V.P. of Business Development
The Offshore Group
Mexican industry and the workforce that supports companies expanding to Mexico has been making strides in the complexity and the quality of the manufacturing that takes place. As this has happened, the skill sets of the Mexican workforce have risen in a manner commensurate with the demands of the competitive international marketplace.
Metromáticas, a program that has been instituted, in Guaymas, Mexico provides an example of how several entities: private industry, state government and local industry partner to prepare students to take skilled postions in a growing economy.
Over the past 10 years, a significant number of aerospace parts manufacturers have setup operations in the State of Sonora, Mexico and more particularly in the City of Guaymas. These are predominantly high-precision metal machining and forming operations in contrast to the traditional assembly operations that have made their way into Mexico over the years in order to reduce labor costs. Today, in Guaymas alone, Mexican aerospace manufacturing operations employs over 1,500 people.
Finding readily available skilled and experienced machinists, machine operators, and qualified aerospace manufacturing and quality engineers in Mexico, has been a challenge as it has been in the U.S. for many industries that require these skills. For example, it is well known that the population of skilled machinists in the U.S. is aging and that the next generation is, for the most part, not interested in these types of jobs. As a result, aerospace and other companies are forced to seek these skills wherever they can find them, or wherever they can create them. While it was clear to the business and educational community in Guaymas that training and education needed to be intensified and instilled from middle school on in order to continue growing its aerospace and high-tech industries, it was still not clear how to motivate the youth to get involved.
What is Metromatemáticas?
Around 2009, Nahum Correa So, a metrology equipment business owner and certified six-sigma black belt who lives in Sonora’s capital city of Hermosillo, had a vision that by immersing Mexican students in real-life and current/highly relevant applications of math in certain industries like aerospace, the students would in turn more clearly envision their life working as an operator, machinist, or an engineer, and would, therefore, be self-motivated to learn and more inquisitive. To this theory, Nahum added a dignity and celebration component to the teaching environment which essentially elevates the social stature of the student who becomes a source of pride for the families and community itself.
To implement his vision, Nahum approached companies like The Offshore Group which is the Mexican State of Sonora’s largest provider of manufacturing jobs. He additionally made contact with as the leading public and private schools, as well as the local and state government officials that set and manage educational standards. Three years later, Guaymas now has three middle schools (called secundarias in Mexico) in which a classroom was converted into a lab that has Mitutoyo brand work benches, state of the art metrology equipment and devices, a curriculum that is especially designed to apply math to real products and problems in the aerospace and precision metal working industries, and white lab coats for each student in the class. The students that attend this class are selected based on a defined criteria and their teachers have been certified to an international standard. This program is called Metromatemáticas.
Today, 140 teachers in the region have been trained to teach Metromatemáticas in order to prepare young students for careers in Mexico's manufacturing sector. Four of Guaymas’ public middle schools have a Metromatemáticas lab with enthusiastic students gaining a practical education on a daily basis.
In addition to grades, students have contests in which trophies are awarded to the winners. Once a year a parade is organized in which all the participating students march down the streets of Guaymas with a school band to announce their efforts and achievements in a celebratory manner.
The youngsters that take Metromatemáticas are +/- 5 years away from graduating from high-school and possibly entering the local Mexican manufacturing workforce. These students will not only find employment easily within their community, but also the knowledge they gained in the metromatematicas program will position them high on the list of manufacturing employees who are awarded better compensation, scholarships or specialized manufacturing training in Mexico, which altogether represents a definite upside for the person whose opportunities in life may have otherwise remained limited without the relevant education and skills to take his or her place in the local manufacturing workforce.
For manufacturers in Mexico, just knowing that talent is in the pipeline, and it is being groomed to “hit the ground running” with respect to their industry and needs, causes them to include such communities on the short list of their site selection efforts aimed at determining where to manufacture in Mexico.