Continued from page 4

“What is making Chihuahua so attractive is not only the $4-an-hour salaries, but also the growing number of engineers here,” said Alonso Ramos Vaca, vice president of strategic studies at Chihuahua Economic Development, a nonprofit organization.

“The local colleges and universities are developing centers that specialize in engineering and aerospace technology,” he said.

“What we’re trying to build here is the whole package, not just some industrial park. It’s like an entire ecosystem of business for aerospace manufacturing that we’re trying to build.”

Mexican federal and state governments have spent roughly $20 million over the past 10 years to create vocational schools like the Cenaltec High Technology Center in Chihuahua.

Foreign companies setting up shop in Chihuahua also help pay for their workers to be trained at the schools.

“At first, there was only a small group of students. But then the companies started realizing how useful this is, especially since we adjust the training programs to meet what individual companies need,” said Alberto N. Salomon, director of operations at the center.

There is also a higher-education trend taking hold at the region’s universities, and, with the aerospace industry’s growth, new programs are increasingly competitive.

Jose Luis Rodriguez, manager of Fokker’s plant in Chihuahua, beamed when he revealed that his son was accepted recently to the newly minted aerospace program at the Autonomous University of Chihuahua.

“They only accepted 20 students out of a pool of 350 applicants,” he said.

Louis Eduardo Rodriguez, 18, stood with his father on a recent day near the Fokker plant.

“I wanted to get into aerospace because it’s a growing field, and I’ve gotten a good experience from my dad,” the younger Mr. Rodriguez said.

He added that his personal sights are set much higher than basic manufacturing.

“I’d like to work for NASA one day,” he said with a smile. “That’s my dream.”