Within the strategies companies have adopted to face the Fourth Industrial Revolution, dual formation is one that has raised the interest of the industry. In Cd. Juarez, the German company Bosch is an example of this, which dual formation strategy focuses on creating technicians for their plants’ processes. Today, Flex joins this dual formation wave. This plant, together with the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez, which seeks to make its employees professional engineers. In an exclusive interview for Mexico Industry, those in charge of this program, from Flex as well as UACJ, shared the particularities of this program.
Flex dual formation program emerged as a company own initiative. Flex had the concern of projecting a future to people without university studies to make them engineers, therefore they decided to approach UACJ for settling the proposal of creating educational programs custom made for the company.
This educational program consists of two careers, mechatronic engineering, and industrial engineering. Students, which in total are about 20, distributed in two generations, study in four months periods. UACJ professors, in hours pre-established with Flex, attend the plants to teach classes.
Here are fulfilled theoretical activities, but mainly practices. According to Jesus Andres Hernandez, the engineering professor in charge of this project, José Soledad, Flex general manager, and Carlos Romo, human resources director, the objective of this dual formation is to prepare students with specific problems that they face on their jobs. For this, once students end their common part, they have to attend the university to fulfill practices on specialized teams that exist only in the university.
For Flex, the objective of this dual formation program is not only to train engineers but shape engineers that know how to perform within the industrial environment of the company.
It is important to make clear that the academic training of these students is not only in charge of the UACJ but also of Flex since the educational institution, as well as the company, agree in choosing the subjects of every curriculum with the highest approach to the practical environment.
Particularities of education in the industry
For Lorenzo Garcia, professor of this educational program, the main differences this program has is the existing educational culture in the plant.
He considers that the plant educational environment focuses on the industry – its mission, vision, and philosophy – while within the university environment students have a different culture.
For Lorenzo Garcia, within the Industry, they are used to work as a group. This is a disadvantage when the student does not see the fact that there has to be a healthy competition between them, thing that takes place within the university environment where the student has the freedom to fulfill their school career at his choice.
“See and compare themselves against the status quo, for example, with the best on a class, encourages them to learn more. If one has that, it is difficult to compare oneself outwards,” he considered.
On the other hand, time in the industry is considered as a priority element. “In the university students can relax and ‘waste’ time: talking with other mates about classes and professors, things they have learned and projects. This is something any student has to have. As far as possible, we in Flex are looking for students having this experience in university laboratories,” he detailed.
Still, it is important to make clear the educational approach of dual formation, for professors to work with real company problems and classes are taught in such manner that theory seen in class aligned with company needs. This way, the company obtains the benefits of its investment.
Flex engineering needs in education
According to Jesus Andres Hernandez, in Flex, north plant processes are manual, since harnesses are manufactured. This product requires methods of industrial engineering, but Flex decided to train engineers in mechatronics. The reason is that the company is willing to make innovations in manual methods, applying mechatronics tools. “They want to train students with a manual paradigm to automated work,” he detailed.
On the other hand, in Flex south plant the processes are highly automated. However, there are hidden costs of information flows and automated human systems, therefore we need industrial engineering tools there to improve costs. “That is why they trained these students that are more used to automation in more administrative methods of industrial engineering,” he explained.
It is important to make clear that part of the importance of this educational model is the growth opportunity it implies for students. According to Jesus Andres Hernandez, currently, students of this model are unable to access engineering positions. “They know the company, are committed with it, but their hierarchic levels inside the company are low: are technicians, operators. The rest is not only technically train them in the management of methodologies, but provide them with a critical and analytic thinking formation to develop a position,” he explained.
Hernandez also explained that the Flex students profile in particular since most of them are married and with children, therefore this model adjusts to their needs and times. “A student with this profile in another institution will be vulnerable,” he noted.
Dual formation model of Flex, unique in the northern part of Mexico
For Jesus Andres Hernandez, this model of dual formation is unique in northern Mexico, since they have not found a similar model in any company. According to Hernandez, the main differences with the dual formation model Bosch-UTCJ is that students in Bosch enter from a selection scheme and are trained in the company’s needs.
“The German dual formation program proposes students learning some of their subjects within companies. I believe universities in Mexico already do that with the professional practices scheme. To a certain extent, I do not see much novelty. What is done here is different, it is as of a profile established by the company and make a suitable program, but with a formation axis through which any student from UACJ has to go through. This is a hybrid among UACJ institutional values of the UACJ with a specific linkage of Flex exact profile,” he underlined.
Dual formation future plans
Currently, two generations of Flex students already have two years completed of their educational program, therefore it is anticipated that they will graduate in 2020.
In addition, according to Jesus Andres Hernandez, Flex is interested in creating a master’s degree program also inside the company.
“We are still on an incipient phase, but there are intentions to do it,” he ended.
Dual training program Flex-UACJ
Number of generations: 2
Number of students: 20 (approx.)
Estimated year of graduation: 2020
Plant involved: Flex
Educational programs: Mechatronics and Industrial Engineering, and