Angélica Raya
Director of the Professional Interdisciplinar Unit (UPIIG)
Instituto Politécnico Nacional (IPN) Campus Guanajuato
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Insight

Preparing Students to Get and Keep High-Value Jobs

Thu, 09/01/2016 - 16:30

Once a graduate gets a job, the next step is keeping it. To do so, they must adapt to their new company’s philosophy. At IPN, students are trained to have the professional flexibility and technical knowledge that industry demands, says Angélica Raya, Director of UPIIG at IPN Campus Guanajuato. Although industry seeks advanced technical skills, soft skills are equally important to a student’s professional development, Raya says. As defined by the Research Center for Civil Associations Development (CIDAC) in its National Survey of Professional Skills, these include leadership, conflict management, teamwork, empathy and communication skills.

The government of Guanajuato realized early that establishing an institution to develop the region’s human capital was crucial and it decided to allocate resources and land to the Inland Port project, which also housed a number of automobile companies, to IPN. In return, the school would adapt courses to help spur business development. Among the incentives for IPN, the government donated a 20-acre land parcel worth close to MX$190 million (US$10.4 million) at the time and 95 percent of the facility’s construction costs, totaling MX$130 million (US$7.1 million). The state secured IPN’s commitment to run multidisciplinary programs for 25 years with the goal of solving specific issues that impact the region.

When IPN came to Silao, Guanajuato, four specific programs were chosen based on the state’s strategic development plan. “Taking into consideration their rapid growth rates, we settled on the automotive and aerospace industries for our focus, while offering biotechnology and pharmaceutical programs as well,” says Raya.

The unit was established quickly, releasing an admission summons after confirming the Institute’s participation in Guanajuato Inland Port. “To our surprise, neighboring communities were not as committed to our project, as the initial turnout did not exceed 200 people,” says Raya.

IPN decided to better communicate its intentions to spread its regional influence and earn the local community’s trust. It redoubled its efforts, which ultimately paid off. “Our success is contingent on the growth of the Guanajuato industrial corridor, which has led to demand for our program increasing significantly in 2015, as we received applications from students located in 30 different states,” Raya says.

Talent is essential to a state’s development but if there are few employment opportunities people will go elsewhere. This was a concern for the government in Guanajuato so its Ministry of Economic Development established a Labor Subcommittee to analyze wages and track job openings. By assessing the positions with the highest offerings the committee pinpointed the professional skills required to fill them. As a result, the state government established the Borderless Training program in 2014, granting paid internships to students looking for professional experience. Students with specific skillsets are invited by local executives for further evaluation and those selected can either work in a Mexican plant or relocate to the company’s country of origin for a semester. IPN is also beginning an academic mobility program, which allows students to travel the world and witness the latest technological procedures first-hand. As a result, the alignment between the labor requirements of the automotive industry and skills availability in Guanajuato is structurally improved.

Challenges remain. The Institute’s educational model encourages independent learning, but it has been a difficult goal since 2003. “We created a 21st century academic model but its dispersion has not been as successful in IPN’s Zacatenco engineering unit as we hoped,” Raya says.