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workforce-mexico-manufacturing-webThe border economy may have grown up with the maquiladora industry's traditional focus on low cost assembly, but rapid growth in East Asia and elsewhere has pulled many low skilled jobs out of the region. Though this caused some pain as it happened during the early 2000s, it has forced border region manufacturers to focus on their long-term comparative advantage—proximity to the vast U.S. market—and to move up the value chain into more advanced manufacturing. In this context, companies will invest in the region not because of the supply of cheap labor but because of the availability of adequate talent, putting a premium on education.

In recognition of this, education has recently become a key component of the bilateral agenda, setting ambitious goals to increase levels of educational exchange between both countries as a means of developing a bilingual and world-class workforce comfortable doing business in an era of globalization. This exchange is already happening in the border region; indeed, half of all Mexican students studying in the United States go to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas alone. So why not focus efforts where they are most likely to succeed? The border is a natural, necessary, and cost effective place for this exchange to happen, and, as such, the federal governments should significantly increase their focus—in collaboration with state governments and higher education systems—on boosting educational exchange in the border region. Last year, a meeting of the bilateral initiative to promote student exchange was held in El Paso, Texas with a focus on the border. From that starting point, concrete programs to enhance exchange must be developed.

Extracted from: How to Boost Border Competitiveness? Just Ask the Folks There.
By Christopher Wilson and Erik Lee

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