Interview: Salvador Alva

What are the priorities for promoting leadership and entrepreneurship through education?

SALVADOR ALVA: Entrepreneurship is the global engine of job creation. Small and medium-sized enterprises are responsible for the creation of more job opportunities, and the quality of those companies determine the quality of employment. In that regard, Mexico has to facilitate its business development process. Actually, the country has a high level of entrepreneurship. Mexico’s new enterprise level is higher than in the US, but our system for creating new ideas is a complicated bureaucratic process that does not support most of those ideas, making it hard to bring successful projects to a conclusion. Mexican entrepreneurship plans involve an average of three workers per project, compared to a total average of six in the US. Mexico has the human capital to evolve, but it needs a different approach from the government and universities to support new ideas. In that regard, at TEC we are pleased to say that 23% of our graduates create a company within three months, and 60% build one within 25 years.

To what extent does the economic competitiveness of Mexico depend on its education system, and what can be done to enhance this?

ALVA: These days only 16% of the workforce in Mexico has a university degree, a fact that contributes to the perception of Mexico as a manufacturing country. This fact also contributes to the fact that the average Mexican salary is $10,000 per year. These are not the kind of wages that the country aims to have. Therefore, Mexico has to rely on a competitive educational system to nurture creation and to move from a “workforce of hands” to a “workforce of minds.”

With leadership and entrepreneurship as pillars, companies that come to Mexico will see the added value in the jobs we offer. As our percentage of higher education degrees is low, Mexico has to open its borders to allow qualified professionals an opportunity to become part of our economic development. Mexico has to be ready to receive the new talent that will contribute to the proper economic development of the country.

How has TEC’s educational model evolved over the last decade, and how does this benefit Mexico?

ALVA: TEC has undergone a steady transformation since it was founded and nowadays our primary goal is to solve the current lack of leadership in our society. We redefined our student programmes to create leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit, human sensitivity and a global perception of the world. Our new multidisciplinary plan is a disruptive model based on learning challenges that will enable students to put into practice the knowledge they learn by developing critical thinking and creative mindsets. Another one of our goals is to prepare professionals with international experience. At present, 62% of our graduates have international experience, but we aim to make this a graduation requirement in the future. Mexico is now a manufacturing society, which means that it has to transform itself to change its image. Universities play an important role in this, attracting talent and building innovation and research and development centres.

Today Mexico is mostly exporting talent, with 27% of the graduates from TEC living outside of Mexico. We need to find ways to keep this talent in the nation by providing them with attractive work opportunities. Foreign companies see Mexico as a manufacturing country, not a place to design new models for industry. We need to create better quality jobs through investigation centres with excellent teachers to move on towards a knowledge-based society. Nuevo Leon is a more economically advanced state than other states, with salaries that are 60% higher than average, and this is a consequence of the work universities have accomplished. This state has attracted many students over the years and many of them have remained here, developing new ideas and creating competitive businesses.