Dual vocational training in Mexico is a hybrid and variant of the German approach

In several European countries – most notably Germany – young people are being offered a hybrid approach to vocational training to aptly prepare them with the practical skills they need to fulfill a functional role in the modern workplace.

Rather than training in a traditional vocational institution for their chosen profession, young would-be professionals study both theoretical vocational skills and “real world,” practical skills for actual work in corporate facilities. The concept is called dual vocational training, and it has spread throughout Europe as a more practical approach to educating the next generation to be productive contributors in cutting-edge and vibrant workforces.

Mexico is swiftly becoming a leading global manufacturing economy. The matter of workforce preparedness and strength is paramount to the country’s economic progress. In seeking new ways to bolster the ranks of skilled labor, Mexico has turned to Germany to assist them in implementing this educational model – a model that they call the “tropicalized” dual vocational training to indicate the slight modification of the parent model to adapt it to Mexico’s culture and business situation.

Dual vocational training in Mexico really began in 1993 with the cooperation that took place between Mexico’s College of Professional Technical Education (CONALEP) in the Federal State, or “Estado de México,” and Mercedes-Benz. Economic circumstances led to a gradual phasing out of the system until 2008, when it was reintroduced by CONALEP after observing the overwhelming success of these early programs which used dual vocational training in Mexico to prepare professionals for successful, profitable, and sustained employment. Well over 1,000 students are now being educated in this company-based training system currently provided by approximately 150 companies. CONALEP is the backbone of Mexico’s skill training system.

The typical format of this dual vocational training in Mexico consists of three years of training, 75% of which is practical training in a company environment, and 25% theoretical. Students typically study hands-on skills and techniques in either company facilities or at multi-company learning centers, and study theory via distance-learning software and classes. Konstrulab is the name of the multimedia e-learning program that not only teaches, but also evaluates students’ progress. From the second semester in traditional vocational training, young people may indicate interest in changing to the dual system.

ALTRATEC, a specialist organization that focuses on dual vocational training in Mexico, and CONALEP make a pre-selection of training, and place applicants using motivation, basic attitude, and discipline as criteria. Financing for this apprenticeship-based training is provided by participating companies providing the hands on experience and learning, but the federal state assumes some of the costs through scholarship programs.

The experiment of dual vocational training in Mexico thus far demonstrates the possibility of continued success in using a combination of theory and company-based “on the job” learning, but only as long as trade and industry lead the way. This is obvious from the steady rise in trainees in previous years. Nevertheless, the country has several obstacles to overcome for further this type of workforce preparation to expand:

  • The legal framework must enshrine this mode as a fixed form of training.
  • Standards and regulations must be must be made uniform.
  • Mexican society must become more informed about, and be comfortable with this new model.
  • Adequate and consistent funding for dual vocational training in Mexico must be secured.

The adoption of the German model of dual vocational training in Mexico demonstrates that not only is the country open to foreign investment, but is also open to ideas that originate outside of its border that pertain to the betterment of its workforce, and, subsequently, the growth of its economic strength.