Like many countries Mexico’s currently has a need for technically skilled and competent labor together with specialist with petroleum engineering, chemistry, geology, physics and geophysics skill sets. Enthusiastic talk of over 2.5 million new jobs being created by 2025 with private investment and international technology is all very well but has Mexico’s education system got what it takes to support this rapid growth to become a competitive, attraction for this foreign investment, the stark reality at present is no.

There are more than 3,000 officially registered higher education institutions in Mexico, of which around 60 percent are private. Mexico does have internationally recognized public and private universities, such as the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), and TEC de Monterrey (ITESM).

That said there is limited quality assurance process, meaning the fluctuation in standards across the board varies drastically. The vast majority of Pemex recruitment is done from a select few of the above leaving a void for many student who set their career focus on entering the petroleum sector, simply put in most cases the standards do not meet the grade required or provided by this select few.

Mexico’s overall system currently has limited national qualification framework, leading to a lack of regulated and mandatory accreditation and consistency in curriculum delivery.

There is limited focus on the importance of technical curriculum specific language which is fundamental for development since most of the globalized energy industry handles its business in English. Mexico’s education system has had considerable investment over recent years into national preschool programs, yet one of the biggest challenges seem to be keeping kids in school which at present statistics stand around 56%. Mexico also has one of the lowest enrolment rates among 15 to 19 year-olds of the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). When we take into account this is Mexico’s largest population age group, almost half are not enrolled in school.

In higher education, only 12% of Mexican 20 to 29 year olds participate, which is less than half the rate across OECD countries of the same age group. What’s more alarming is the number of youths who are not employed or in education or training programs. OECD indicates that 27.2% of 20 to 24 year-olds, and 29.5% of 25- to 29-year-olds were not employed or in education or training. This means that the largest sector of the Mexican population that could ideally meet the new need of a highly skilled labor force is largely undereducated and undertrained.

Mexico has made significant investment in education in recent years and that the number of engineering students and graduates is high even compared with the global standards. but there is a mismatch between training and opportunity. Most Mexican engineering graduates end up as technicians for foreign-owned companies, not because they are unqualified for better positions, but because there is more demand for technical skilled labor than engineers.

The highly skilled jobs in the energy sector will most likely be filled by several generations of this group and their professional networks, including their foreign professional business partners and investors. In fact, both the Mexican and the various governments from the US and Europe have already launched efforts for increased bilateral cooperation and exchange. Many major operators and service providers are doing their bit making investments in education in but unfortunately its impact is a drop in the ocean and far more sustainable focus needs to be given to this sector if Mexico is to really become a self-sustained player in the global energy sector.