Sergio Mendoza
President and CEO
Chihuahua Automotive Cluster and Factoria.
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Insight

Chihuahua Cluster Promotes Specialization in Universities

Tue, 09/01/2015 - 11:20

Automotive clusters are popping up all over the country, mirroring the expansive nature of the industry. Chihuahua has now followed suit in order to promote the growth of the sector and the sharing of best practices between different players. The state holds a reputable position for automotive job creation, which has been achieved through capable human talent, solid academic institutions, and a strong labor environment, according to Sergio Mendoza, President of Chihuahua Automotive Cluster and CEO of Factoria. “The relationships that are created in terms of people and unions are extremely important, and we have taken important steps in promoting these,” he explains. “Chihuahua has established solid business practices, which has been essential in this evolution process, with a considerable focus on producing talent.” As a result, the industry has been working closely with the state’s universities in an effort to synchronize each of its components in Chihuahua, and these efforts have come to fruition when taking into account the business orientation of the technological schools in the area.

In order to maintain the state’s position as the leader in the automotive sector, Mendoza believes that understanding the industry’s landscape is crucial to affecting change. To achieve this, the cluster has held business intelligence meetings with different industry players, such as entrepreneurs and customers, and will soon incorporate plant managers into the process. One of the issues that the cluster has identified through this process is the lack of Mexican companies within the state, and is therefore formulating strategies to create an attractive atmosphere for Mexican entrepreneurs. “A key indicator of success is by measuring it against previous failures, so it is important to teach the younger generations of the value of learning from mistakes,” Mendoza explains.

A key value of the cluster is collaboration, with the aim of reaching as many universities as possible. “Federal decisions on funding are made in Mexico City through the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP), which does not necessarily accommodate the needs of the industry at all times,” explains Mendoza. “Consequently, the cluster has focused on the specialization of universities within R&D areas, as this helps the competitiveness of each academic institution to rise to world class levels in specific fields, while allowing manufacturers to hone specific skills and limit both their research efforts and economic expenditures.” Collaborations between different research areas would also be promoted, meaning that the more specializations existing, the broader the field of knowledge the state will have. Currently, manufacturing processes for the automotive and aerospace industries are the most valuable fields of knowledge for Chihuahua, so the state finds it easy to promote certain research specializations. The cluster’s model starts at school age and includes an integrated specialization process to equip students with the needs of the industry. This model also implements a two-year work period undertaken between high school and undergraduate studies, making the country a world leader in manufacturing processes. The Technological University of Chihuahua (UTCH) is one example of a university with the freedom to modify their academic programs without long and complicated authorizations from federal regulators. When the industry is in need of specific specializations, UTCH helps the cluster to collect a critical mass of students trained towards those disciplines. Their ability to make key decisions has been favorable to everyone involved, especially the students. Without the talent, attracting new, domestic companies may prove problematic for the state, but Mendoza expects that 2016 will bring 10,000 new jobs to the Mexican industry, so domestic professionals will be needed to fill those positions.