EDITOR NOTE: This article covers why 1 million technology jobs in the U.S. go unfulfilled annually? Why aren't the unemployed in the U.S. able to fill these jobs? What a great thing that Mexico can step up to the challenge, but it leaves me wondering where the U.S. system may be steering the educated, and uneducated, in the wrong direction.
In my last article, I shared how Guadalajara, Mexico, became my company's secret weapon in scaling as a software services company after we invested in “last mile” education. I’m a firm believer that talent is evenly distributed around the world, but opportunities are not. The real superpower that education has — particularly in an industry without real geographic constraints like tech — is bringing more opportunities to a more diverse workforce.
For the U.S., it’s time to get creative in how we generate those opportunities domestically and beyond. In 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that one million technology sector jobs go unfilled annually, a number that is only climbing as Covid-19 created more urgency around digital transformation. In the U.S., we do need greater investment in tech education like apprenticeship programs where people can learn on the job while still earning a living. I also believe that one upside from the pandemic is renewed employer flexibility to remote work. This should expand opportunities for working parents and those living outside major cities.
Shorter term, I believe that more companies can alleviate their talent gaps by thinking outside of borders and identifying great talent globally. From my perspective, it’s challenging to identify a better fit for U.S. time zones, cultural compatibility and relevant work experience than Mexico.
1. Mexico’s higher education produces 130,000-plus computer science graduates annually.
Mexico’s universities graduate more than 130,000 computer science graduates annually, a number that I have anecdotally observed to be fairly conservative. I would estimate it could be 50% or more higher including math and science graduates who end up in tech. At my company, we routinely see people enter the tech sector who are self-taught. They take coding classes, attend boot camps or participate in company training programs and become successful software developers, UX designers, technical writers and more.
Conservative statistic or not, it’s clear Mexico is punching above its weight class when compared with much larger economies like the U.S., which has just 65,000 graduates. The talent market is becoming more competitive, but the sheer volume of graduates and the rise of informal education like coding academies make Mexico a formidable player in the global tech talent ecosystem.
2. Mexico has a long history of partnering with Silicon Valley.
In the 1960s and through the 1980s, Mexico served as the manufacturing operations center for large foreign companies like Kodak, IBM and HP. Over time, management for these centers transitioned to local leadership, and we saw a boom in secondary education coursework preparing students for careers in technology and business management.
Fast forward to the 2000s, and Guadalajara experienced its own blossoming tech startup scene. Now a few decades in, there is major VC interest in Mexico City- and Guadalajara-based startups like SoftBank-backed used car marketplace Kavak, valued at $1.15 billion in 2020.
The tech scene in Mexico has existed for 60 years, but I think we’re only now starting to see that realization from an investment perspective (with likely much more to come). For prospective U.S. employers, Mexico and Latin America are heating up, and adding a team or office in Mexico should be as much about strategy as it is about the obvious cost savings.
3. Recent political divisiveness aside, Mexico and the U.S. are very familiar neighbors.
Cultural compatibility — shared interests as well as understanding and respect for differences — is an intangible but invaluable asset when forging work relationships across time and space. While the political climate in the last four years may have deepened a sense of divide, the reality is that many Americans and Mexicans have friends, relatives and colleagues living across the border. American culture has been deeply shaped by Mexico’s influence on our food, music, entertainment and more — not to mention more than 36 million people of Mexican descent live in the U.S. as of 2017. In a work environment, this shared understanding can make forming relationships over Zoom and Slack more natural and help build trust more quickly. And with most of Mexico in central time, the natural working day overlap offers more opportunities to connect.
In closing, tech companies of all sizes are competing to scale their engineering and product design talent. The U.S. talent market is highly competitive, and the tech talent pool isn’t growing fast enough to keep pace with the demand for digital products. In addition to investing in education domestically, companies can reduce risk and scale faster if they think beyond borders when growing their teams.
Originally posted on Forbes