A packed city bus is struggling to make its way in the early-morning rush-hour traffic when cars are bumper to bumper in the sweltering heat of the sprawling conurbation of metropolitan Manila. One of the passengers has been enduring the uncomfortable hard seat for almost two hours. Christian “Chris” Laxa is the name of the gangly, lanky young man from a rather unprepossessing suburb a long way to the east of the capital where shacks and small houses extend endlessly over the hills. Chris lives in his grandmother’s house, together with his parents and nine siblings. Like every other morning, the 22-year-old is on his way to the Porsche Training and Recruitment Center Asia (PTRCA) in the center of Manila. The training workshop has been writing a real success story for the past five years. It offers underprivileged young men and women a chance to permanently improve their position in life and trains highly motivated skilled workers for Porsche service centers throughout Asia. In this constellation, social engagement and farsighted personnel management are working hand in hand.
A model project
Torsten Klavs is responsible for qualification concepts in After Sales at Porsche. He was at the PTRCA in Manila right from the start. The model in the Philippines is regarded as a role model after just five years. It was no accident that the Philippines were chosen as the first choice location of the training center for mechatronics technicians. This was the result of an intensive analysis carried out at different sites. The majority of the population living in the island state speaks English at least in a rudimentary form. However, the mentality of the people was much more important as a deciding factor, combined with the long-standing tradition of young men and women traveling abroad to look for training and find work. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos work on freight and passenger ships as sailors, machinery fitters or kitchen assistants, traveling on the high seas of the world. “Naturally, all these men and women suffer from home sickness but nobody throws in their job because of that,” commented Torsten Klavs.
A computer against homesickness
This is even more the case for his protégés in view of the good working conditions and an annual vacation of 25 days. Klavs observes time and again that the young people finishing their training course at the PTRCA quickly become part of the Porsche family and then thrive as they make their way abroad. There is also a solution to home sickness. Klavs: “After three months abroad, the young men purchase a computer – for themselves and for their family back home – and then they Skype every evening.”
Chris Laxa will only start working abroad in a few months. But his career path has been much more strenuous than the daily commute into Manila. He left school at 16 as a teenager and started working as a trash sorter with his uncle. “It was tough work and it was dirty,” recalls Chris, “but I was proud that I was able to support my family by working.” When he turned 18, he changed to work for a fast-food chain selling on-the-go food and studied hard at the same time in evening school to gain a higher qualification. But the money was not enough. Books were too expensive and the costs for getting to school were too high. He was already thinking about giving up on school and working as an independent sandwich seller when he met an old friend from school.
“He told me about the training at Don Bosco and that they would give me a grant there,” remembered Chris. His application for an apprenticeship was successful, “God blessed me.”
A fair chance for all
Breaking the vicious circle of poverty is absolutely essential. The Catholic Salesian order runs Don Bosco apprenticeship centers for young people in 130 countries. Full grants enable young people and teenagers from vulnerable sections of society to take up a vocation with a future. “We aim to give young people everywhere in the world a fair chance to break out of the vicious circle of poverty,” was how Christian Osterhaus, Managing Director of the World Center of Don Bosco Mondo in Bonn, described the global mission. Since 1960, young men have been completing technical apprenticeships at the Don Bosco Technical Institute in Manila within 15 months.
In the end there are only winners
Porsche has been building on this sound platform since 2008. After ten months at Don Bosco, around 40 young men are able to continue their training as Porsche service mechatronics technicians for a further nine months at the PTRCA. The apprentices know right at the start that they will have a fixed job at the end of this phase – generally speaking in one of the Arab countries in the Gulf. “The concept has been designed so that it can operate without any subsidies or other government allowances,” said Klavs. The importers and dealerships take over the costs of the training and they then employ “their” freshly trained technicians. The young mechatronics technicians and their families, the Don Bosco Institute, the Porsche support centers in Asia – the program provides a win-win situation for everyone.
The sustainable success proves the point for Klavs. Out of a total of 160 former PTRCA apprentices, 157 are still working for Porsche across the world. The Don Bosco Technical Institute tells school children about the exceptional opportunity offered by Porsche. “This is important because these young teenagers have never heard of Porsche before – and they have certainly never seen a 911 either,” explained Klavs. Chris Laxa agreed with a broad smile: “We are really only familiar with Asian cars here.” In the Don Bosco workshop, too, the apprentices were only working on elderly Japanese cars before Porsche came on the scene.
The apprentices achieve the necessary high standard at the end of their training with the performance typical of Porsche. The route to a successful qualification is long and tough because the apprentices begin their training without the theoretical framework that is taken for granted in Germany. “The rationale that we cannot simply impose our German twin-track training system in the Philippines on a one-to-one basis is very important. There is quite simply a lack of basic education. We are concentrating much more on implementing the key elements of German education. We need to adapt to the conditions that exist on the ground,” said Klavs.
Trainer stays in contact
However, the personal commitment of the highly motivated young men and women is worth a great deal and in many ways compensates for educational gaps. Chris Laxa and his colleagues are really fired-up and extremely ambitious. They listen attentively to all the explanations given by their instructors. They marvel at the special tools and they adopt an almost reverent approach when they handle the unaccustomed equipment. Initially, they are unwilling to engage with the diagnostic computers but typically of this generation, they quickly lose their reticence. They hungrily absorb any information they receive. And even when the time comes round for cleaning every evening, they approach the task as though there were a prize for the cleanest corner of the workshop. The committed engagement and the unswerving optimism of the people from the poverty-stricken areas are positively contagious. The secondment as a trainer has even left its mark on a man like Thorsten Hagel – tough outer shell, but heart of gold. The young men call their trainer “Pop”. And whenever Pop Hagel tells stories about his young men, he is beaming. His former protégés maintain contact with their Pop through Facebook even though he has long since been living in the comparatively calm environs of Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart.
Evening has arrived in Metro Manila with its population of twelve million. The city bus trundles along, taking a tired but happy Chris Laxa across the hills and back to his suburb. However, the big target is much further away. At the end of 2014, he will take off as a freshly trained service mechatronics technician to work for Porsche in the Gulf state of Kuwait. “This will be a journey into a brighter future – for me and my entire family.”