In the north of Mexico, Monterrey’s IT companies and educational institutes are successfully developing talent for the next wave of digital technologies, but holding onto that talent is proving to be a challenge.
“One of our main problems is that the talent produced at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM) is fleeing to foreign countries,” said Gonzalo Soto Flores, COO of World Software Services (WSS) a 500-headcount Mexican development firm.
“This causes the Monterrey IT industry to suffer from a low capacity of students in a high-demand environment. It’s a huge problem for us, because if around 50 people graduate in Monterrey each semester, around 15 of those will flee, leaving only 35 for the rest of us.”
Attracting the Right Talent
As a means to combat this, WSS has been introducing new training programs for Internet of Things (IoT), Business Intelligence (BI), and Big Data, in order to be a more attractive option for local students. Alongside that, the company encourages creativity in the workplace and focuses on hiring people right out of college, instead of experienced workers. “If they get a high score on our logic exam, that shows that they can learn almost any language or technology, so experience is less important,” said Soto.
A spokesperson from ITESM responded by saying the institute wants students to feel comfortable globally, but is also seeing a trend of students working abroad and then returning back to Mexico after a few years.
“It’s true that new generations don’t have very strong linkages to this city,” said Luis Salgado, Program Chair for ITESM’s Digital Systems and Robotics Engineering courses. “If the job they are being offered is challenging and well-supported, they will generally not hesitate. However, five of my best students worked abroad for years and then came back home after getting married or having kids, so they don’t all leave forever.”
Headquartered in Monterrey, ITESM is Mexico’s largest private university, and has begun offering courses in digital systems and robotics, which include computer architecture, robotics applications, and Internet of Things (IoT). The institute also has a computer technology side with Big Data, mobile computing, web applications, business informatics, technology infrastructure, and intelligent systems.
In order to get students learning next-gen technology at a faster rate, ITESM has re-designated some Master’s level courses into undergraduate courses, providing a chance for students to learn complex, advanced topics at an earlier stage. The strategy behind this is to find local companies with opportunities for students to apply what they have learnt, pushing the use of these technologies ahead.
In robotics and IoT, ITESM students work with local start-ups to develop the industry in Monterrey, while larger local companies host tech seminars on campus and sponsor students to attend robotics programming challenges, both nationally and internationally, according to Garza.
Stepping up Their Game
As well as utilizing centers of education to recruit new talent in the digital space, companies in Monterrey are focusing on “re-tooling” or “up-skilling” their existing talent pools.
Global business services firm Accenture uses several techniques for this, one being personal interest, which means people with a passion for new technologies can request to study them, or create hackathon teams. Training is another priority, as the company has 24,000 online courses that people can choose from, as well as the mandatory ones.
“People can create a plan on what to study and then need to create a proof of concept, which, if successful, can allow them to move into different capabilities,” said Carlos Gomez, Senior Manager at Accenture Monterrey. “We also discuss with different universities our needs, future needs, and market status, in order to help them understand what they should be teaching or preparing the people for.”
Another large-scale IT firm, Neoris, sees client demand growing fast for next-gen, and is committed to delivering o that demand while expanding the digital talent pool, not just in Monterrey, but globally.
“In constructing applications around the digital space, we might retrain a senior member of staff with a lot of ERP or web development experience, for example,” said Carlos Diaz, Managing Director of Neoris.
“The senior members of staff have enough talent to add value if you teach them the missing digital knowledge. Also, regardless of where you are based, there is a lack of digital talent, so we believe that developing that talent pool is the right thing to do if you’re in a position to do so.”
If educators and companies in Monterrey can continue to collaborate while understanding each other’s needs, the high-tech capabilities they can develop together would contribute greatly to a talent pool that so desperately needs to grow.