Graduation caps and big smiles will be proudly worn this week as the four students in the inaugural class of the Industrial Production Apprenticeship program at Bendix’s Acuña, Mexico, facility celebrate completion of their studies. The graduates will receive both their high school diplomas and technical degrees through a two-year dual-education program designed to prepare them for careers in the manufacturing industry.
The apprenticeship program was designed through a partnership between Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC and Colegio de Estudios Científicos y Tecnológicos del Estado de Coahuila (CECyTEC), a local technical vocational school in Ciudad Acuña. The goal of the partnership is to help prepare students for the manufacturing workforce by improving the practical, hands-on educational opportunities available in Acuña.
Through the unique two-year program, students gain work experience in an industrial setting while earning a high school diploma. The program is officially recognized as part of the Dual Education Mexican Model (MMFD), thanks to its combination of technical applied apprenticeships and the high school curricula.
“Bendix is proud to give back to the communities where we live and work,” said Carlos Hungria, Bendix chief operating officer, who serves as project coordinator with Maria Gutierrez, director of corporate responsibility and sustainability. “In Acuña, the educational opportunities available do not fully align with the technical jobs in the area. Through this apprenticeship program, we are able to expand the opportunities for technical education and help prepare the next generation for the workforce.”
Four students from CECyTEC were selected in 2017 for the inaugural class of the program, which combined their classroom instruction with four-day-a-week hands-on vocational training at the Bendix Acuña operation. Their program courses were complemented with four, 16-week rotations at Bendix, covering occupational safety, quality, industrial engineering and materials/logistics. This experience places students on a path to enter the manufacturing workforce or to continue their manufacturing education through college.
Bendix – which has maintained its growing manufacturing operation in Acuña, a city of 181,000, for more than three decades – worked with CECyTEC and the Coahuila state government to develop two concurrent initiatives to support technical education in the area. One was creating the apprenticeship program for select CECyTEC students. The other was designing and building a new industrial production laboratory, open to all CECyTEC students.
The 3,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art industrial production lab emphasizes the concepts of teamwork, problem-solving and process improvement by studying the fundamental behavior of production lines. The lab was built to provide not only a theoretical-knowledge learning opportunity but also to create a space for a hands-on approach to learning. Half the lab is devoted to a simulated industrial manufacturing area, while the other half is devoted to multi-use tables to be set up classroom style or as team workspaces. This summer, the lab will be home to a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) summer camp for middle school students. The camp will be run by a team of Bendix volunteers.
With the industrial lab and apprenticeship program, Bendix intends to help better prepare students with the skills required to enter the workforce by exposing them to simulated and real manufacturing work environments. Currently, about 700 students are enrolled in the technical school with 50 percent enrolled in the Industrial Production career. During the 2018-2019 school term, 10 students were involved in the Bendix Industrial Production Apprenticeship (MMD) program. This number will increase to 12 for the 2019-2020 school year.
The Industrial Production Apprenticeship program is funded solely by Bendix. Funding for the laboratory came from CECyTEC; Bendix; Fundacion Bendix, A.C., the company’s Mexican nonprofit foundation; and Knorr-Bremse Global Care, a nonprofit organization founded by the Knorr-Bremse Group, Bendix’s parent company.
Next Class of Achievers
Following the four new apprenticeship graduates is a class of six students who have completed their first year of rotations. The program was designed so that upon graduation, students will be eligible to apply for full-time industrial technician positions at Bendix. The company will, in fact, open positions at the company for 50 percent of the graduates. The students selected as full-time employees will receive additional career development as well as have available to them other benefits such as tuition reimbursement should they wish to pursue a college education.
“We are incredibly proud of our students graduating from the apprenticeship program,” Gutierrez said. “Through their hard work and perseverance, we were able to watch them grow into young professionals. We are excited to see where their futures take them as they apply for college and positions with our company. For those who join our team, we have full confidence they will be an indispensable part of Bendix as we work together to shape tomorrow’s transportation.”
Bendix’s Acuña manufacturing operation was established in May 1988. It consists of three state-of-the-art facilities and a logistics center, employs more than 1,800 workers and encompasses 412,000 square feet. Acuña is one of the fastest-growing Bendix manufacturing sites. Bendix also maintains other operations in Mexico, including an Engineering Research and Development Center in Monterrey and an expansive Distribution Center in Mexico City.