In Venezuela, Cargill trainees overcome disabilities 

Cargill Venezuela runs an in-house job training program for people with disabilities. “They value my abilities more than my disabilities,” said one successful graduate. 

By Tom Vandyck February 04, 2016

Loosely translated, “Engranados” means “geared up.” And that’s exactly what the Cargill job training program of the same name in Caracas, Venezuela, aims to achieve. Every year, Engranados assembles a group of people with various disabilities and helps them improve their job skills. The participants are deaf, blind, physically or mentally disabled, but they have one thing in common: They come to Cargill to learn how they can thrive in the professional world.

Pride and dignity

“Here at Cargill, they value my abilities more than my disabilities,” said Engranados graduate Juan Carlos Fermín, who is blind and now works as an administrative assistant in the sales department. “I am a person with a visual impairment, but I don’t have limits when it comes to achieving my dreams and goals.”

Venezuelan law requires that companies employ people with disabilities. Not every business does it, but Cargill has taken the lead. Seven years ago, Cargill de Venezuela decided to start looking for talent among people with disabilities.

So far, 48 people have completed Engranados, and 10 more will graduate in March. Each year, the program takes on 8 to 10 participants. They not only learn job specific skills, but also hear about work ethics, community relations and customer service. When they complete their year of Engranados training, most of the participants stay with Cargill, mainly in the capital Caracas, but increasingly also in other locations around the country. Some have found jobs with other companies.

“We treat people with dignity and respect,” said Cargill Venezuela leader Jon Badiola. “That’s one of our guiding principles. With Engranados, we show them the respect of helping them make the most of their talents, regardless of their impairments. And that, in turn, helps then achieve the dignity of being able to provide for themselves and support their families and communities. I’m very proud of all these people.”

"Don’t be afraid”

Jessica Peña, who is deaf, said she learned about Engranados from a friend who works for Cargill. “She told me there was a program for people with disabilities. She’s the one who put me in touch with the company.

Jessica completed the program and now works in the corporate security department. “I do all the administrative tasks of this office and manage the budget,” she said. “I like what I do in my job every day.”

The learning, as it happens, is not just for the workers with disabilities. Human resources staffers learned basic sign language when a deaf colleague joined the team. When the corporate affairs department added a co-worker with Asperger’s syndrome, her colleagues learned how to understand her needs. “That was a bit of a challenge,” said communications coordinator Elizabeth Ramirez. “But it was very gratifying, both personally and professionally.”

Cargill now has plans to expand the program beyond the Caracas location, so that more people can take advantage of it. “What I liked most about the experience, was the beautiful friendship, the brotherhood that started with Engranados,” said Juan Carlos. “A message to others who want to join: Don’t be afraid to do it!”