Industry-Academia Recipe for SuccessMon, 09/01/2014 - 14:40
Q: How are you bridging the gap between the skills of graduates and those the industry is demanding?
A: We have close relationships with local industry associations and the HR departments of companies present in automotive clusters in and around San Luis Potosi. UASLP uses its positioning and knowhow of the Mexican automotive sector to provide services like training, certification, and development across the value chain. Several groups within UASLP are working on modifying our curriculum to meet industry demands, and this is done every two years to ensure that we keep up with trends in the automotive sector and beyond. Moreover, we have 88 academic programs in the entire school, and we are working on making internships mandatory from the fifth semester for all programs. Another way we are bridging the gap is through a program named Experimental. Through this program, we collaborate with the Superior Education-Company Foundation, which is funded by Coparmex and the Federal Government. They provided 65% of the scholarships for internships to students while the rest is paid by the industry. In this manner, companies can bring promising students into their ranks, allowing them to better develop the student’s skills. In the three years that this program has been running, companies have retained 90% of the interns we placed with them.
Q: What role do incubator programs play in UASLP’s activities?
A: 90% of the graduates from the engineering program are working in the industry now, but our rector has demanded that we see our students not only as future employees but also as entrepreneurs. We aim to not only instill a deep understanding of the industry in our students, but also to develop their creative thinking and business skills. We have developed a program to support students that have developed their own business plans, and this helps them to find funding. However, although this program has been running for two years, no specific automotive projects have yet been initiated. One business plan was submitted regarding machining, for which an automotive industry use was ultimately found.
Q: What interaction do you have with other universities and think-tanks?
A: San Luis Potosi is lucky in that it enjoys collaboration between top educational institutions and contains thinktanks that perhaps do not exist in other states. There is already a group of universities and companies that work together on various collaboration projects. This was born in the COPOCYT, which is similar to CONACYT, but operates at the state level. Another group, named Polo Academico, is made up of top universities in San Luis Potosi that have been recognized for their quality. These collaborations aim to foster ties that will see graduates better equipped to enter the workforce. Moreover, we work with IPICYT on various research projects. We are the biggest university in the state, with 380 researchers in the National System of Investigators (SNI). However, other universities are more specialized in certain industries or technologies so it is always beneficial for all of us to work together.
Q: How quickly are you able to adapt your strategy to the needs of the market?
A: The problem with being large is that we are slow to move. We have a long-term strategic plan to forge a strongcollaboration between the school and various industries until 2023. For example, we are building an office for technology transfer, which will allow us to identify ways to assist technological development. It will help R&D take place in San Luis Potosi and will also teach us how to best protect our intellectual property. This is a relatively new concept, which has not been seen before. Another problem we are trying to solve is that purchasing any equipment for the university can take up to three months. We need to speed this up in order to cater to the various companies that want to work with us.
Q: How crucial is collaboration with the federal government to the success of these programs?
A: The Secretary of Economic Development of San Luis Potosi, along with the federal government, promotes the majority of the programs in place. For example, we are active in the Program of Stimulus for Innovation from CONACYT, for which the federal government gives money to the industry to develop innovation in Mexico. CONACYT will give a company 30-40% of the cost of the program, but if the company is developing a project with a university, then CONACYT will cover 70% of the costs. UASLP was called to participate in 45 of these innovation programs in 2013, a major increase from the 20 programs we took part in just a year earlier. For automotive, Cummins is a very active player with CONACYT and initiated seven projects around San Luis Potosi in 2013 alone.