COMMUNITY: A Volvo CE dealer is reaching out to troubled young people
by Sam Cowie
For Rodrigo Linck, owner of Brazil-based Volvo Construction Equipment dealership Linck Maquinas, a successful company is about more than just profit. It is all about giving back. “We believe that a company has a social function,” he says. “It has knowledge and values to pass on.”
The team at Linck Maquinas is responsible for Escola Tècnica Geraldo Linck, a school named after Rodrigo Linck’s late grandfather, who founded it in 1978, where vulnerable teens can study to become professionally qualified to give them a chance of a prosperous, self-sufficient future. The idea for the school came after the founder witnessed a young boy robbing an old woman.
The school, located in the Southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, was the first of what would go on to become Projeto Pescar, a franchise of corporate social responsibility ventures. Today, it has more than 100 branches throughout Brazil, along with others in Argentina and Paraguay.
Vulnerable youngsters, aged 16-19, are chosen from needy communities according to how at risk they are, and attend the school during the evenings. Project Pescar provides practical training to help them enter the job market when they graduate. Furthermore, according to Linck, the project teaches them the value of hard work and citizenship.
“The project is really changing lives – it not only provides a professional referral but changes the way young people are thinking and behaving,” he says. The motto of the ‘Fishing Project’ is “don’t give fish, teach to fish”, and to date nearly 10,000 young people have qualified for the job market, thanks to Project Pescar.
With abundant natural resources and a diverse and sophisticated services industry, Brazil has the third-largest manufacturing sector in the Americas and the Brazilian economy has been predicted to become one of the five largest in the world. The crime rate remains relatively high with UNICEF estimating upwards of 10,500 children and adolescents killed every year, and the country witnesses more than 50,000 homicides annually. However, there are huge differences between the crime rates in different Brazilian states, with the majority of victims poor young black men, living in vulnerable communities such as favelas or in the periphery regions of metropolitan areas.
Now, more than ever, in the midst of an economic downturn, the importance of Project Pescar should not be underestimated.
The Geraldo Linck Technical School helps young people avoid Brazil’s poverty and violence traps by setting them on a path to self-sufficiency. The youngsters attend classes in technical studies, such as mechanics and electronics, as well as administration and commerce.
Thanks to the school’s outstanding reputation, businesses in the region recruit candidates directly from the school and, according to Linck, 100% of the young people in the class of 2015 had been employed by the end of the course – some of those by Linck Maquinas.
“After nine months, I could see the other side of life,” says Jorge William Bogiel Da Silva, who joined the school in 2009, aged 17, and today works as a salesman for Linck while studying for a business management degree. “What really made me a better citizen was working with other professionals within the Linck company.”
Linck Maquinas was founded in 1955 when Geraldo Tollens Linck decided to start his own business, with a small amount of start-up capital and a second-hand Volkswagen Beetle, working out of a small garage. He died in 1998, leaving behind a business respected at the national level in the heavy-machinery market and a legacy in the form of Project Pescar, which continues to change the lives of thousands of vulnerable young people in Brazil every year.
“The project is a great source of pride for the entire team here at Linck, especially for me. I have the privilege of witnessing each day the fruits of my grandfather’s initiative,” says Linck.
For him, there are many special moments in the project, but each graduation ceremony stands out. “During the graduation it becomes clear that the project not only forms young professionals, it also transforms lives,” he concludes.