Candita Gil
Director General
National Institute for Professional Technicians (CONALEP)
View from the Top

Meeting Mexico´s Need for Skilled Technicals

Tue, 09/01/2015 - 10:49

Q: How is CONALEP supporting the development of skilled technicians?

A: CONALEP was started to respond to Mexico’s necessity to develop skilled technicians and is today the most wellestablished provider of dual-education programs within the country. Our 47 professional specialization courses are available across 308 schools in the country, which have been chosen to be accessible to the demographics representing a lower socioeconomic group. We operate in a unique manner since we have been known to award students with both a technical degree and a high school diploma. In several regions such as Morelos, Yucatan, Coahuila, and Guanajuato, we are the first choice for students aspiring to attain technical qualifications. There is a direct correlation between CONALEP and the states in which industry development has created increasing demand for technicians. However, the general attitude that becoming an engineer or having a college degree is better than becoming a technician is a misconception that we continue to combat through public media. We know that one of Mexico’s strengths, cited by foreign companies as a principal factor in their decisions to invest in the country, is the proficient technical workforce, and this serves as proof that the institution is succeeding.

Q: JICA helps to train CONALEP’s professors, but does this imply a direct association between Japanese companies and your students?

A: In 2013, CONALEP reinstated its relationship with JICA, participating in programs that provide training for teachers on topics such as mechatronics, robotics, industrial technology, and other projects that require collaboration between the government, academia and industry. Additionally, through JICA, the Japanese government awarded CONALEP the human resources development contract for Bajio’s automotive sector project, which seeks to teach the skills and technical knowledge that the automotive industry demands. This project started in the third quarter of 2015 and will develop over four years, with the support of Japanese industry specialists. Its final goal is to create a new college major, Automotive Manufacturing, which will require 50 teachers in Aguascalientes, Queretaro, and Guanajuato to be trained accordingly.

Q: What must be done to enable international OEMs to focus on Mexican technicians rather than foreign ones?

A: While many facilities are automated, the industry’s value chain still has an extremely high demand for technicians. We must promote communication with Mexican companies, because foreign entities are accustomed to requesting technicians with similar skills to those provided by CONALEP. We are further developing link-up processes and dual-education programs with the Ministry of Public Education and COPARMEX, to continue on the road to achieving our goal. To illustrate the success we have experienced with OEMs so far, Nissan is currently supplying CONALEP with engines employing the latest technology so that our students can learn from the most advanced technology on the market.

Q: How does CONALEP’s campus in Castro del Rio illustrate the benefits of cooperation between education institutions, government, and the business community?

A: In 2007, CONALEP Guanajuato received a proposal from the industry to open a second campus in Irapuato to complement the region’s educational offering. The collaboration with Castro del Rio was a catalyst for this project, given that this park provided the land for the new campus, the necessary infrastructure, and provisional installations for student use while construction was finalized. The development of projects in industrial parks is contingent on the support that the local government provides, and these decisions are based on the needs identified by local authorities. We have an additional committee in which we discuss the programs and specializations that will be taught, as well as modifications to align programs with market trends and the educational specifications requested by employers and recruiters. The primary objective of CONALEP in the automotive industry is to provide qualified human capital, with world class technical skills aligned with those demanded by the sector. We want to create strong, consistent, and long term relationships with prosperous companies in order to facilitate the development of the Mexican workforce. If this initiative is successful, foreign companies will no longer have to import personnel into Mexico, which boosts the national economy and eases the process for companies.