Mexico's Manufacturing Base Rebounds
As companies expand their capabilities, Mexico's advantages - and proximity to its biggest export market - will become evident and its manufacturing base will expand even further.
Clare Goldsberry , Area Development Contributor, (Winter 2012)
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An Educated Work Force
Mexico has a vibrant and well-educated work force, with an average age of 29. A report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development states that 50 percent of Mexico's citizens age 15-19 are enrolled full-time or part time in an educational program. Each year, some 90,000 engineers graduate from one of Mexico's many universities. The country's university system also includes technical and trade schools. The Technology University of Mexico has schools in Atizapan, Cuitlahuac, Ecatepec, Marina, and Sur.
One of the largest university systems is the Monterrey Institute of Technology, one of the largest private, nonsectarian co-educational multi-campus universities in Latin America. With over 90,000 students among 33 campuses in 25 cities in its high school, undergraduate, and post-graduate programs, the Monterrey Institute is one of the finest systems in Mexico.
Mexico's Vocational Education Training (VET) system offers three levels of vocational and trade school training that includes Training for Work courses that can be completed in three to six months, consisting of 50 percent theory and 50 percent practice, and preparing students for entering the work force.
The Technical Professional baccalaureate program consists of 35 percent general studies and 65 percent vocational studies; 360 hours of practical training is required to obtain this degree. The technological baccalaureate that comes with the title Professional Technician is offered by both state governments and the federal government, and similar to an engineering degree. All of these programs offer excellent collaboration between the schools and employers, giving ready access to a trained and skilled work force.
A Changing Landscape
BCG noted that Mexico "has the potential to be a big winner" when it comes to supplying North America. "It has the enormous advantage of bordering the United States, which means that goods can reach much of the country in a day or two, as opposed to at least 21 days by ship from China," the report said. "Goods imported from Mexico can also enter duty-free, thanks to NAFTA."
Nonetheless, changes might alter the landscape and create incentives for U.S. companies to bring some manufacturing back from Mexico. For example, Ford Motor Company recently announced that due to its new national labor agreement with the UAW, it plans to move production of the Ford F-650 and F-750 medium-duty trucks from Escobedo, Mexico, to its Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake. This marks the end of a decade-old Blue Diamond Truck, LLC joint venture between Ford and Navistar International, which currently manufactures Ford F-650 and F-750 trucks in Mexico for customers across North America.
But even as some manufacturing is migrating back to the United States from Mexico, other manufacturing is headed there. In October 2011, Whirlpool Corp. announced that it will close its Fort Smith, Arkansas, side-by-side refrigerator manufacturing facility in 2012 and shift that work to its manufacturing facility in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico. And although Nissan plans to boost capacity at its U.S. plants in Tennessee and Mississippi, it also plans to build a new plant in Mexico, according to a January 2012 company announcement. The new plant - which will be Nissan's third in Mexico - will reportedly have the capacity of producing 175,000 vehicles a year, and employing 3,000 workers.
The winds of manufacturing continue to shift, as companies seek manufacturing sites that offer the best of all worlds: low labor costs, high quality, good infrastructure, access to markets, reduced shipping time and costs, and educated, skilled work forces. Mexico can fill much of that bill.