MISSION, RGV – Tamaulipas’ economic development minister has begged maquilas along the Texas-Mexico border to hire local talent rather than recruit workers from states like Veracruz or Zacatecas.
At a meeting hosted by INDEX Reynosa, Mónica González García said her state faces major problems accommodating people from other parts of Mexico, particularly because over 100,000 of them a year are being dropped off at international bridges after unsuccessfully trying to enter the United States.
González said she understood the needs of maquila plant operators who are desperately trying to find more skilled workers. She said her department can help. A key factor to consider about employment in Tamaulipas, González said, is migration patterns.
“You can see it every day in Reynosa at the bridges. There are a lot of people that are taken from the United States and put on the bridges every day in Tamaulipas. When I heard the number I was amazed – 125,000 a year. Most of them are waiting at the border to go back. They don’t go to Oaxaca, they don’t go to Zacatecas; they don’t go to Guerrero, where they are from. They stay in Tamaulipas where they have to survive somehow for a few months until they save enough to pay somebody to take them back (to the United States).”
González said only nine percent of the migrants sent back from South Texas are from Tamaulipas. “So those are the issues we have to face. I am bringing this up because Emilio said they (maquilas) are not finding enough people.”
The Emilio that González was referring to was Emilio Cadena, president of INDEX, the trade association for maquiladoras in Mexico. Cadena was the keynote speaker at the INDEX Reynosa event, which was held at the Club of Cimarron in Mission.
“Martha and Alex told me about a month ago, I think we are now facing the problem we wanted to face, that the unemployment rate in Tamaulipas is 4.6 percent, today,” González said. González said this was in sharp contrast to the problem she inherited when she took office in 2011, when unemployment was at a record nine percent. “Now there are companies in Reynosa that are looking for people and they cannot find them.”
González was referring to Martha Ramos, secretary of INDEX Reynosa, and Alejandro ‘Alex’ Avila, president of INDEX Reynosa. Ramos was at the event.
“You told me Martha about 5,000 (skilled workers short). When I hear that and I hear that some of the companies are going to Zacatecas or Veracruz to look for people I cry because we have enough people from other states (in Tamaulipas already). I love the people from Veracruz. I love the people from Zacatecas. I am just trying to tell you the problems we have as a state so you can help us. And I know you need to fill those positions. I know you need to be productive. So what I am here for is, give us the opportunity to look for the people for you,” González said.
González said her department can set up special training programs to prepare workers for jobs in in the manufacturing sector. “We can find every single person that is looking for a job in Reynosa, or Rio Bravo, or Miguel Aleman, or Díaz Ordaz, close by and bring them to you. That is what I am here for. It is very, very, important that we do not bring any more people here. Because they come with their family and if they lose a job they do not want to go back. And that puts pressure on the economy of the state because they need infrastructure. They are going to go and ask for social help, social services. They are going to go ask for food. They are going to ask for nutrition. So, please, as partners as we are, give us the opportunity,” González said.
González said she can put a person in place to liaise with INDEX. “If you have any positions that need to be filled we have a recruiting service. It has to go through all the filters that you normally have in a company. But, give us the opportunity to do that before going after and bringing up people from other places. We can develop something for you. If we need to train somebody we will do it for you.”
González had started her speech by giving an overview of the employment situation in Tamaulipas. González worked for 22 years in the maquila industry and was brought into the state government in 2011 by Tamaulipas Gov. Egidio Torre Cantú.
González said that when she took office unemployment in Tamaulipas stood at a record high of nine percent. “Never before had we had that percentage.” She said her state was not alone because at the time, Texas’ unemployment rate was nine percent and the U.S. rate was even higher. Now, the percentage unemployed is 4.6 percent, she said.
In his speech, Cadena, INDEX’s national president, spoke about maquila plant managers having a “huge problem” finding skilled workers in areas such as welding, CNC production, plastics injection, electric mechanical and general maintenance.
Cadena was dismissive of Mexico’s public education system and said the answer to the shortage of skilled workers will have to be solved through vocational training courses, including an acceleration of virtual training courses online.
“Talent development, this is the biggest challenge ahead of us, Mónica. I think this is one of the areas where we need more help,” Cadena said, in his speech. “There are a lot of people in Mexico but there are only few that have the basic skills and the technical skills needed to work in our plants.”
Cadena said INDEX Mexico recently did a survey about labor recruitment among its members. “Forty percent of workers who applied to work with us were discarded because they did not have three of the basic skills that we need: reading and writing, basic math, and critical thinking, basic skills to follow instructions,” Cadena said. “I think that is an area where the state and the city can do a tremendous job, helping bring those 40 percent of people to a level where they can work for us.”
Cadena added: “Then we have a bigger problem. Of the remaining 60 percent we lose 50 percent because of medical issues.”
In a Q&A after his speech, Cadena was asked by a member of the audience where the biggest deficiencies existed. He responded that it is not in the area of senior management.
“The upper levels are okay. Volume-wise our biggest problem is with operators. In Guanajuato area, among the general automotive operators, it is a huge challenge. The days are gone when anyone who breathes can come into the plant. We need workers who are good at reading and writing, math, and critical thinking. Then, we have a huge problem with technicians, especially in some specific trades, welding, CNC, plastic injection, electrical mechanical, maintenance,” Cadena said.
“Education is not the way to solve it. It is training. We cannot depend on the education system. It is too bureaucratic, unionized and too slow. I think we can do it through training and virtual training. On this we have not been innovative enough. Developing technicians is the biggest challenge we have.”