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Mexico's Institute of Technical Training: an innovative approach.

Mexico's National Bank of Foreign Trade (BANCOMEXT) has developed a successful training programme for the foreign trade sector, through the Bank's Institute of Technical Training. The experience has some unusual features that may be of interest to other developing countries wishing to accelerate human resource development in their foreign trade sector. Not only is it somewhat novel for a bank to be designated as a country's focal point for trade promotion. In addition the type of training organization that BANCOMEXT created to strengthen its trade promotion role is also of a special nature. The training institute relies on outside expertise to present specialized courses to the business community. Furthermore it has been able to spread its training network throughout the country in a relatively short time. These and other characteristics of BANCOMEXT's training operation may be relevant to other countries that are looking into ways to innovate their foreign trade training.

Background

In 1989 Mexico's National Bank of Foreign Trade (Banco Nacional de Comercio Exterior, or BANCOMEXT) was given responsibility for the country's trade promotion activities. This new function complemented effectively the activities that BANCOMEXT was already undertaking.

The Bank, founded in 1937, thus took on the role as the Government's central institution for financing and promoting Mexico's exports and developing the country's trade and investment opportunities.

Objectives

In its functions as the country's focal point for trade promotion, BANCOMEXT has the following objectives:

* Ensure that opportunities for expanding the country's exports are exploited to the maximum, through export financing that is timely, sufficient and competitive, and with appropriate trade promotion support.

* Serve as a foreign trade catalyst by directing financial resources to the business community in a more general sense.

* In all aspects of its trade promotion work actively support small and medium-size export companies in the country.

Services

To fulfill its objectives, the Bank provides a wide range of services:

* Short-, medium- and long-term loans tailored to specific needs, to foster exports and imports of non-oil goods and services.

* Short-, medium- and long-term bank guarantees to cover the risk of nonpayment by foreign buyers to local companies and financial institutions participating in foreign trade.

* Financing specifically geared to expanding the base of Mexico's exportable goods, as a means to increase and diversify exports over the longer term.

* Promotional, advisory, information and training services in financial, trade and legal matters to facilitate trade and foreign investment in broad terms.

Training aspects

To encourage a greater number of firms to become involved in international business, and to improve the competitiveness of Mexican firms in world markets, BANCOMEXT created a technical training institute (Instituto de Formacion Tecnica, or IFT) in July 1989. IFT's mission is to develop staff in the foreign trade sector with specialized knowledge, technical skills and a commercial outlook required for operating successfully in the international marketplace. Approximately 80% of its training programmes are designed for the business community, with the remainder for BANCOMEXT's own staff.

As the Bank has regional offices in all major trading centres in the country, it is in a position to offer training programmes nationwide.

Target groups:

In view of the expanding training needs, and to avoid duplicating programmes offered by existing training institutions, the IFT has identified the following target groups and sectors for its training programmes, in addition to the Bank's own staff:

* Potential export enterprises.

* Banks, other financial institutions, freight forwarders and transport firms.

* Chambers of commerce.

* Personnel working in export processing zones.

* International business consultants.

* Trainers in universities and professional institutes.

Facilities:

The Institute is located in the headquarters of BANCOMEXT in Mexico City in modern premises built in 1991. Facilities available at the Institute consist of several conference rooms with movable partitions, thereby allowing flexibility in arranging space for different training events. Each conference room contains modular tables and audiovisual equipment such as overhead projectors and television (TV) screens. IFT also has access to personal computers (PCs), photocopying machines and TV cameras.

As the Institute is located in BANCOMEXT, participants in the training programme benefit from the Bank's library and information centre that includes specialized publications on international trade and several databanks.

Management:

The top official in the Institute is a Division Head (there are 16 such officers in the Bank), who works under one of three Vice Presidents of the Bank. The Institute itself operates under the aegis of the Director General of BANCOMEXT.

The Institute employs 40 persons in Mexico City and a dozen in regional offices. For its specialized training programmes, however, it uses outside expertise - which is one of its unusual features - either from other organizations in Mexico or outside the country.

To support its training programmes, the Institute develops its own training materials. For example, the Bank has published 13 training manuals coveting the major subject areas offered.

Most of the courses are in Spanish, while some special courses are presented in English.

Types of courses

BANCOMEXT organizes several different types of courses for the export community, each of which is geared to meeting specific needs of the target group.

Short courses:

Short courses of one or two days' duration are conducted for executives of companies with export potential. These events are repeated several times throughout the country. For example the course "Techniques for Formulating Export Business Plans," which lasts for two days, is offered ten times a year in ten different cities.

Certificate courses:

Certificate courses are longer, ranging from 100 hours to 170 hours of instruction over several months. These courses are organized on a modular basis, with one unit or module covered each month. Participants attend the course three days a week, on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, for a total of 20 hours of time per module.

At the end of the programme, participants undertake a field study project in a foreign country. For instance, the certificate course "Doing Business with the European Economic Community" consists of five units and a one-week field study project in the Netherlands. Similar certificate courses cover doing business with the United States and Canada (including a one-week trip to Atlanta and Toronto), with the Pacific Basin countries (with field study in Japan), and with South American countries (including a visit to Chile).

A few of these courses are full-time over a three-week period, totalling 100 hours.

All of the certificate courses are offered only once a year.

Trade-related services:

For financial institutions, trading houses and other trade-related services, IFT presents two programmes annually. These courses are repeated in approximately 20 cities throughout the country each year.

One 16-hour event aims at introducing BANCOMEXT's financial and promotional assistance programmes to the export community. The other, of 40 hours (one week), deals with the techniques of formulating and evaluating export projects.

Chambers and trade groupings:

For members of chambers of commerce and trade associations, the Institute conducts a course on export marketing techniques. It is held one day a week over eight weeks (a total of 80 hours) and is offered in ten different cities.

Assembly for export:

A special two-day course for staff of firms supplying materials for export-oriented assembly and processing plants is given twice a year in Monterrey and Mexico City. The training is designed for companies wishing to sell to the new export-oriented manufacturing and processing units being established in the country. Under a Government programme known as "Maquiladora," the plants concerned are allowed to import materials, components and equipment duty-free. The completed product is then exported, at which time a duty on the value added in Mexico is levied.

Business consultants:

The Institute has introduced an innovative programme to train consultants in international business. The purpose is to build a national cadre in this profession. Approximately 20 persons from business and academic institutions take part in the course over a six-month period (June through November). Participants attend sessions Monday through Thursday from 8:30 to 14:30.

The course for consultants is held in Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara, with field study projects in Costa Rica and the United States. In addition to classroom work, each participant undertakes a consultancy assignment with an export enterprise, during which he or she tests the skills acquired by recommending measures for the enterprise to improve its export performance. As a result of these consultancy projects, course members are able to apply the knowledge gained during the formal part of the training programme.

Trainers:

Another of IFT's training initiatives consists of building up a core of trainers in international business. Once a year the Institute organizes a training programme for 20 to 25 trainers representing educational and financial institutions and consulting firms. Those selected attend nine series of sessions, each ranging from two days to one week. Each series, or module, concentrates on a specific international business subject such as export costing and pricing, export packaging or international transport.

Total programme:

A list of the Institute's training programmes for 1992, by type of audience, duration and number of times offered, is given in the table on page 21. The list shows the wide coverage and diversity of the courses. Nearly all events are in Spanish. A few specialized courses, particularly those requiring field study visits to foreign markets are, however, in English.

In 1992 the Institute trained over 6,000 persons throughout the country. This represented 175 training events, conducted in 40 different locations.

Course fees

The Institute charges fees ranging from US$100 to $200 for the short courses of one to two days' duration. These amounts are payable in local currency. Participants registering for the longer certificate courses are charged from $3,500 to $6,000, depending on the length of the event.

The fees for certificate courses, which include study abroad, must be paid in U.S. dollars. For example, the one on doing business in the Pacific Basin, with a field trip to Japan, costs $5,000.

The fee for a specialized programme to train consultants in international trade is $4,000. The charge for the trainers' training programme is $1,000.

BANCOMEXT offers financial assistance to participants for some of the courses.

Promotional activities

The Institute publishes a catalogue of its training programmes annually. The booklet, in Spanish, lists the events to be held during the year, with details on the objectives, content, duration, location and fee for each. An application form to be completed by prospective candidates is included in the catalogue.

An important feature in the catalogue is the message from the Director General of BANCOMEXT introducing the programme and explaining the need to upgrade skills and knowledge to improve the country's export performance.

The catalogue is printed on glossy paper containing text and colour photographs, projecting an image of professionalism and commitment.

The catalogue is mailed to all of the regional chambers of commerce, trade associations, banks, other financial institutions, export companies and other organizations concerned with international trade. Special mailings and advertisements are undertaken for some courses such as the training of consultants and the training of trainers in international trade.

Training methods

Training methods for the short courses consist of technical presentations, lectures and group discussions. For the longer activities the methodology includes, in addition to lectures and discussions, case problem analysis, individual assignments, business games and field study projects.

All of the training techniques make extensive use of audiovisual aids and computer simulations. By incorporating a wide range of instructional methods, the Institute provides an effective learning environment. The active exchange of experiences and ideas among participants and faculty not only reinforces the learning but also contributes to the achievement of the participants' educational objectives.

Course management

As the Institute does not have a full-time faculty, it relies on outside foreign trade practitioners with proven communications skills to present the course subjects. The Institute's staff act mainly as course managers. They recruit the participants and the lecturers. The staff also oversee the day-to-day programmes, ensure the quality of the courses and carry out the evaluation of them. They are likewise responsible for the logistics, such as the course rooms; reproduction of training materials; acquisition of training equipment; and development of visual aids.

Specialized lecturers:

The Institute has access to a large pool of trade specialists willing to share their experiences with the participants as guest lecturers. This practice helps to ensure relevant and practical training. For this purpose the Institute maintains an up-to-date roster of consultants available in the country by area of specialization. In addition it has established links with foreign universities, trade associations, international organizations and other bodies concerned with trade development. These links allow the Institute to expand its roster of consultants through access to international as well as local expertise.

Evaluation

At the end of a course, each participant is requested to complete two separate evaluation questionnaires. The first form is for assessing the course itself, such as content, practicality, relevance of the training materials and so on. The second is an evaluation of the instructor in terms of his or her subject knowledge, ability to teach the subject, and capability of making effective use of a variety of teaching methods and of practical training materials. An example of the latter questionnaire is shown on page 23.

The use of these evaluation questionnaires is vital to the Institute because of its heavy reliance on outside expertise for teaching a wide range of courses throughout the country. It is only through vigorous and constant monitoring of its courses that IFT remains in a position to offer effective training to the business community.

Support to universities

In addition to providing practical courses to in-career business personnel, the Institute cooperates with universities to strengthen their training capacities in foreign trade. This activity is aimed at meeting longer term needs of the business community. IFT assists selected universities in upgrading their training programmes at both the undergraduate and graduate levels as well as introducing executive development programmes for in-career personnel.

The services that the Institute offers under such cooperation arrangements include:

* Advising on programme design and development in international business.

* Sponsoring the participation of faculty in specialized foreign trade courses offered by the Institute.

* Training university faculty in pedagogical skills relevant to international business teaching.

* Providing foreign trade training materials and documentation.

* Presenting courses to the faculty of these institutions on the activities of BANCOMEXT.

Since the beginning of this programme, IFT has entered into five cooperation agreements. A dozen more are being negotiated with selected training institutions throughout the country. The Institute gives priority to institutions that:

* Are situated in a strategic business location in the country.

* Show willingness to provide training throughout the region.

* Have a proven record of commitment for offering practical training to the business community.

* Demonstrate a willingness to start new training programmes in international business using nontraditional teaching approaches.

* Are known for rigorous academic training and are respected within academic circles.

* Have established close links with the local business community.

* Are able to prove the need for financial assistance.

Example:

An example of an organization that has qualified for this cooperation is the Institute of Technology and Higher Studies of Monterrey (ITESM). This educational establishment is located in the second largest industrial and trading centre in Mexico. It enjoys the full support of the local business community and is well respected within academic circles for its high educational standards. With 26 regional campuses, and using the latest satellite technology and distance-learning systems, ITESM has the capacity to train large numbers of persons throughout the region. To reinforce its international business programmes, ITESM has created a Centre for International Competitiveness with the following objectives:

* Support both private industry and government agencies in their efforts to make Mexican goods and services more competitive worldwide.

* Strengthen graduate programmes by involving students and faculty in research on factors determining international competitiveness.

To fulfill its objectives, ITESM's Centre undertakes the following activities:

* Carries out practical research on foreign trade subjects.

* Provides consultancy services to private and public companies and government agencies concerned with trade.

* Publishes technical journals and magazines focusing on the latest developments in international business.

Cooperation with ITC

In 1991 BANCOMEXT approached ITC to explore ways of cooperating with it in new programmes being introduced by the Institute. Of particular interest was the provision of technical support for the training of consultants and of trainers in international business. In addition ITC training materials were required.

With respect to the training of consultants and trainers, ITC training TABULAR DATA OMITTED specialists took part in some of IFT's courses. In addition, in the case of the Institute's training programme for consultants, ITC trainers worked with local staff in supervising the individual advisory assignments of course participants in export enterprises. The adaptation and translation of some of ITC's training materials is also now being undertaken by BANCOMEXT.

Another example of cooperation concerns BANCOMEXT's commitment to assisting national training institutions in offering programmes in international trade. In 1991, with the support of BANCOMEXT and ITC, the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Studies, referred to above, launched a one-year diploma programme in international trade. The programme lasts ten months, from March to December. Participants attend eight series of sessions of 40 hours each. Each series, or module, is held Tuesday to Friday from 13:00 to 21:30 and Saturday from 9:00 to 18:30 (with pauses for meals within these periods). A six-week break is scheduled between each module.

The subjects covered in the modules are:

1. Assessment of export capacity and market opportunities.

2. Analysis of export markets and cultural dynamics.

3. Techniques of logistics and transport.

4. Preparation of the marketing plan.

5. Development of the production plan.

6. Establishment of a financial plan and analysis of project feasibility.

7. Techniques of international business negotiation.

8. Development of consultancy skills.

Throughout the programme each participant undertakes a project leading to the formulation of a practical export marketing strategy.

Candidates for this course are young executives of companies interested in going into export or diversifying their export markets.

One of the entry requirements for the course is the ability to speak English.

A fee of nearly $8,000 is charged for attending this certificate programme. Participants may obtain loans from BANCOMEXT to finance their attendance.

Achievements

BANCOMEXT's decision to create a training institute specialized in foreign trade has proved to be sound. By offering a wide range of training programmes nationwide for specific target groups, the Institute has contributed significantly to the dissemination of relevant knowledge and the enhancement of skills in international business. As a result of the Institute's wide-reaching training activities, Mexico is in a stronger position to improve its export performance in both traditional and nontraditional markets for an increasingly broad export mix.

The Institute's main achievements may be summarized as follows:

* Improving export awareness among the business community, banks and other financial institutions, trade-related support services, chambers of commerce and training institutions.

* Stimulating closer joint efforts among business, government and academia to promote the country's foreign trade.

* Providing training opportunities in international business nationwide that did not exist before by using national expertise and innovative training technologies.

* Reaching large numbers of exporters, and potential exporters, in nearly a dozen of the country's major trading centres through decentralization and regionalization of training activities.

* Creating a cadre of professional foreign trade managers through various certification programmes.

* Establishing a core of national consultants trained in international business.

* Initiating a training capacity in international business at selected training institutions through cooperation programmes.

* Developing and publishing training materials in Spanish based on local business experience.

* Encouraging educational links between Mexican and foreign training institutions engaged in international business teaching and research.

By assuming the country's trade promotion functions and creating a training institute specialized in foreign trade, BANCOMEXT has taken a leading role in developing the country's exports. In a span of three years, it has contributed significantly to the creation of a pool of trained personnel in international business. As the country's dynamic economic growth has lead to significant diversification of its export mix, export success in the future will depend to a large extent on the availability of knowledgeable and skilled business executives. BANCOMEXT is well placed to become the leader in developing such human resources needed to support Mexico's trade expansion and diversification plans.

Claude Cellich is chief of ITC's Training Section.
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Author:Cellich, Claude
Publication:International Trade Forum
Date:Oct 1, 1992
Words:3372
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