Maquiladoras in Mexico Move Towards Advanced Manufacturing
Skilled Human Resources are Critical to the Growth of Maquiladoras in Mexico.
In the last thirty years, Mexico has been transformed from what was a mostly closed and government-controlled economy to one that today is among the world’s most open and export driven. Over this period of time, the maquiladoras in Mexico have greatly contributed to making the country the fourth largest exporter in the world after Germany, Japan and South Korea. The nation now has one of the best-developed manufacturing sectors in Latin America.
Historically the maquiladoras in Mexico have functioned as operations that have been occupied in the simple assembly of foreign produced and supplied components into end products that were subsequently shipped to foreign consumers. Although there is much room to improve, increasingly this is not the case. Maquiladoras in Mexico now produce advanced products for a number of industries. Included among them are aerospace, automotive, the food industry, plastics, mechatronics and industrial robotics.
Because of the significant growth and increasing sophistication of Mexican industry, the country is becoming recognized globally as a manufacturer of advanced goods. In 2015, more than US $15 billion worth of advanced manufactures had Mexico as their country of origin. Products produced that are in this category include medical devices, optical components, advanced electronics, biotechnological items, mechanical goods, and advanced manufactured items for the aerospace industry.
One of the biggest challenges facing the maquiladoras in Mexico at present is adequately preparing the nation’s workforce to increase its capacity to meet the demands of jobs in emerging industries. An important way by which this is done is by creating a strong linkage between business and educational institutions. Mexico is hard at work in this area. Among the organizations working to strengthen business-academics links are the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt), the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (SCHP), the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP), the Ministry of Economy (SE). As of now in Mexico, there are 63 engineering majors being offered by Mexican institutions of higher learning. These programs have been crafted to address the needs of the maquiladoras in Mexico. Additionally, Mexico has a Center for Advanced Technology (CIATEQ) whose headquarters are located in the state of Queretaro. CIATEQ is an organization of Centers specialized in advanced manufacturing that, in addition to its headquarters, has a presence in eight states in the Mexican Republic. CIATEQ’s services are divided into a number of specialty areas that include:
- IT, Electronics and Control
- Measurement systems
- Mechanical systems
- Engineering and construction of plants
- Virtual Engineering and manufacturing
- Plastics and advanced materials
The organization also offers laboratory services in the areas of:
- Characterization of plastics and materials
- Destructive and non-destructive testing
Additionally, the Center for Advanced Technology also offers Master’s and Doctorate degrees in advanced manufacturing.
One vanguard industry that is leading the way in steadily establishing a strong presence in Mexico is the aerospace sector. Just thirteen years ago, there were only one hundred US and European companies operating in this sector. Today that number has grown to a sizable three hundred and thirty. In order to expand further into the future, however, aerospace maquiladoras in Mexico will need a supply of trained workers in areas such as CNC machining, forging, casting, heat treating, metrology and other highly skilled positions.
Automotive maquiladoras in Mexico will also increasingly require well-trained workers. According to the executive director of the Mexican Association for the Automotive Industry (AMIA), Eduardo Solis, Mexico will have to increase the skill level of its workers to meet the needs of an industry which is constantly innovating and improving its products. He urges businesses not only to view Mexico as a source of cheap labor but also as a source of workers that have the capability to meet the challenges that come with a modern, manufacturing sector.
A Mexican state that has seen a measurable rate of advanced manufacturing growth in Mexico in recent years is the state of Jalisco. In the last five years, the entity has reported a growth in this area of more than six percent, which includes manufacturing companies in automotive, robotics, aerospace, metal mechanics and software industries. In terms of overall economic growth, Jalisco ranks fourth in the country behind Queretaro, Monterrey and Mexico City. According to Francisco Castaneda, director of Jalisco’s robotics cluster, it is imperative that workers are trained adequately to capitalize on job opportunities that are now presenting themselves. According to him, a lack of skill deficient workers will slow not only the growth of Jalisco’s economy but also that of the country as a whole.