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Manufacturing Goes International

South Texas College offers insight into significant work taking place behind the scenes south of the border

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South Texas College’s new Global Market Development Coordinator, Luisa Fernanda Rodriguez (above) talks about being STC’s new point-person for a brand-new international initiative with manufacturers from Mexico. Courtesy Photo STC
South Texas College’s new Global Market Development Coordinator, Luisa Fernanda Rodriguez (above) talks about being STC’s new point-person for a brand-new international initiative with manufacturers from Mexico. Courtesy Photo STC

Texas Border Business

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South Texas College is extending its workforce development training and services for the first time ever to manufacturers south of the border.

After nearly a decade of trying, STC is finally making ground with the maquiladoras, or factories, in Mexico, according to Luisa Fernanda Rodriguez, who was hired as the college’s new Global Market Development Coordinator in January.

Operating out of STC’s Office of Industry Training and Economic Development (ITED), Rodriguez said she is at the forefront of a brand-new binational initiative, the vision of STC President Ricardo J. Solis, Ph.D., who has pledged to make the college the number one provider for workforce and economic development in the region.

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Drawing upon experience in international trade, from international bridges to industrial parks in diverse regions including Mexico, South America, China and finally the Rio Grande Valley, Solis said it’s the community colleges that are now perfectly positioned to provide the next generation of skills providers in the nation.

“Our expansion for this campus has been rooted in our strategic masterplan, that addresses both training and academic program needs for the future,” Solis said. “We are looking to capitalize in becoming the No. 1 provider in advanced manufacturing along the U.S. and Mexico border region and state. The new expansion of facilities will position us to achieve and succeed in assisting businesses with their training needs and contribution to the regional economy.”

Key to the initiative has been the college’s agreement recently signed in conjunction with Index Reynosa, which enabled faculty to begin providing training onsite and in Mexico to the maquiladoras including core manufacturing companies.

Index refers to the maquiladora industry trade association comprised of over 150 manufacturers in 14 industrial parks representing more than 130,000 employees in Reynosa alone. The agreement with the association was the first with Mexican manufacturers in the history of the college, Rodriguez said.

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 “Our goal is to provide maquiladoras with resources and easy access to training, as well as support, connect and create local and global markets,” Rodriguez said. “The most important thing for me is to develop this vision and to understand the intricacies of the industry as it develops. As the two countries join forces, the formation of the binational initiative has huge potential for both sides to prosper.”

Born in Reynosa, but raised in the United States, Rodriguez says she has crisscrossed the border on a regular basis since her middle school years.

A world traveler and fluent in English, Spanish and Italian, Rodriguez said she spent a year traveling across Europe analyzing different economic development markets and understanding their global economic impact.

The experiences abroad enabled her to thrive in her current capacity as she hosts international visitors to the college on a daily basis, she said.

“The fact that I have seen all these different world perspectives and that I share cultures from both the U.S. side and the Mexican side has all been key for my job and to develop this binational relationship with Mexico,” Rodriguez said. “Implementing these different projects and trainings will benefit those living and working in communities in the Rio Grande Valley, Reynosa and soon throughout key regions in Mexico. This is more than a job to me, it’s my passion. Among the most important things that will come from this will be the research of industry that will give us the best picture for the future of the maquiladoras.”

Since the beginning of the year, Institute for Advanced Manufacturing (IAM) staff at STC have worked diligently behind the scenes on the international initiative organized by STC’s workforce training, non-credit sector.

IAM has taken the lead by offering a diverse set of courses meant to satisfy employer and student needs for customized training including manufacturing, robotics and automation, logistics, cold storage and related industries.

Customized training includes over 300 courses at STC that have been tailored for the needs of industry. The strength of the college lies in modifying and customizing these courses, or developing new courses that companies need in order to thrive in the region.

In the short-term, STC has been emphasizing its huge range of capabilities coming from its in-house training facilities to the private sector including everything from manufacturing petrochemical sales, construction and logistic transportation to food and beverage processing.

 “Our goal is to help the business and industrial community in Mexico just like we help those communities here in the Valley,” said Carlos Margo, Ph.D., STC associate dean for Industry Training and Economic Development. “In turn, we at the college build our capacity. We continue to grow and we continue to innovate as a result of offering this international training so it’s a mutual benefit. Our goal is to expand further into Mexico and this international initiative means we can really go anywhere, but these first steps are serving as a model for potential future growth.”

As the partnership with manufacturers in Tamaulipas develops, the college will soon be looking at regions with a large maquiladora presence, according to Margo including Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua, Sonora, Baja California and eventually El Bajio, which includes the states of Aguascalientes, Jalisco, Guanajuato and Queretaro.

For more information about STC’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and the work the institution is doing in Mexico please visit www.southtexascollege.edu/entrenamiento-global/.

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