Aerospace careers and postgraduates’ programs of the future
Mexico has great, productive, human capital, mainly among its young people. It is necessary, however, for government, academia and industry to join forces so that the new generations acquire the knowledge and technical skills that the Mexican aerospace sector will require in the future. Determining what career paths and post-graduate programs should be offered is a necessary step that will allow all players to act and focus their efforts.
The methodology for the creation of the proposal. From the presidency of the Mexican Council for Aerospace Education (COMEA) and with the support of a group of academics and researchers from the Aeronautical University in Queretaro, we established a methodology to determine career paths and programs at the levels of higher education — technician, engineering, specialty, master's degree and doctorate — for the system of public and private universities and technological institutes to develop and make available to Mexican youth, who in the medium and long term will become professionals in the aerospace industry.
As a first element, it was necessary to analyze the technological trends that will impact the sector by 2030. In doing so, it was easy and difficult at the same time to imagine the technical skills that an engineer working in the future aerospace design, manufacturing and maintenance segments will need to acquire today. As an example, we can talk about fully electric, self-manned aircraft, as well as those with vertical takeoff and landing, just to mention some of these technological trends that are already a reality and that will be popularized in the medium and long term.
The second element was to review the study plans and programs offered by the leading universities and technological institutes in the aerospace world. Knowing the perspective of these aerospace educational super leaders gave us an idea of the vision they have of this future and how they are approaching it. Courses and the full range of career paths and post-graduate programs at all levels were analyzed.
Universities such as Cranfield University in England, Samara University in Russia and Paul Sabatier University in France were considered. It was impressive to learn about the range of disciplines related to space that the University of Samara in Russia has available, or the infrastructure that Cranfield University has, as well as the operating model of the Technological Institute of Aeronautics of Brazil, which practically it is embedded in the operations of national aerospace manufacturer EMBRAER and whose structure depends on the armed forces of that country.
The last element that was considered for the elaboration of the career paths and post-graduate programs proposal of the aerospace future was to take an introspective look at Mexico’s own productive vocation. In other words, there are technological trends in which our country is not a leader and it would take longer to venture into these fields of knowledge. That does not mean that Mexico cannot venture into these areas; it means that the Mexican aerospace sector has strengths and these increase the opportunity to take advantage of some of the gains that come with venturing into these trends.
One of the deliverables resulting from the development of the Aeronautical and Space Strategic Agenda for Higher Education Institutions 2030, which we have discussed in previous articles, was the analysis of productive vocations in Mexico. Today, we know that Mexico's vocation is 76 percent manufacturing, 12 percent is focused on maintenance (MRO) and the other 12 percent on engineering services. Mexico has developed great capacities in the areas of machining, composite materials, assembly of electrical harnesses, design and manufacturing and maintenance of parts for motors and engines. There is also a great opportunity in the design, manufacturing and retrofitting of interiors. As can be seen, Mexico has several strengths and in the face of a future full of opportunities, taking a look at them would undoubtedly give it the impetus to take advantage of what is coming.
In this way, the initial logic to create this proposal considered three elements: future trends, the analysis of the educational offer of leading institutions in the world and the productive vocations of Mexico; however, on the way to its determination, an additional conceptual challenge arose: the vocation of our country is mainly manufacturing, its strengths are found there; however, should Mexico continue along this path?
The proposal presented here considered the following: Mexico's vision for this sector should be to move from being a country dedicated to the production of aerospace parts, to a country that can design, manufacture and market aircraft, while moving from the field of manufacturing, toward a knowledge-based economy, where the generation of ideas, innovation and design are a relevant element in the composition of the generation of wealth in the aerospace sector.
The proposal. The following tables show the aerospace educational offer of the future for Mexico. In table 1, we can see career paths and post-graduate programs that are more aligned to the strengths of Mexico. In table 2 is the proposal of those educational programs that, for their deployment, it is necessary to make a greater effort and invest more resources; therefore, in order of priorities, they are in second and third place.
The analysis of this proposal gives us valuable information: of the educational programs proposed for the different educational levels, 36 percent are at the Higher University Technician (TSU) educational level, 11 percent are at the undergraduate level and 53 percent are post-graduate programs. The message seems to be clear: in the future, higher education institutions must strengthen and increase their post-graduate offer and, secondly, their offer at the technical level. There are already several signs indicating that this is the right strategy: a graduate in mechanics, mechatronics or chemistry can do an aerospace specialty or a master's degree and then enter the aerospace productive sector, but in an accelerated way.
Conclusions. The proposal presented here, can be a starting point of significant value for those universities and technological institutes that wish to enter, strengthen or expand their aerospace educational offer and, in turn, establish a new strategic course for the aerospace future of Mexico.