Oskar Álvarez, CEO of Asaken-Trabajos Verticales participated in the BYEF last 26 November in Bilbao, an event that brought together professionals from various sectors with a view to generating new knowledge and searching for viable solutions in the field of employment, with a special focus on youth employment. Álvarez focused his presentation on the manner in which a hobby sport has become a high value company, such as Asaken.Oskar Álvarez

– Tell us about the origins of Asaken. Explain the process of gathering people with different profiles, but with the same enthusiasm, into a cooperative? How long did it take you to make the decision?
It was a gradual process and rather spontaneous. The labour market in the “working at heights” sector was almost totally directed at renovation work, i.e. small jobs usually on residential buildings. Jobs were not usually fixed positions or, at least, they were not for long periods and they did not have the benefits that existed in other sectors. Launching the adventure of setting up a cooperative in this sector is something that, in itself, attracted several people at that time.

– The cooperative movement has a deep tradition in the Basque Country. Is it still in full swing? Do you think that the cooperative model is seen in a different way due to the crisis?
I would say that the cooperative movement has been strengthened by the crisis. On the one hand, the creation of new cooperatives has increased and while it is true that the cooperative culture does not always go hand in hand with this legal system, the experience is positive; the cooperative culture is viewed as an interesting alternative, that provides values and a way of working that is more in line with the new paradigms of transparency, division of labour, shared projects, etc.

– You have recently begun working abroad. What are labour relations like there?
Well, labour relations are more complicated because, working in another country you do not only share the working hours, you also share the other 24 hours, the apartment… We all know that living together is quite demanding.

– How do you see your labour sector?
We see it as a growing sector; there are still many markets or industries where rope access work is not used, although this could lead to substantial improvements in safety, productivity, etc. On the other hand, we have the marine wind sector, which is growing at an exponential rate and in which rope access work is unrivalled.

– What qualities must a young man with a sporting hobby like yours have to join the cooperative Asaken? How do you transform a sport into alternative employment?
Well, mainly vocation and determination, the ability to perceive this work as a part of their lives in which they can develop as professionals and as people.

– Asaken also has a training area and working internship plan, could you tell us a little bit about this?
Part of the company is dedicated to providing formal training in rope access work. Once students have passed this training, it is relatively easy to work in the sector. Regarding the internship plan, it is not really an internship; the demand is so strong that many people do the training course and end up working on one of Asaken’s projects.

– Asaken has signed-up to the campaign in support of the declaration of the youth employment decade? Why?
Because we feel identified with many of the aspects proposed in the Declaration, we believe that it is important that the institutions become involved in this necessary paradigm shift.