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The Central American Group: Hello and welcome to another installation in the Central American Group’s series of podcasts. These recordings are with individuals and organizations in Central America that are involved in various industrial activities or activities that support industry. Today we are very fortunate to have Karla Halabi with us. Karla is with the main source of engineering talent in Costa Rica, the Technological Institute of Costa Rica.
Karla please tell us a little about yourself, the Technological Institute of Costa Rica and about your role in that organization.
Karla Halabi: Hello. It is my pleasure to be here today. I am from Costa Rica and I work at the Costa Rica Institute of Technology., or the TEC. This is a university that is located in Costa Rica and is one of the country’s most important educational institutions. I have been working at the TEC for ten years and feel very proud to be working here. My role there is to work in the liaison office. In this office we are a “main entrance” for all the external sectors to the university. I am going to give you more details further into our conversation.
The Central American Group: Could you tell us more about the Costa Rica Institute of Technology and why it is one of the most important universities in the region in the areas of science and technology, as well as in the formation of engineering talent in Costa Rica?
Karla Halabi: Yes, of course. This is a public university. It is one of the five that we have in the country. It has 23 academic programs. Most of them are aimed at developing engineering talent in Coast Rica. We have the highest percentage of accredited or re-accredited programs and undergraduate and graduate degrees. We also have an international accreditation by a French board. We have five different campuses in the country and, as I told you before, almost all of the academic programs that we have are in engineering. I can also tell you that we have academic programs in four areas. They are technology and engineering science, economic sciences and administration, and technology education.
Currently, we have more than 12,000 students of which 35% of them women, while the rest are men. Lately, the number of women in our engineering programs has increased. This is very important for us not only for the country, but also for the world. We are trying to bring more women into the engineering talent in Costa Rica that we are developing.
In this university, we have almost 300 active researchers. We have approximately 1000 faculty members. These are reasons why we are one of the most important and prestigious universities in the region.
The Central American Group: Can you tell the listeners how the Costa Rican Institute of Technology is linked to external sectors of the country’s economy?
Karla Halabi: Yes, of course. This is very important to mention. The university department in which I work is called the academic and corporate relations center, or the liaison center. We are the connection between the school’s faculty, and the research centers, with all of Costa Rica’s productive sectors. As I mentioned before, we are the main entrance to the university.
For example, this link with the external sector starts with internships. Our students have to apply to work with companies as interns for one semester in order to qualify to receive their academic degrees. They not only just work in a company for six months. They have to go and perform this service according to the requirements of these companies. That is the point at which our external relations start.
In this office, we also manage various different strategic relationships. For example, we have relationships with companies that are already established in Costa Rica and that are currently employing engineering talent in Costa Rica. These include firms like Intel and HP, or, for example, the companies that are located in the Green Park Free Zone. What we do is help the companies deal with the university when they have to access engineering talent in Costa Rica. As a department, we also have a virtual space or a database for companies that wish to contact our alumni. It’s called “Talento Tec.” This kind of relationship between the university and the external sectors is managed from this office.
The Central American Group: Just another quick question. This is for people that may be listening that are thinking of investing in Costa Rica. Do you not only engage companies that are in the country already in the country, but also investors that want to contact you to see what kind of students that you are graduating from your programs?
Karla Halabi: Yes, of course. We, as a department or as a university, also receive potential investors from many places, as well as have relationships with companies located in the country’s free zones. They want access to highly skilled labor from the university. We are kind of a One-Stop-Shop for the companies that wish to come to take advantage of engineering talent in Costa Rica. We communicate to them what are the academic programs that the students access here in order to place them in the companies that they represent.
The Central American Group: How does the university respond to market demand for engineering talent in Costa Rica in the creation of new programs?
Karla Halabi: This is very important. We know that the world is changing so we have a lot of megatrends in academic programs. We try to listen closely to the needs that the market has. For example, we conduct studies to see what are the kind of demands that companies have regarding academic programs.
In the university, for instance, we created a mechatronics engineering program in response to market demands. Also, we offer a master’s degree program in computer engineering, as well as a program in medical devices engineering. We have also initiated some academic programs such as telematics and CCNA networking and CCNP, as well as many others. As I told you, these programs were created because of companies’ demands. We always take notice of the needs of companies. If they need something new, they can go to the university and request that optional courses are created to meet their requirements.
The Central American Group: We many have covered a little bit of this in a previous question but how does the university support the attraction of investments to for Costa Rica? For instance, do you work in close conjunction with the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE)?
Karla Halabi: Yes, of course. For example, the attraction of foreign investment is promoted in collaboration with CINDE. We are the office in which CINDE also comes. What we do here as an office, for example, we schedule different meetings with researchers and professors. This is so that companies seeking engineering talent on Costa Rica can have the answers that they need regarding the specific requirements that they will need met when they decide to establish themselves in Costa Rica. I think that it is important for you to know that we, as a country, have a high skilled workforce that is available to not only national but also international companies. The idea is that we as a university support the attraction of investment to Costa Rica. Not only do we have much engineering talent in Costa Rica, but we also have a strategic location as a country and advantageous access to global markets. What we do as an institution is to support everything that the companies require.
It is very important to also mention that it is not we not only have a mission to bring more investment to the country, but also to retain businesses that are already established and operating in Costa Rica. Fore example, if a company is already here and they have some educational requirements, or the need to deal with government paperwork or ministries, we are here to assist them with these things. Again, we act to attract and retain investment in the country.
The Central American Group: So, you work in the area of retention, as well as in the attraction of new business.
Karla Halabi: We work in both areas. I always say that it is not only necessary to try to attract new business to the country, but also to take actions to make sure that businesses remain here. We as a university. our goal at the university is to support the creation and retention of quality jobs to employ engineering talent in Costa Rica.
The Central American Group: Yes, that is very important. Could you tell us about the university’s extension programs?
Karla Halabi: Yes. We have many extension programs. For example, I can tell you that we as a university lead some economic development initiatives in different regions of Costa Rica. What we try to do is to promote the country as a place to attract investment, and, as I told you before, to create local jobs in science and technology. We work in close coordination with the national government in order to promote the further economic development of the nation. Additionally, we support different agricultural projects and entrepreneurs. We also have a program to teach senior citizens. The teachers of the programs for seniors are students from the university. As student in computer science, or from any other academic program, can teach a class. It is also very important to mention that we also support different kinds of research projects between the universities and the private sector in areas that companies require. We try to help businesses with these needs. Additionally, we also try send students to different parts of the world to complete a portion of their studies internationally.
The Central American Group: After having listened to what you have to say, in terms of attracting investment and providing a qualified workforce, it is correct to say that your organization is extremely important in the formation of engineering talent in Costa Rica. A lot of people, as you know, that are thinking about investing in Costa Rica research the country on the Internet prior to actually contacting you. Because that is the case, could you please provide us with some contact information that people can use to get in touch with you with any questions that they might have about Costa Rica, the Costa Rican Institute of Technology and the students that you graduate from your institution.
Karla Halabi: Yes. It will be a pleasure for me answer all the questions that listeners to this podcast might have. For us as a university, it would be a pleasure to have more companies here in Costa Rica. This is because we need to create more quality jobs here. We have a lot of companies that have been here for more than thirty years that are based in science and technology that provide engineering talent in Costa Rica quality jobs. We will be very much please to be able to help companies that might be thinking of investing in Costa Rica at present. We would like to be of help if they decide to come to Costa Rica.
The Central American Group: Do you have an email address that people can use to contact you?
Karla Halabi: Yes. My name is Karla Halabi. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
The Central American Group: OK. We will include this email address in the transcript of our conversation. I want to thank you for providing some very important information to our listeners, and also, I would like to encourage you to stay well in Costa Rica.
Karla Halabi: Thank you. You too.
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