Educating Gen Z on Industry’s NeedsBy Alejandro Enríquez | Thu, 02/04/2021 - 11:28
Q: How does the Tec21 educational model reflect the industry’s needs?
A: Tec21 was formally implemented in August 2019 for all of our programs. It is inspired by the needs the industry has shared with us, which highlight that students should have not only the knowledge but also the skills to transform that knowledge into actions and results and the right attitude necessary for the development of jobs and projects. Our mission is to strengthen the skills that will help our students grow in their professional careers. In particular, the automotive industry changes rapidly and requires professionals who can adapt quickly.
We have always cooperated closely with companies. A few years ago, we started to transform our educational model with our “Semester-i” concept in which our students engage in actual industry problems to learn about the industry’s needs and how to solve them, rather than taking just a full semester of regular courses.
Tec21 features an “educating partner,” which can be an organization or company that introduces specific needs and works with us to strengthen our students’ skills. This is a win-win situation because we provide our students with real-world experience and the company fosters innovation while identifying potential talent.
Q: What are some remarkable projects related to the automotive industry?
A: Some projects have been focused solely on the automotive sector. Their objective was to contribute to engineering design and manufacturing. For these projects, we took advantage of different partnerships we have already built with players like Ford, FCA, GM, Bosch, Magna, and Valeo. A version of the “Semester-i” focused on th automotive industry was implemented at different campuses, including Toluca, Estado de México, San Luis Potosí, Puebla, Aguascalientes, Querétaro, and Hermosillo. All the projects were related to component design. Combining talents and creating partnerships allowed us to meet the needs of OEMs and Tier 1s. It was a total success and we replicated the project several times.
Q: What role do Tecnológico de Monterrey’s automotive research centers play in the Tec21 model?
A: Puebla, Toluca, Estado de México, Querétaro, and Mexico City are the campuses in the region in and around Mexico City with the strongest links to the automotive industry. In other regions, Monterrey, Hermosillo, Saltillo, and Aguascalientes play also a relevant role. Our automotive research centers foster R&D activities that support the development of the industry. Both our graduate and undergraduate students work actively in our research centers. This is important for our undergraduates to understand real-world problems and how to solve them while thinking about research lines focused on an actual industry need.
Q: How has Tec de Monterrey adapted its automotive-related programs and projects to online and digital channels?
A: A great advantage the automotive industry has is that analysis tools and modeling allow students to perform tests and other tasks remotely. Our projects are covered 70 percent virtually. Without question, virtual learning has gained importance. Automotive companies also are increasingly using more computational tools to perform simulations which have proven convenient amid the pandemic, allowing the students to work remotely. In some particular cases, we continue to provide our students access to advanced computing capabilities on campus but, overall, virtual tools have become more powerful to strengthen online learning.
Q: What is your perspective regarding the need to prioritize standardization and certification in academic programs?
A: The duration of engineering study programs is typically four to five years, which is a relatively short time to accompany students when considering specialized knowledge. Our focus as a school is to educate students so they are competitive at the international level. In fact, one of every four of our students works abroad at some point in their professional career.
With projects like “Semester-i,” we allowed students to identify the sector’s opportunity areas while developing their professional careers. If a student wants to later focus on engineering design, he can take electives for specific certifications to do so. By being exposed to real-world problems, students can decide in which area they want to focus. If they choose a certification, we provide them with tools and knowledge on the subject, which reduces the subsequent training they will need at the company they enter. That being said, it is really difficult to prepare an ideal candidate for all companies. This is why constant dialogue is necessary. We need to work together to fill those gaps and remain competitive in the global talent market.
A successful story we always share when it comes to the automotive industry is INFINITI’s Engineering Academy annual competition that provides the opportunity for one engineer from Mexico to take on design operations at the brand’s offices in the United Kingdom. Out of the four years, this competition has been organized, an EXATEC (a former student from Tecnológico de Monterrey) has won three times.
Q: What are the challenges and opportunities Generation Z is bringing to companies?
A: On the one hand, it is clear they have skills regarding technology and linking ideas. They easily embrace change. As an educational institution, we need to embrace the changes they are introducing, identifying which skills to develop. In fact, Tec21 acknowledges that the students of today are not the same as in 2010 or previous generations. Companies should be aware of how to keep motivation levels up because it is clear younger talents enjoy challenges and their motivation triggers are different. As a generation, they want to contribute to society while experimenting with new challenges.
Tecnológico de Monterrey is Mexico’s top private university with 27 campuses distributed across the country. It has a strong focus on industry, entrepreneurship, and social commitment.