Harnessing Technical Education OpportunitiesSat, 09/01/2018 - 11:29
Even though Mexico graduates among the highest number of engineers per year globally, there is still a lack of congruency between what universities and other academic institutions offer and what the industry demands. This gap must be filled by the industry itself, says Victor Vazquez, Director General of Consultores CPM. “There is no education focused on design for manufacturing processes,” says Vazquez. “These activities must then be done by industrial or mechatronics engineers who were not trained for this and who would rather be focusing on other tasks.”
Consultores CPM is among those companies that have committed to bridging the gap between the workforce’s capabilities and the industry’s needs. The company’s core business is helping clients develop effective manufacturing processes to bring component designs to reality. According to Vazquez, about 85 percent of the company’s operations focus on the automotive industry and most of the solutions it commercializes are directed to that sector.
Vazquez says the company wants to approach OEMs with its services during 2018. While the consultancy has had contact with automakers such as FCA, Ford and Volkswagen, there are some challenges when approaching these companies. “Automakers usually have a series of set procedures and a certain critical mass is necessary before you can cater to them,” he says. Additionally, CPM Consultores wants to insert itself into new regions. “We want to start focusing on Guadalajara to attack the Jalisco-Aguascalientes region and on Tijuana to attack Baja California.”
One of the main opportunity areas Consultores CPM has detected is the need for quality assurance engineers to help suppliers. “They need to go beyond monitoring quality in their organizations to providing their suppliers with solutions,” he says. Thanks to its expertise in the sector, the company knows that many universities have changed their curricula in favor of R&D operations thus neglecting the grounds on which the industry was founded. “Education is lacking in engineering and technical education,” says Vazquez. “For us, this is a great opportunity to jump in and train people on manufacturing processes.”
Many universities, for example, do not train industrial engineers in manufacturing processes on the same way as they do with mechanical engineers. “Similarly, we have engineers capable of synthetizing automation and meeting the country’s automation needs but who end up in areas such as quality, production inspection and industrial engineering,” he says.
Technical education in itself poses a challenge, according to Vazquez, who believes that schools are putting too much stock in skills that could be otherwise developed. “Courses on socialization and personal skills have been introduced as priorities, taking attention away from key technical concepts,” he says. “Teamwork, oral and written expression or socialization should be measured in the work students do for all other classes and professors should be trained to measure these in their own subjects,” Vazquez says.
Technical curricula in Mexico is also too short in comparison with similar programs in other countries, says Vazquez. While German students take three years to perfect the necessary skills to participate in the industry, Mexican students are expected to learn in too short a time for them to conceptualize all topics effectively. “Three years is the required time to teach a student to use machine tools and design simple dies or molds,” he says.
The best way for students to learn what is needed in the industry is by participating in real projects, which is the basis for Germany’s dual-education system. Vazquez says the Mexican government should offer more stimuli for the creation of schools and scholarships that support dual education. “A good example of such a program is the Dual-Specialization Center (CEDUAL),” he says. Managed by the metal-forming company Schuler, this center offers training and specialization in industrial mechanics and tooling according to the standards of the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. “Encouraging dual education makes it less costly for companies to train people and enables them to choose the personnel they want to hire.”