Twelve young people who have recently left university have joined forces to set up a cooperative in order to ensure that they have a bright future and to work in the local sector. They are focussing their efforts on the world of engineering in Río Cuarto, a small town in the south of the province of Cordoba in Argentina.
Ingeniar Cooperativa provides industrial, commercial and agricultural solutions to the production sectors in both the town and the region. It offers a range of products and services to small and medium-sized enterprises which require assistance with their planning or need to improve their production.
According to the Mercosur Labour Market Observatory, in 2013 (the last time the data was harmonised) approximately 15% of the population aged between 18 and 24 were unemployed, compared to only 4% of the population aged between 35 and 54. In other words, the unemployment rate is three times higher amongst the younger age group. Generally speaking, the jobs held by young people are precarious, poorly paid and do not include social security contributions or protection against accidents at the workplace or illness.
“We had completed our engineering studies at the National University of Río Cuarto and we specifically wanted to be able to work in Río Cuarto”, explains Mariana Juárez, who is both the Founder and the Chairperson of the cooperative. “Although the town’s main focus is on commercial and services activities, rather than manufacturing, we realised that there are some factories in town to which we could provide engineering services”.
Today there are 12 worker members and the cooperative has a team of engineers and professionals who are qualified to work on the design, development, management, maintenance and measurement of electrical, electronic, mechanical and communication systems. These systems are all essential in order to ensure an optimal level of performance, to protect the environment and to provide efficient resources.
The decision was not a simple one to take: “at the beginning the process was difficult because there were other cooperatives which were offering engineering services”, adds Juárez. "But when we began to work, we joined forces with other cooperatives and we saw that in this sector there is a greater emphasis on solidarity and working together compared to normal companies and SMEs. In Río Cuarto, there are many capitalist, profit-driven companies and they do work together. However their relationships are clearly based solely on work".
Ingeniar’s vision is to be a company that is at the cutting age of technological innovation with a strong focus on the development of regional economies. In this way they are able to meet with their needs and to optimise production time.
“We are a cooperative because that is what we wanted to be”, concludes the cooperative’s chairperson. “This has been a new experience for us and an objective we have been able to achieve by working together. We don’t see ourselves working alone, as if we were self-employed and only worked for ourselves. This is what led us to form the cooperative”.
The cooperative is now a member of the Federation of Worker Cooperatives in Argentina (FECOOTRA) and the Federation of Worker Cooperatives in Southern Cordoba (CTF), which are both founding members of the recently formed Confederation of Worker Cooperatives (Conarcoop).
International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and
Service Producers' Cooperatives
Secretariat: C/O European Cooperative House - avenue Milcamps 105
1030 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 543 1033, fax: +32 2 543 1037