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Model For The Mobility of Engineering Professionals Under NAFTA

by Dan Robles on March 4, 2011

I published the following paper in 1996 as part of my participation in the negotiations for mutual recognition of Engineering Professionals under NAFTA.  We had just completed a program that ultimately sent close to 200 Mexican Engineers to the U.S. NCEES Engineering Board Exams with the support of CETYS Universidad and The State of California BOPELS.  In short, the performance of Mexican Engineers on this exam was extraordinary.  Their pass ratio was comparable in every way (especially when language disparity was removed), to US engineers who took the same exams.

Please follow this link for PDF: INCNE596

This work is highly significant because it represents original research toward what was likely one of the first modern attempts to trade ‘human knowledge’ like a financial instrument.  The idea was that Mexican, American, and Canadian Engineers would be allowed to practice engineering in the exchange of services across all three borders.  The hope was that the financial structure that supported the American and Canadian engineering profession as a vetting mechanism [for the technical risks details associated with major infrastructure projects] would transfer into Mexico.

Comparative Education

It is also significant because this may be one of the largest comparative education projects between the Mexican Education system in Engineering and the US engineering education system as measured by an established standard examination.  For example, data clearly showed an advantage in Mathematics for the Mexican engineers but a disadvantage in physics and chemistry – likely correlating to the cost of producing such education (labs and equipment) between the two systems.

Relative States of Development

It is abundantly conclusive that Mexican Engineers, and therefore the Country of Mexico, is highly capable of development and technology enterprise based on the education criteria in which America measures itself.    So when looking at the relative states of development between the two countries, the question arises; if the difference is not in the quality of engineers, then where is it? Of course, the answer does not surprise us when we see political turmoil as the source of most wealth disparity metrics.

Language Disparity

Finally, on a relatively minor discovery, this research measured a language disparity of approximately 15% in the speed that the engineer from Northern Mexico can accurately interpret an engineering problem expressed in technical English.  This is useful when planning timed exercises such as examinations where language differences are difficult to remove from the sample set.

Epic Value Game FAIL

As it turned out, the Mexican Negotiators did not accept the author’s recommendations presented here in stead adopting an MRD strategy that was highly restrictive to both the mobility of engineers and the vetting requirements of financial institutions. America literally handed Mexico the Knowledge Economy on a silver platter and Mexico refused.

This author argued in 1996 that Mexico would compete in the future with emerging economies such as China and Vietnam in the the low-value labor market rather than competing with, say, India for the highly valued knowledge market.   It is unfortunate that they chose the former.  I’ll leave my opinions as to why, for a future post.

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