Often foreigners who receive higher education in Russia undergo practical training in companies in their native countries, where they intend to work later on. Strange as it may seem, it is much easier for them to organize such a trip than to get a job at a Russian enterprise. However, a student of the St. Petersburg Mining University from Costa Rica gained his first professional experience at the KAMAZ plant in Naberezhnye Chelny. The young man from Central America told how difficult it was to get into the famous production of diesel trucks, passenger and agricultural vehicles, and what it taught him.
Diego Monterrey is studying at the oldest technical university in the country at the mechanical engineering faculty. He decided where and where he wanted to study in his youth:
"I originally wanted to study in Russia, as I was in love with it after hearing the stories of my stepfather who studied here in the 1970s. And my interest in the construction of cars arose largely thanks to the Niva my father bought decades ago. The first Soviet cars arrived in Costa Rica back in 1979 - they were "Zhiguli" for embassy employees. In the 1980s, Ladas and Nivas were exported for sale, and my family bought one of them. Among the fleet of Toyotas and Hyundais on the streets of our city, the looked very distinctive: unique, to say the least. It was the car on which my father learned to drive, and later my brother... and me. We all repaired it as needed, and I studied the design and principles of operation, so the SUV is still on the road and actively used to this day. Growing up, I bought one, but later I sold it for a ticket to St. Petersburg. You could say that I traded the car for my dream of becoming a mechanical engineering specialist," Diego shares.
He had always wanted to work in the Russian car industry, so by the end of his third year, he was sending out applications to the biggest companies in the world. It was not easy to find a company willing to take on a young man. This is due to a certain complexity of registration.
The procedure for accepting foreign students for internships depends on whether the company and the university have an agreement on industrial practice, which allows them to accept young people from educational organizations with state accreditation. If there is such an agreement and the student is not assigned a full-fledged labor function, there is no need to notify the Ministry of Internal Affairs about the start of work with a foreigner. If there is no agreement, or the trainee will perform tasks of the same complexity as other employees, then it is possible to conclude an employment or civil law contract with him/her - fixed-term or indefinite. In this case, it is necessary to submit notifications to the Ministry of Internal Affairs on hiring and dismissal within 3 working days from the date of conclusion or termination of the contract.
For some companies, confidentiality issues and difficulties with life insurance for the trainee may also be an obstacle.
"I was lucky to be very stubborn. At AvtoVAZ, I talked to six different employees to find out how to get to them, UAZ simply ignored requests and letters, and it didn't work out with Moskvich either. But nothing is impossible with a great desire. To my joy the plant KAMAZ, with which the Mining University has a contract, agreed to take me to the Technical Control Department of aggregate production. After passing a course on labor safety, I started to perform my duties as a supervisor of locksmith and machine-tool works on an equal footing with the others and even received my first salary. At the plant, I was engaged in inspecting balance suspensions and axles for trucks of models 43118 and 65115," says the Costa Rican.
His main task was to check the products for proper quality and absence of any defects both visually and with the help of special tools. That is, he stood at the end of the conveyor and checked the work of 25-30 people in assembling the units from the bare body to the final assembled structure. An equally important task was the need to document the results of the inspection in order to analyze emerging problems and then correct the situation. The axles and suspensions were then transferred to another conveyor, where they were already installed in the vehicles. In the case of smooth operation, Diego inspected one automobile every 5 minutes. The shift lasted 8 hours a day. Thus, several thousand trucks, in the creation of which Monterrey took a direct part, will be traveling in Russia and other countries where they will be exported.
"Such seemingly monotonous labor was very interesting and at the same time extremely hard. It is a huge factory, where there is a continuous noise, presenting a certain stress for an unprepared person. All workers wear overalls, which can hardly be called comfortable. Feet are protected by special shoes with heavy metal plates that can protect them from injuries in case of a possible fall of the machine. You take them off at the end of the day and it's like flying home. But most importantly, I gained invaluable insight into how such a large-scale production works. It may surprise some people, but the practice only fueled my interest in the profession," says Diego.
According to the student, the plant staff received him very warmly, supported him and helped him with any questions he had. They wrote about him in the corporate newspaper and invited him to the celebration of the Youth Day in Chelny, where he first saw the racing trucks of the KAMAZ-Master team, specializing in rally-raids. Its crews have won the Dakar Rally (formerly the Paris-Dakar Rally) 19 times. Not Volvo or Mercedes... But KAMAZ.
"This team is recognized as the strongest in world motorsport in the sport truck class. I was pleased to realize that even as a trainee I can somehow influence this success, become part of it," says the Costa Rican.
More than ever before, the issue of the effectiveness of international cooperation in higher education and science, as well as the integration of interested countries into a common educational space, is on the agenda.
The Russia-Africa Forum held in St. Petersburg in the summer of 2023 identified a number of pressing issues that need to be addressed. Among them is a serious shortage of qualified engineers in many developing countries. Moreover, the shortage is observed even if there is a sufficient number of people with higher education in the countries. They remain unclaimed due to the mismatch between the areas of their education and modern technological challenges.
"My stepfather studied to be an agronomist in Moscow in the 1970s. Back then, the profession was one of the most important for Costa Rica's development. But after we made the abrupt transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy, this field of study was no longer in demand on the labor market. By the time I graduated from high school, I knew that one of the top 10 highest paid jobs in Central America was in mechanical engineering. This is the field that is in high demand in almost all industries. Currently, the backbone of Costa Rica's economy is the production and export of electronics - microprocessors and medical devices. In addition, 98% of our energy comes from alternative sources - wind turbines and hydroelectric power plants. Today, the government aims to sell energy to neighboring countries and plans to build two more new hydroelectric plants. This is a colossal project! Literally any of these industries uses machine tools and high-tech equipment, so they are interested in personnel capable of maintaining, modernizing and designing them. The direction of my study sounds like "Technology, equipment and automation of mechanical engineering industries". It is important to realize that the knowledge and skills I am acquiring today at the Mining University will allow me to work successfully not only in the automotive industry, but also everywhere where engines and technological equipment are used - machines, apparatuses, installations, with the use of which products are manufactured and various technological processes are carried out," says Diego Monterrey.
After completing his bachelor's degree, the young man plans to stay in Russia for his master's degree and is sure that in the future he will always be able to find a good job both at home and in our country.