Rene Schlegel
President
Robert Bosch México
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View from the Top

Lack of Skilled Labor a Threat for the Automotive Industry

Tue, 09/01/2015 - 10:45

Q: How is Bosch working with universities and other educational bodies to develop home-grown talent and retain it?

A: Individuals who begin their career in the industry have access to an ever increasing bounty of options since there is safe employment, lots of opportunities, great companies to work for, and decent salaries. Bosch is happy to recruit fresh talent, but we also need senior specialists who are already developed. Many industries are growing and Mexico is becoming more attractive for people who have both deep and current knowledge. Previously, the country was attractive for people who were more geared toward the practical, even manual, so I think this expansion of opportunities is extremely welcome.

The problem for us is below the university level. I think that the German dual-education system is probably the best option for Mexico to adopt. There are some major efforts being made to implement this, and it has now raised heightened awareness among members of Mexico’s government. We hope action will follow this awareness and that we will see some projects implemented in a few states. These would really broaden the options for companies who need to tap into a qualified labor pool, as well as enhancing the possibilities for young Mexicans to have a decent income at a very young age. Bosch already has its own dual education programs in Toluca and San Luis Potosi, with plans to extend them to the Ciudad Juarez site in 2016. We put a lot of effort into developing talent in Mexico because if not, it would hinder our growth here. I think many companies think alike in this respect, which is good news for Mexicans entering the labor market.

Q: What are the specific features of the programs that Bosch offers, and what have been the success stories so far?

A: Bosch has its own apprenticeship programs for skilled labor that combine practical work and education, as well as studies with educational institutions that we hold contracts with. The result for the apprentice is an officially recognized diploma and a qualified position with either Bosch or another company. We can only really do this based on our predictions of demand for talent, so it is a question of market acceleration. If education becomes broader for skilled labor, growth in Mexico will be accelerated. It is not a case of productivity, which is a subject that resonates throughout many industries, but more a case of who is productive. Productivity is not people working faster, but working smarter.

Q: In what ways does Bosch guide its employees toward a more R&D focused career? A: We are very open as to whether trainees are focused on development, manufacturing, or purchasing. The problem is that both Bosch and the automotive industry are growing faster than we can develop these people. The quantity and ambition of these candidates is good, as well as their ability and learning curve, but the industry is outpacing skilled labor growth. Qualified, skilled labor on every level will be the biggest bottleneck for Mexico in the next 15 years.

Q: What is your primary focus within Bosch this year?

A: The most important topic for me is human capital. We try to look at the entire range of positions that are available within Bosch. We have a new external executive recruiting program in which we can bring people in at the highest level. The company has implemented a new program called MEXcellence. In this program, we finance the education of academically outstanding students from low income households. While there are already many stipends available, we can provide larger stipends to a much smaller amount of people. The enrollment comes with no additional obligations; participants never have to work for Bosch unless they want to. As long as their scores remain above 8.5, they can go from the first university year to a PhD without paying for anything. The program is still in the experimental stages, so we expect to experience bumps along the way, but they will only help us to improve it.

In a multi-billion dollar business like Bosch, people are the most important success factor. If we get that right, then everything else falls into place. I am highly passionate about this, and it drives my focus for the 13,000 employees who are currently with us, as well as the many more who will soon be part of the team here at Bosch in Mexico.