Algar University maintains six educational programs:

Elaboration and implementation of projects; marketing; stragetic, tactical and operational planning; negotiation skills; communication skills; finances; ethics and social reponsibility.

Constructing high-performance teams; empresarial thinking; project leadership.

Case-study seminars with professors from Harvard University; bench-marking in agribusiness and information technology; prospecting the future.

Techniques of presentations; immersion in the English language; teamwork; commercial development.

Interactive skills; problem-solving processes; the use of quality-ensuring tools.

Philosophy and code-of-conduct of the firm; the integration of new talents.

[Contacts: www.algar.com.br unialgar@algar.com.br Sr. Cicero]

 

Universidade Martins do Varejo

Grupo Martins of Uberlândia, Minas Gerais, is one of Brazil’s largest wholesale distributor of merchandise to 15 thousand small and medium-sized supermarkets throughout the country (60% of the total of supermarkets). Its 5 thousand employees include 200 department heads and fifteen area directors. The Group has its own bank (Tribanco), which finances its customers’ purchases, and it maintains its Retailing University as a form of support to its clients. The University furnishes data and conceptual information on new strategies and new technologies, which are aimed at facilitating the management of the customers’ supermarkets. It offers courses such as: inventory management; how to establish prices; the management of space in selling areas; techniques of staff recruitment and selection; labor laws in retailing, and financial management.

[Contacts: www.martins.com.br umv@martins.com.br Srta. Raquel Garcia]

 

Academia-Universidade de Serviços (Accor do Brasil)

  This French-owned group of seventeen companies in Brazil generates US$ 3 billion dollars of revenue from 60 thousand clients. Its product/service lines are: administration of corporate restaurants, food coupons for corporate distribution; hotel and flat administration (Novotel, Sofitel, Ibis, Parthenon), travel agencies (Carlson Wagon-Lit), and services for corporate incentive programs. The Group has 18 thousand employees in Brazil, which it divides into five principal categories: directors and managers, operational heads of department, professionals specialized in negotiating, and operational staff. Each year about 15 thousand employees receive training in one or more of 300 course programs, in subjects such as Human and Social Skills, Communication Skills, and Teamwork. The Group spends an average of US$ 400.00 per employee per year for education (a total of US$ 6 million). It is a pioneer in Brazil as a corporate university, having began such work in 1992.

[Contacts: www.accorbrasil.com.br cferraz@accorbrasil.com.br Srta. Celia Ferraz]

Petrobras

The Brazilian government-owned fuel-producing and distributing company is a pioneer in the use of in-company distance education in the country, having started its program "Project Access" in 1976. This project aimed at helping many of the companies less-qualified employees to complete their primary and secondary school educations. 3,314 employees have already passed through the program (814 at the primary school level, 2,129 at the secondary school level, and 343 are still enrolled). These students receive diplomas from CETEB-Center of Technological Education in Brasília, a private organization specialized in distance education.

Petrobras maintains 25 thousand computers with Internet access, and registers more than 300 thousand accesses per month to its educational sites. Two thousand executives and supervisors of the company distributed throughout the country and on ocean-going ships and off-shore drilling platforms, regularly receive refresher courses through the Internet, an in-house videoconferencing system, occasional use of third-party Embratel’s ExecutiveTV (a teleconferencing system) and printed material. Thirty-six tutors are employed in the support of courses on subjects such as: Introduction to the Refinery Process; Metallic Corrosion; Materials Management; Descriptive Statistics; Logistics, among others. Some of these courses offer certificates. An agreement with the Federal University of Santa Catarina is enabling twenty-one of the educational staff of Petrobras to take masters degrees in the logistics and pedagogy of distance education. Petrobras is currently installing its own fiber-optic network on top of its vast network of fuel-distribution ducts throughout Brazil, and it has already announced its intention to diversify as a company, offering communication services to third parties. This new capacity will surely also enhance its educational activities.

[Contacts: www.petrobras.com.br ritavieira@petrobras.com.br Srta. Rita Vieira]

 

Banco do Brasil

The principal government-owned bank, with 73 thousand employees, is a long-time user of distance education for in-house training, having started its program in the 1970’s and is presently using teleconferencing on its own fiber-optic network, the Internet, videocassettes and print materials. The bank has 5 thousand points of service to the public, and they are spread out all over the country, frequently where there are no resources for face-to-face learning. Hence, all didactic material is now being converted to on-line formats. 15 thousand employees receive training each years, 30% of them through the distance education mode. Fifteen staff members, in addition to external content providers, maintain coursework in all the areas of interest to the bank, including marketing, economics and finances. The bank plans to extend its courses to an external public in the near future.

[Contacts: Banco do Brasil, Brasília, D.F. 061-310-7046]

 

Boston School (BankBoston)

With headquarters in São Paulo, BankBoston has 64 agencies in other Brazilian cities and offers learning opportunities for its employees, their families, clients and suppliers. Courses deal with technical banking matters (financial analysis, credit, accounting), computer science, foreign languages (English, Spanish and French), and general culture. Through agreements with Harvard and Columbia Universities, its executives can take on-line courses from those institutions in Portuguese translation. New employees are given on-line courses in company procedures and practices, bank products and risk control, among others. The instructional system also features eight interconnected videoconferencing rooms, conventional classrooms, amphitheatres with laptops, a library and a videotape library. At any given time, some 340 employees are receiving courses. The bank spends about US$ 1.5 million per year in distance education work.

[Contacts: www.bankboston.com.br msantos@bkb.com.br Sr. Marcelo Santos]

 

UNIMETRO (Metro of São Paulo)

This corporate university was created principally for the employees of the São Paulo subway system, and those of other companies offering transportation on wheels and which are partners of the Metro; in the future, it intends to offer access to users of the subway system. Courses are given in four areas: strategic management, professional skills, management of intellectual capital, and social responsibility.

[Contacts: Säo Paulo, S.P. 011-283-7551 Srta. Maria Luiza Belloque]

 

Universidade Datasul

Begun in early 1999, this corporate virtual university has a staff of seven, and its manager answers directly to the presidency of the organization, a large data processing firm. Its principal characteristics are: knowledge-sharing, personalization (through the preparation of "roadmaps" for each type of work in the organization), and careful measuring of the learning results. Each "roadmap" consists of a basic curriculum, a development track, and final certification. At the present time, 90% of the courses are given face-to-face, and 10% are given virtually; of the virtual, 80% involve the use of cd-roms and 20% are web-based and feature mediastreaming and html editors. Virtual courses include "Using PC Anywhere", "Using the Datasul Library", and "High-Performance Management" (in association with Harvard University). Over 200 employees have already received virtual training. Since all Datasul employees have individual PCs at their desks, it is expected that virtual education programs will expand rapidly.

[Contacts: www.datasul.com.br bre15806@datasul.com.br Srta Alice Feuser]

 

VISA Training

Operating in Brazil only since 1997 (previously restricted by Brazil’s very high inflation rate and consequent low use of credit cards), this educational program is aimed at the employees of Brazilian banks and hotel chains participating in the VISA program, a universe of some 6 thousand professionals and opinion-makers (journalists and public-relations personnel). Some 3 thousand persons have already passed through the program, which offers courses on electronic payments using credit cards, debit cards and smart cards. An extensive file of "cases" is available to the students in this distance education program, the cost of which is approximately US$ 2 million per year.

[Contacts: www.visa.com.br mloverro@visa.com.br Srta. Maria Cecilia M. Loverro]

 

Odebrecht Engenharia e Construções

Brazil’s largest empresarial group in the field of civil contruction, at the present time constructing structures in 14 different countries around the world, Odebrecht is required to continually maintain its administrators and engineers up to date through courses and seminars. At the present time, its corporate virtual university offers a masters degree in financial administration in partnership with the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, and is presently planning a new masters degree in administration in partnership with a university in São Paulo; in both cases, the post-graduate degrees are designed to meet Odebrecht’s training needs.

[Contacts: www.oec.com.br procha@oec.com.br Sr. Paulo Rocha]

There are another 60 or so corporations in the process of creating their virtual universities in Brazil. Among them are:

Brahma

HSBC

Elma Chips

Amil

Motorola

Gessey Lever

Rhodia

Volkswagen

CBT Systems

Xerox

Embraer

Coca-Cola

I hope that this brief survey has been useful, and I am at your disposal for any additional information. Thank you.