Mexico’s Insituto Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM), one of the country’s largest technical universities, is launching a new teaching model to incorporate vocational training into its curriculum in partnership with local tech companies, bolstering the school’s role as a seedbed of talent.
The initiative, Tec21, was launched in 2013 as a pilot program and will be implemented across all of the institute’s campuses beginning next semester, Beatriz Palacios, ITESM’s director of educational innovation, told Nearshore Americas.
Tec21 is a new educational model, allowing companies to link students directly to professional practices by giving them hands-on experience during coursework.
“While teaching technological knowhow and its applications, we also aim to improve our educational practices through the use of technology ourselves, and in order to do that we have to partner with companies that are at the forefront of innovation,” she said.
Strength in numbers
The ITESM announced earlier this month that it has joined forces with 15 companies, and which will function as ‘labs’ in which students will be able to enjoy vocational training as part of their coursework, from August of this year.
The initiative aims to take students out of the classroom and get involved in the real challenges of the companies that form part of the hub, and which will function as laboratories, the dean of the Tec’s EGADE Business School in Mexico City, Ignacio de la Vega, said at the time.
Such exposure to real challenges will obligate students to develop real solutions, he said.
As part of Tec21, all ITESM’s teaching programs will allow companies to become educational partners, as if they were additional professors, Palacios said.
“Students will be able to develop their skills and companies will offer their experience in the use of technology to show them the processes to develop products, and give them the skills necessary to enter the labor market.”
“We are making the companies participants in the educational process,” she added.
The Tec de Monterrey, founded in 1943 in the northern industrial city from which it takes its name, has 26 campuses across the country, including in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Querétaro, cities that, together with Monterrey, have a strong presence of tech firms.
Long aware of the need to remain up to date on technological developments, the ITESM launched an online coding boot camp in 2018 to teach a new generation of programmers and developers via an online, part-time Full Stack Flex program, designed to give students the knowledge and skills to become full stack web developers in 24 weeks.
The Tec21 model is designed to give students a more vocational approach, and not just in the IT sector, but allowing them to see how technology and innovation is applied to multiple sectors.
“We are also working with companies that are developing applications using virtual reality to innovate our teaching methods, for example,” Palacios said.
Students from various disciplines will also work together on projects, and which reflects the multidisciplinary nature of project and product development in the real world, she added.
Companies’ and students’ changing demands
She said the launch of the Tec21 educational model obeys the fact that companies’ demands are changing as technological advancement continues, and also serves a new generation of students, millennials and the so-called generation Z, who are much more proactive and demanding, require results more quickly and want to develop their skills quickly, and who are accustomed to working with technology in all aspects of their lives.
“What companies need now is not the same profile of graduate that we were producing five or ten years ago, and we cannot teach the same degrees, or use the same teaching methods as before,” Palacios said.
“And in the same way, companies are working in the same way as they did five or ten years ago, and are using different technology and processes.”
The Tec de Monterrey has also internationalized its cooperation by creating the Mexico-China Innovation Center, to promote technological innovation being developed at the ITESM so that it can be exported, giving products and patents created by students greater impact.
“This center will spark the development of state-of-the-art technology developed in Mexico, and it will take it to the last mile, to reach the market,” Alfonso Araujo, director of Rongda Asia, said during the opening of the Mexico-China Innovation Center, which will create a business incubator for technology-based startups in each country.
“There are many new technologies currently being developed by Mexican scientists, and there is great interest in China for these technologies in areas such as robotics, biotechnology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence”