What sets CEFTA apart for other training centers in Mexico?
Roca Fuerte is the only industrial park in Mexico to have invested in an onsite training center of CEFTA's magnitude. What makes this particular center unique is the hands-on opportunities it provides students. While many universities and vocational training programs focus on theoretical learning, CEFTA has invested in equipment that gives students an application edge. This applied learning helps students significantly reduce their learning curve on the job. Clients who have hired CEFTA graduates report that it takes those employees 50 to 70 percent less time to adapt to their production processes.
CEFTA covers skills that include the use of basic measuring equipment, from micrometers and calipers up to optical comparators and coordinate measuring machines, and skills to operate CNC machinery, including setting up working materials and tools.
In addition to this technical training, graduates also emerge from the program armed with the types of soft skills that will help them excel in the workplace, from safety basics to conflict management. "This makes them more resistant to day-to-day conflicts and helps them remain in an organization longer," notes Sonia López, CEFTA Operations Administrator.
While the coursework is designed to provide a well-rounded technical education, the instructors note that CNC training is a large part of what sets CEFTA apart from other training opportunities. "One cannot create specialized technicians who have not been in direct contact with the equipment," López says.
The basic CNC course covers the necessary elements to graduate machining technicians who can quickly adapt and become productive personnel. The center features several workstations, including a CNC lathe and three- and four-axis milling stations, coupled with either HAAS or FANUC controllers.
"This technology and number of workstations allow our grads to move on from the program with a significant number of hours of operating experience under their belt," says Enrique Quintero, Client Services Manager for CEFTA. "This ensures that we deliver confident and adequately trained basic CNC operators to our clients' plants."
Skills to support the needs of manufacturing companies in Mexico
Coursework is developed based on experience from instructors in the manufacturing field and recently graduated engineers who bring a strong academic background to curriculum development. However, the other key player in this content development comes from the local manufacturing community. While the center grew out of the exponential growth of the aerospace manufacturing industry in Guaymas, Sonora, it has evolved to support a wide range of industries with tailormade solutions.
The first stage of course development comes when the manufacturer identifies a production problem and approaches CEFTA for assistance. From there, CEFTA's academic staff, including engineering, manufacturing, and education experts, focuses on "living" the customer's production process to better understand the need. This might include visiting the production space and gathering feedback from operators already entrenched in the current processes.
Next, the problem is analyzed internally to determine whether or not CEFTA already has available technical knowledge, machinery, equipment, and tools to solve the problem. Finally, the center prepares a training proposal for the manufacturer's approval. Once approved, manuals are developed, and the training gets underway.
Quintero adds that there's one more step to finetune training. "We constantly follow-up in client meetings, and by shadowing operators to obtain feedback, which is then used to customize the solution for each client," he says.
However, much of that manufacturer's feedback revolves around the production improvements seen. "The feedback obtained from manufacturers mainly revolves around talent retention and cost-reduction in terms of training and scrap," Quintero finds. "With a properly trained operator in basic CNC operations, the effort required by the plant to get that operator up-to-par with required production metrics is significantly reduced. This translates to fewer errors from new hires and more confidence and less stress for personnel on the production floor. That goes beyond just numbers toward creating a more harmonious work environment."
Investment in growth
While there is a clear return on this training investment for manufacturers—which can be seen in the productivity gains of shrinking onboarding time for a new machine operator from six months to less than three—the case for making a more harmonious workplace is equally compelling. Manuel Espriú, CEFTA Academic Administrator, notes that the training provides many of these students with the confidence to tackle challenges and succeed. He recalls one student who had come to CEFTA from a minimum wage job pumping gasoline at a service station. "After taking our training and entering the mature manufacturing area as an operator, he becomes a cell leader within the first year. This comes from a combination of skills development and an attitude toward personal growth," Espriú says.
López adds that the training has helped connect manufacturers with savvy candidates who might otherwise be overlooked in the job market. She recalls one recent graduate who came to CEFTA after realizing 25 years into a service position that he wanted to pursue a new career. He proved a good student with a great attitude. Even so, after graduation, he found it difficult to find work. Potential employers were concerned that his age put him too close to retirement, and his background in the service industry would hinder his advancement.
At last, the aerospace manufacturer Walbar Engine Components decided to offer the student a job opportunity. Not only did they gain a dedicated and adaptable employee who quickly learned the ropes, but they soon discovered the student was an empathic learner and an excellent team player. Within six months, he had become a coach for new employees.
It's not an uncommon story, López finds. She says clients report that CEFTA graduates tend to be more disciplined, have a better attitude, and, as a result, stay with their employers longer than other candidates.
Laying the groundwork for success
CEFTA's focus on preparing students to succeed is also a success story for manufacturers and the sector at large.
"The most important feedback we get is that the learning curve on the manufacturing floor is greatly decreased," Espriú says. "It can be less than half the regular time. This helps with long-term retention." He says feedback indicates that CEFTA graduates' retention is more than double that of employees hired initially by the manufacturers.
Tetakawi sees at every stage of manufacturing—from site selection to employee training —that a proper investment in preparation is critical for long-term success. Contact us today and learn more about CEFTA, and Roca Fuerte's commitment to supporting the current and future needs of high-tech manufacturing companies in Mexico.