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Countries That Train Talent Faster Will Attract More Operations

Enrique Sosa - UNAQ


Sofía Garduño By Sofía Garduño | Journalist & Industry Analyst - Thu, 10/19/2023 - 10:11

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Q: UNAQ plays a vital role in training professionals and researchers for the aeronautical sector. What are the university's key objectives?

A: Our mission is to educate professionals and contribute to the technological development of the aerospace sector through educational training and technology development. To achieve this mission, we have three strategic objectives. First, we aim to provide students with well-rounded skills and values. Beyond technical expertise, our focus encompasses ethical conduct and the human element. Second, we strive to become the preferred choice in Mexico for innovative technological services, earning recognition from the aerospace sector as leading problem-solvers. Finally, we seek to offer the most comprehensive portfolio of training and advisory solutions to address the specific needs of the aeronautical and space sectors.

Q: How does UNAQ differentiate itself in its educational model and approach to training professionals for the aeronautical sector? 

A: UNAQ differentiates itself through its flexibility and adaptability. Since its foundation, the university has been able to grow and adjust its services according to the specific needs of the sector. The training we provide for one company in a particular discipline is completely different from the training for another company in the same discipline. We base our approach on their values and process maps. We grow alongside the companies and develop curricula together with them. Our university degrees in engineering and postgraduate programs are continuously adapted to the changes of the industry.

Q: Research plays a crucial role in advancing the aeronautical sector. How does UNAQ foster a culture of research and innovation among its students and faculty?

A: We are working diligently to strengthen our postgraduate programs. UNAQ engages in highly relevant technological development research in collaboration with the Mexican Navy and Air Force. We also engage in frontier research alongside companies like General Electric, which has a laboratory at UNAQ that works on technologies for sustainable aviation. We are constructing a second General Electric laboratory at UNAQ to test aeronautical components that use sustainable aviation fuels, which we hope to inaugurate by the end of the year. 

Q:  What is your view of the global context and the increasing need for specialized talent?

A: There is a shortage of talent in certain fields and disciplines worldwide. The field of aeronautical maintenance faces a significant scarcity, especially in developed countries. As a result, countries like Mexico, India, Turkey and Morocco are being sought after for outsourcing of maintenance activities.

Countries that can produce talent faster will attract more operations. In Mexico, we have a young workforce and we are preparing them. However, aeronautical education is expensive and only a few institutions in the country offer technical training in maintenance within the engineering field. There is indeed a scarcity but, more importantly, there is an increase in cost. Engineers are experiencing the rising cost of education. While it is crucial to aim for a higher number of engineering graduates, many of them are graduating without proficiency in English and without those skills they lose a significant competitive advantage. 

Mexico is making a serious mistake in terms of educational public policy. It would be better to graduate fewer engineers but ensure that all of them are bilingual to provide them with truly relevant opportunities. English proficiency is not only a requirement from companies but also vital to remain up-to-date in their field. By the time content is translated, it is often outdated. Not having a good level of English makes long-term learning challenging.

Q: UNAQ submitted the Strategic Agenda to the Mexican Council for Aerospace Education. What role does COMEA play in promoting the deployment of the agenda?

A: COMEA is the key coordinator of aerospace education in Mexico. This work involved the participation of over 30 universities. The agenda clearly outlines the needs for human resources in the aerospace sector and the need for funding to train them. The main conclusion from the agenda is that despite the significant progress Mexico has made in the past 10 to 20 years, it is still at an early stage in terms of aerospace education. It is crucial for the country to be disciplined and invest in education. Otherwise, the country will be unable to perform more processes with added value. Queretaro, for example, has differentiated itself by attracting investments that bring the most added value.

Q: How does the Strategic Agenda contribute to triple-helix innovation to position Mexico as a builder of specialized professionals in the aeronautical and space sectors? 

A: It will greatly depend on how seriously the government takes it. The talent is there but the necessary actions are not being implemented. The National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) must invest in research in the aerospace sector and provide funding for aerospace equipment for universities that offer these disciplines. We need a true strategy to train teachers in the sector. But these strategies have not been translated into public policy and, without them, the triple helix becomes a myth. The agenda will be useful but to advance, it needs greater commitment from both the federal and local governments. 

Q: What are UNAQ's plans and aspirations to enhance its role as a leading institution for aeronautical education and research? 

A: One of our main challenges lies in expanding enrollment. Last year, we achieved record-breaking enrollment, with 7,000 students in vocational training programs. We started the academic year with 1,200 university students and our goal is to double the enrollment in 2024. The next significant challenge we face is the transition to bilingualism. We want to transform the university into a bilingual institution, with English as the primary language of instruction. This is a project we are planning for the rest of the decade. Another major endeavor is technological development to create specific products and projects for the national industry. We want our innovations to generate Mexican companies and create jobs in Mexico.

When we invest in youth, large returns arrive sooner or later. Queretaro’s government has been highly committed to investing in talent development to foster the aerospace industry. Today, Queretaro is the leader in the industry.

Photo by:   Mexico Business

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