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Maquiladora workforce development is important to economic health on both sides of the border

Maquiladora workforce development is important to economic health on both sides of the border

Residents on both sides of the US-Mexico border recognize the importance of maquiladora workforce development to their respective economies.

Alamo Colleges consists of a group of five institutions of higher learning that serve the communities of Bexar County, in the state of Texas, and “offers associate degrees, certificates and licensures in occupational programs that prepare students for jobs, as well as arts and science courses that transfer to four-year colleges and universities and lead to AA and AS degrees.” The group consists of

  • San Antonio College
  • St. Philip’s College
  • Palo Alto College
  • Northeast Lakeview College
  • Northwest Vista College

These institutions, along with others have realized the importance of pursuing maquiladora workforce development on both sides of the US-Mexico border. In the first quarter of 2013, at a meeting of the members of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, a group of educators and workforce development specialists provided information on a partnership that exists betwen Alamo Colleges and other Texas institutions of higher learning, several Mexican border region universities, USAID and Higher Education for Development (HED), to craft academic programs and their delivery systems for the purpose of promoting maquiladora workforce development.

The impetus for developing and implementing such an educational program arose from Mexico’s loss of a significant number of manufacturing jobs to China during the early and middle part of the last decade. Maquiladora employment supports a large portion of economic activity that transpires in both the US and Mexico on the border of the two countries. Maquiladora workforce development was, and is, viewed those who see things from an “on the ground” perspective as a means to preserve both US and Mexican jobs.

Since, as is the case in other countries, the highest impact of maquiladora job out-migration during this period was felt by the lowest-skilled workers in the lowest-paid industries. This dynamic pushed the border production facilities to concentrate on manufacturing processes and operations that require an increasingly higher level of maquiladora workforce development. The aforementioned partners took on the mission of creating a program by which to increase the productivity of the maquladora workforce along the Texas/Mexico trade corridor.

The principal goal of the Alamo Colleges led partnership to promote greater maquiladora workforce development is “to increase productivity and competitiveness of Mexico’s maquiladora industry through an integrated program of workforce training and capacity building in technical higher education.

As a part of efforts to achieve this goal, non-English speaking participants recieved education in English as a Second Language (ESL), some of the classes offered were conducted on-line.   Additionally, technology was made available to enable one-on-one on-line communication between students and instructors to advance progress in achieving greater proficiency in reading, writing and
comprehending English.

Technical courses that were developed and delivered via video conference to enhance maquiladora workforce development included:

  • Lean manufacturing for managers
  • Introduction to pneumatics
  • Fundamentals of CNC
  • Introduction to Hydraulics

At a certain point in the genesis of the partnership between the several stakeholders, Wayland Baptist and Alamo Colleges teamed up to offer Mexican educators an M.A. in management with an emphasis on workforce development. Completion of this program would give Mexican education professionals and the academic institutions by which they are employed the tools with which to further promote and achieve Mexican maquiladora workforce development.

Residents of the US-Mexico border region are no strangers to the realities that affect the economic well-being of the residents of both countries. The health of the maquiladora industry supports thousands of jobs for citizens on both sides. Maquiladora workforce development is a necessity for maintaining a vibrant border economy and beyond. Additionally however, a large percentage of suppliers to the maquiladora industry employ residents of US states that are located much farther to the north. To a large degree, their jobs are also highly dependent up efforts to continuously upgrade the quality of maquiladora workforce development in order to meet the demand of increasingly competitive global markets.

Photo credit: COD Newsroom

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