As US Tech Companies Look to Mexico, Coding Bootcamps Follow

Higher Education

As US Tech Companies Look to Mexico, Coding Bootcamps Follow

By Sydney Johnson     Sep 28, 2017

As US Tech Companies Look to Mexico, Coding Bootcamps Follow
Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education

It’s not uncommon for U.S. companies to plant roots in Mexico, where lower wages and loose regulations have allured manufacturers for years. Last year the Washington Post reported on the tech boom south of the border, with major global companies like IBM, Oracle and Intel setting up shop in Guadalajara, also known as country’s “Digital Creative City.”

Where technology jobs go, tech training seems to follow. In the U.S., the growth of the coding bootcamp industry—which numbers 95 course providers—was largely driven to fill openings at tech companies. As these opportunities emerge in Mexico, at least one U.S. company that provides skills-based training programs has followed path. Trilogy Education, a startup that partners with universities to help set up intensive coding bootcamps, is partnering with Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM) in Mexico to create a full-time tech training program on the campus.

“We looked at regions across the world, and we see companies are continuing to struggle to find employees from a digital literacy perspective,” says Dan Sommer, CEO of Trilogy. “We are expanding to regions where we think [skills] gaps exist and are creating a pain for organizations.”

Manolo Diaz, founder of Yogome, a Mexican startup that makes educational games, knows that feeling well. Diaz studied computer science at ITESM, but felt unequipped with the right skills he needed to land a programming job after graduating in 2001. He claims he taught himself the necessary programming skills through online tutorials and working in the field.

Now, nearly 15 years later and running his own edtech company, Diaz believes the issue persists. The computer science curriculum at many Mexican institutions, including his alma mater, “is outdated,” he charges. “We hire engineers from Tech Monterrey… but the some of the skills are still not there,” he tells EdSurge.

Diaz is optimistic about bootcamps coming to town, and thinks others will follow. “The demand for engineers in Mexico is really tight,” he says. “I’m struggling to find engineers for my own company.”

Tech hubs in Mexican cities are young but growing. In Guadalajara alone, at least $120 million has been invested into more than 300 startups, mostly from U.S. investors, according to the Washington Post story. And much of the investment began pouring in after 2011.

Harley Shaiken, a professor of social and cultural studies at the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, agrees with Diaz that with more tech companies moving to or starting in Mexico, better training and job placement can be a good thing for both students and employers.

“I think it’s very positive to have new tech jobs in Mexico to strengthen the Mexican economy. This has that potential, and it could be a great benefit to the U.S. economy and U.S. workers,” says Shaiken, who is also chair of the Center for Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley.

But he underlines that those outcomes are contingent upon other factors, and he is not convinced it will automatically turn out in a way that’s favorable for students and workers. In particular, he’s concerned about labor standards, which are on the table along with the Mexican-US trade regulations that fall under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Trump Administration has hinted at “terminating” the deal altogether.

NAFTA eliminates trade tariffs between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and has led to an increase in productivity and exports for all three countries. But since the deal was signed in 1994, wages and benefits for Mexican workers dropped by nearly 20 percent. Now, with possible renegotiations ahead, workers groups are trying to get labor rights and higher wages written into NAFTA.

“The backdrop to this is that NAFTA is on the table, and there are a lot of tension over labor standards between the U.S. and Mexico,” says Shaiken. “If low wages that are suppressed by a lack of labor rights is the driving force [for U.S. tech companies moving to Mexico], then this is in no one’s interest. It's not in the interest of Mexican programmers and it will press down on wages and conditions of U.S. programmers.”

Shaiken adds though that he’s seen this trend before, where U.S. companies move to Mexico and training centers, similar to bootcamps, quickly follow. He has studied and written about the auto industry’s migration south of the border, and points out that facilities like Intel’s $220 million, 220,000 square-foot-campus in Guadalajara are not unique:

“Companies will decide to build a billion dollar factory where there is nothing like it. They look for a strong educational system and they do a significant amount of training, more than in the U.S., because wage costs are so low. They are able to do a lot more training than they would in the U.S. or Canada with a brand new plant.”

When pitching to a higher-ed institution and crafting localized curriculum, Trilogy evaluates job openings and skills demands from nearby employers. It’s apparent to Sommer that large U.S. tech companies have moved to Mexico for lower wages, but he says those aren’t the only companies Trilogy is looking at. Trilogy will also be analyzing skills needs with mid-sized Mexican-based companies and early startups there as well. In Monterrey Mexico, their survey has included Epicor, Inflection Point and DICEX.

At Trilogy’s 24-week bootcamp, students learn fundamentals of web development, coding basics, and receive training in coding languages such as JavaScript, HTML, CSS and Python. Those who complete the program receive a certificate of completion from their college, “and will also receive career-planning services, portfolio reviews, demo days, recruiting assistance and extensive staff support,” according to a press announcement.

Sommer adds that Trilogy will be bringing in a student success manager who will be based in Monterrey by the time classes start in early 2018.

Shaiken and Diaz both believe that as the tech sector in Mexico continues to grow, more bootcamps will follow. But for Trilogy in particular, Mexico is just one stop. The New York-based startup is also expanding to Canada, offering its program at the University of Toronto. Tuition fees for will remain similar to the U.S. offerings, at an average of $10,000 per program. The cost will likely be cheaper in Mexico, Sommer adds—perhaps as little as half.

“[Trilogy] is very aware that $10,000 is expensive in the U.S. or Canada, and people pay because of the allure of computers and the future,” says Shaiken. “But in Mexico, that [price] would be prohibitive.”

Pricing structures and other accessibility hoops will start to vary place by place, as Trilogy plans to continue expanding beyond North America. The company shares they already also “working with UC Berkeley Extension to explore programs in Asia.”

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