(Second of a continuing series on the Mexican education system)
There are 387,414 reasons that plant managers in Mexico manufacturing plants are confident they are going to find the right person for the job.
That is the number of students enrolled in 249 Mexican technological institutes, a system overseen by the education ministry that has produced new generations of skilled tradesmen for companies manufacturing in Mexico. The network of technological schools, overseen by Sistema Nacional de Educación Superior Tecnológica, or SNEST, has been in existence since 1948 and has emerged as a key component in the industrialization of modern Mexico, as well as the notable development of the maquiladora industries since the mid-1960s.
Of the 249 technological institutes in all of Mexico’s 32 states, just under half -- 114 -- are federal Institutos Tecnológicos. Another 129 are "decentralized" Institutos Tecnológicos, meaning greater control is exercised at state and local levels. The system also includes four Mexican regional technological studies centers, known as Centros Regionales de Optimización y Desarrollo de Equipo, or CRODE, an interdisciplinary center for research; and an interdisciplinary center for research for the development of Technology Education, or Centro Interdisciplinario de Investigación para el Desarrollo de la Educación Tecnológica, or CIIDET. There is also a Mexican national center for research and technological development, the Centro Naciónal de Investigación y Desarrollo Tecnológico, known by its acronym, CENIDET. When combined, these educational institutions produced large numbers of trained Mexican workers.
Mexico’s technological institutes have been true to their original 1948 charter, which called for creation of a multi-year (usually two) community-college that would give Mexican workers an education geared for the local economy and, thereby, stem the exodus from Mexico's rural areas and smaller cities to the mega-cities of Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tijuana and Mexico City.
Those four schools served as a detonator.
In the 20 years following their establishment, Mexican technological institutes appeared in 14 more states. Thirty-one more were built between 1968 and 1978 bringing the total to 48 schools in 28 states. Since then, growth has accelerated to feed a torrid manufacturing market in Mexico, consisting of home-grown industries, foreign companies that have set up operations in Mexico and shelter programs, such as that operated by The Offshore Group, which provide manufacturing support, or, "shelter," services to companies seeking to operate in Mexico, but not wishing to set up corporate infrastructure and perform functions that are non-core with respect to manufacturing in the country.
Today, 64 years later, the Mexico’s technological institutes have emerged as a mainstay of a system that has become an essential entry-chute into an increasingly sophisticated international manufacturing realm.
The Mexican automotive and aerospace industries, separated into regional clusters throughout the country, are among those industries dependent on the technological institutes. Schools are "very devoted to specific programs that automotive companies request," said Leonard Ottosen, Engineering and Projects Manager, of Manufacturas Zapalinamé, an Offshore Group company in Coahuila, Saltillo. GM, for example, is capable of coming in, saying "We need 20 people working in a particular technical area, and then essentially offering all 20 scholarship to go and learn the job at hand."
Mexico’s technological institutes provide students both classroom and hands-on experience before they enter the manufacturing workforce. Often, students en route to a skilled trade degree do the equivalent of internships before they graduate. Companies in the Coahuila area frequently donate industrial machinery to Mexican technological institutes in order to help the educational institutions produce the next generation of Mexican toolmakers, welders, metal mechanics workers and even workers trained in software computation and robotics. Chrysler recently made a donation of robotic arms for students at a Saltillo, Coahuila technological institute to practice on.
Many of these positions are "very specific, very sophisticated" and designed for one-of-a-kind assembly processes, Ottosen said.
Still, the institutes are geared to whatever the local economies require -- and that does not always mean machinery.
A technological institute in Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, for example, today offers classes in hotel management, para-medicine and cooking in order to address that city's tourism-based economy.