Multinationals Taking Notice of Argentine Talent

By Staff Report

Apr. 3, 2007

 Six years ago, Argentina was in the throes of a financial crisis so deep that the government had to devalue its currency just to stay afloat. The effects, of course, were widespread, but an immediate consequence was that a budding young workforce abandoned school simply to help their struggling families survive.

Today, Argentina is recovering from the economic disaster that pushed it to the brink of ruin, and the South American nation’s employment base is quickly making up for lost time. Young, energetic workers are drawing the attention of multinational companies seeking an educated workforce at a relatively reasonable price. And it appears Argentina is willing and able to deliver.

Many of the labor market’s newest entrants were influenced by Argentina’s 2001-2002 financial meltdown.

“It made them learn that they need experience and they need to be prepared for the changing world of work,” said Jorgelina Calvente, director of corporate communications for Manpower South America, in an interview at the company’s Buenos Aires office.

The experience drove home the importance of education, as well as the need to learn English.

“We’d better integrate ourselves with the rest of the world, or this is it for us,” says Marina Santangelo, a 22-year-old staffer at Next Level, a company that markets Intel products. “People who speak English, people who have an open view of the world, can get better jobs here.”

It also helps that public universities in Argentina are free. With a higher literacy rate and more university students per capita than Brazil or Mexico, Argentina is setting itself apart among Latin American nations.

“I see Argentina becoming a more attractive country as it relates to other emerging markets,” says Gary Coleman, global managing director for manufacturing for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu in New York.

In 2003, Intel turned to Argentina for its talent pipeline, establishing a software manufacturing operation in the province of Cordoba, which is about 500 miles from Buenos Aires. Motorola, EDS and Siemens also have operations there.

Argentina’s educational system has traditionally been one of the strongest in the region,” said Luis Blando, the general manager of Intel Software of Argentina, in an e-mail interview. “The country’s past industrial and scientific successes have created a latent talent population that’s characterized by above-average levels of experience in management and leadership.”

Cordoba has become Argentina’s Silicon Valley, largely through a public-private partnership that builds on its university network. The government also provides tax breaks and other incentives.

With government help, Intel established the Argentina Software Development Center, which produces Internet processing software and is projected to employ 400 engineers by 2011. “Inside of a year since the center was inaugurated, it has contributed substantially to worldwide products,” Blando says.

Cordoba is carrying out its vision without spending a lot of money on infrastructure.

“All the added value is the mind,” says Daniel Luaces, manager of professional services at Manpower. “The most important part of the IT business is the human resources.”

Argentina is capitalizing on offshoring and business process outsourcing trends in part because of the quality of education and a high level of English proficiency among the population, Luaces says.

It also benefits from being in roughly the same time zones as the United States, as well as cultural affinity with its Western Hemisphere neighbor, according to Luaces. Like other developing markets, Argentina provides workers at low wages. But unlike some countries, it also has fairly relaxed labor laws.

“There’s greater freedom by the employer to move people around, cross-train them and dismiss them if they’re not the best,” Coleman says.

Mark Schoeff Jr.

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