Donald Trump caused controversy this Summer when he criticized Mexico while running for president. Unfortunately too many ill-informed Americans still maintain a negative view of their southern neighbor, but the tech world has largely realized that old perceptions don’t match today’s reality. One man who knows his stuff, former President Bill Clinton, went on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart in June and brought the real facts about Mexico.
“All we read about is the violence and the drug war,” said President Clinton. “The truth is that the previous president built 140 tuition-free universities. Two years ago, the Mexicans produced 113,000 engineers. We produced 120,000. They’ve had very brisk growth.”
This progress in educating highly skilled talent now puts Mexico 8th in the world with 113,944 graduates each year in the engineering, manufacturing, and construction field, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2015 “Human Capital Report.” The push for students to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) degrees is working. In just seven years, from 2005 to 2012, the percentage of all college graduates coming from engineering increased from just 15.5% to 21.3%.
If you drill down further by degree type, Mexico performs even better against the world’s most dynamic economies. Among the 34 OECD nations, only the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, and Korea had more graduates with computing degrees in 2012 than Mexico’s 13,380. This is significantly more than Spain graduated (9,321), and just 500 less than the Netherlands (4,987), Canada (4,557), and the Czech Republic (4,265) combined.
Even with such glowing figures, the raw numbers may not be as impressive as other signs of progress. In roughly the first decade of the millennium, Mexico doubled its number of public two-year colleges and four-year universities. President Felipe Calderon’s tenure in office also doubled the number of scholarships handed out each year.
The Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (Tec de Monterrey), which is home to more than 30 campuses in 25 cities, has become well known throughout the world for producing top talent. In addition to its own vast resources, it also now offers a joint master’s degree in information technology and software engineering management with the prestigious Heinz College of the U.S.-based Carnegie Mellon University.
“Tec’s excellent reputation across Latin America and strong ties to industry are a major draw,” stated Heinz College when the program was introduced. “For the Heinz College’s new School of Information Systems and Management, the dual degree program opens up doors to a host of opportunities.”
In Guadalajara, there is a push to start educating the next generation of engineers, programmers, and developers even earlier. Code GDL is an initiative between several local secondary schools and tech companies that bring together kids who want to learn more about CSS, Java, and other programming languages.
The U.S. baseball movie Field of Dreams popularized the phrase “if you build it, they will come.” Well, Mexico has gone to great lengths to build a nation of top-tier academic institutions that can train tech talent. Now the nation is outproducing most of the world when it comes to engineering and computer science degrees, and everyone from President Bill Clinton to Silicon Valley CEOs are taking notice and showing up to put Mexico’s creativity to use.