Education Underpins DevelopmentThu, 12/01/2016 - 14:57
Q: How has the university contributed to the consolidation of the aerospace industry in Queretaro?
A: UNAQ was established as part of the government’s commitment to encourage the Canadian company Bombardier Aerospace to establish operations in the state. The government assumed two levels of commitment, to establish an intensive training program for the first technicians who make electrical harnesses and aero structures and to create an institution that could guide the entire industrial sector’s development. UNAQ was built to create the educational conditions that would capture the attention of important aerospace companies.
The value proposal also involved establishing an intensive trainingprogram.Iwasentrustedwiththeresponsibilityof forming an instructive project that would attract Bombardier. We began analyzing the evolution of other aerospace manufacturing clusters. Studies of several cities, Wichita and Seattle in the US, Toulouse in France and Montreal, Canada indicated the defining characteristics of successful clusters, which contributed to UNAQ’s development. We designed and built a faux-factory, which is part of the university, to attend the formative needs of the students.
We work alongside the Mexican air force to develop better technicians. As a result, UNAQ can educate technicians, professionals, engineers, researchers and lead all aerospace activities. This is a feature that no other state in Mexico can boast. For this reason, the university actively participates in diverse forums and we have a permanent seat at the Mexican Aerospace Federation. We also educate researchers and develop new technology as well. The university welcomes other aerospace companies that want to join us in these projects so that our efforts reach far beyond Queretaro.
Q: What competitive advantages have made Queretaro stand out as an aerospace hub?
A: When Bombardier came to the country, the state devised an attractive value proposal for the OEM. Proximity to Mexico City topped the state’s list of benefits. Besides an educational institute, the Mexican government created an industrial hub inside the Queretaro International Airport property to meet the required conditions of aerospace manufacturers, complemented by access to the airport’s runway. Queretaro’s industry is not as exhaustive as Baja California or Sonora but it has strategic companies that make more pieces with added value, which was the university’s goal.
Regarding the country’s exports, 37 percent is produced in Queretaro, with only 18 percent of the workforce. Our goal is to be a national and international reference for the impact that our production and top-class facilities have on our graduates. The credibility we generate for our country has led us to develop university courses, technical training and research expertise and even to develop technology. The state has managed to attract other important companies such as Airbus.
Q: What direct support do you offer to aerospace companies investing in Mexico?
A: The intention of our educational programs is to offer quality that helps attract investment. Any aerospace business that is new to the state passes through UNAQ because we support the rapid establishment of manufacturing or maintenance activities. TechOps, among many manufacturing companies based in Queretaro, has benefited from this helping hand. We support a company through the whole process, from location to training programs, until they are fully productive. This reassures companies they will be competitive and see a return on their investment within a specific period of time.
UNAQ is a public entity that offers several options for technical studies. Our offer of more than 150 courses for aerospace manufacturing and maintenance guarantees talented human capital in the state. The university degrees available are vocational, for advanced technicians in aeronautical maintenancem aerospace mechanics and design. Both programs are officially recognized by FEMIA.
Q: Which skillsets have you identified to be the most relevant to companies in the industry?
A: Every company has specific requirements but the most basic skills are technical abilities. Fluency in English is necessary to understand manuals and to contact foreign suppliers. Upper managers are more likely to need these language skills, along with leadership training. All our graduates must master teamwork and the ability to work with people from all over the world.
To become competitive globally, graduates need technical skills in engineering. This led us to establish our Master’s degree program. Queretaro’s interesting ecosystem, including an international airport and satellite industrial parks, demanded a specialized university to train staff for incoming companies. The National Center for Aeronautics Technology caters to testing needs, certification processes, design requests and engineering, among others. This has made the aero cluster one of the most competitive in the country and helped Queretaro attract almost 50 percent of all foreign investment in recent years.
Q: How are you promoting the university to become a global reference?
A: UNAQ has been working to become a reference for 10 years, since we made our first institutional development plan. By the year 2020, we see the university as an international reference. To meet this goal, we have developed relations with French, Spanish, Canadian and US institutions in every academic, engineering and MSc program we manage. We also have diplomatic relations with Quebec in Canada and some US states, as well as private and public institutions in France.
We enabled and developed the Mexican-French campus for aeronautical studies. This project was formalized by former Presidents Calderón and Sarkozy and ratified by President Hollande and President Peña Nieto. This binational project covers aerospace training and has the recognition of the French Ministry of Education, the Mexican Ministry of Education (SEP), the Government of Queretaro, Safran, Airbus, DGAC and EASA. The project is unique in Latin America. This institution has the characteristics and capacities of an EASA PART 147 laboratory to develop high- level maintenance expertise. Thanks to the agreements signed by Calderón and Sarkozy, Mexico and France manage more than 110 deals not only in the aerospace sector but also between tourism and biotechnological companies.
Q: What are the university’s plans for the aero cluster?
A: To consolidate our work in research, applied investigation skills will demand special capacities inside our institution. We must work on this offering of technology solutions to attract companies that bring added value to Mexico and to produce entrepreneurs. Next, UNAQ wants to develop partnerships with institutions in the UK, US and Canada, countries that could accelerate the development of our sector. We will continue talks with the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Education, requesting more resources or funds to be assigned only to aeronautical projects. Working alongside the IPN or UNAM, educational institutions must shift their views from regional to national to consolidate the work we have carried out in the last decade.