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Between the Workshop and the State: Training Human Capital in Railroad Companies in Mexico and Chile, 1850-1930

Guajardo, Guillermo (2009): Between the Workshop and the State: Training Human Capital in Railroad Companies in Mexico and Chile, 1850-1930.

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Abstract

This paper analyzes the human capital training strategies adopted between the 1850s and 1930s by railroad companies in Mexico and Chile. These two countries enable one to contrast the different routes taken by the same type of firm, technology and labor force. A propos of this, we suggest that because of its complexity, capital intensity and new work methods, railway technology had a positive impact on human capital training in the cases studied. During the period when railways were the main form of land transport studied -covered by this study- they combined the labor force with foreign workers and modern technology and it was not until well into the 20th century that a formal system of technical schools was established. Instead, informal and formal learning cycles and routes tended to be followed. That is why this paper considers three aspects: I) the institutional and social factors that helped or hindered industrial operations, maintenance and production training; II) the way learning, training and talent retention cycles were shaped and talent migrated towards other activities or was dispersed or lost; and lastly, III) how training was institutionalized through what were known as “firm schools” responsible for training human capital as an internalization response to coping with shortages in the labor market.

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