Jorge Gutiérrez de Velasco
Rector
Universidad Aeronáutica en Querétaro
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Expert Contributor

Superior Academies’ Aerospace Agenda

By Jorge Gutiérrez de Velasco | Thu, 09/10/2020 - 09:22

The aerospace sector in Mexico is acknowledged as among the most dynamic and with the highest rate of growth in the last decade. With the objective of helping the industry return to its path after the dramatic changes that the world is going through, the Mexican tertiary public educational system needs to realize an outstanding effort of integration, introspection and visualization, which, at the same time, guides both local and federal authorities to enforce the correct policies in order to provide certainty and assuredness to investors and attract them back to Mexico. 
Having said that, within the international scene, there are several factors that led to Mexico becoming a leader in foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows within the aeronautical sector, given that between 2007 and 2016, FDI accounted for US$3.285 billion. Among the factors that triggered this dynamism are safety, the telecommunications infrastructure, social stability and of course, labor force availability with the training required by a sector with a vast technological development. 

With regard to the latter factor, labor force, it is important to recognize that the national tertiary public educational system in Mexico is confronting significant challenges arising from the pandemic, such as unemployment and student drop-out rates originated by a fall in family income. It is because of this that we are obliged to understand in-depth the workforce needs of the national aeronautical sector to continue to guarantee the availability and top quality of those who are seeking a post in this industry. By meeting all of these points, the national industry will have the ability to recover the previous growth levels it had before the pandemic. 
As a consequence of this reality, it is in our interest to outline a forward-looking roadmap that clearly defines the future of our tertiary public educational system, graduating enough professionals with the requisite knowledge and abilities that allow them to have an outstanding performance in the different posts they will occupy once hired. 
This roadmap, or strategic plan, inevitably is going to place our educational system outside of its comfort zone because by joining a forward-looking view, a strong academic-industry relationship, being daring and competitive, it will be necessary to do a deep and objective exercise of self-criticism and analysis. That means no longer ignoring the elephant in the room, admitting that the problem exists and accepting that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.

As with every strategic plan, when it comes to planning its structure, an antagonistic dichotomy arises: it is simple but complex at the same time. It is simple because once it has a goal, it is necessary to determine precisely who we are and once we have done that, define what we have to do to achieve that future at which we are to arrive. On the other hand, it is complex because to get to know who we are can be a job of titanic dimensions, and more so in terms of education. Thinking of the steps we need to take to turn that vision into a reality requires reflecting in detail on the required resources, approaching technology that perhaps is not available at the time, changing public policies that can be fitted in the maze of history, facing the epitome of all the things that prevent us from taking off and making the necessary changes to the federal educational law in Mexico. 

Turning a strategic agenda into a valuable instrument of public policy needs to neatly meet various aspects. These including: 


1. Integrating all the actors within the aerospace sector and tertiary public education in Mexico. This is there where iconic institutions in terms of education are found, such as: Instituto Politécnio Nacional, a pioneer in the training of aeronautical engineers; Universidad Nacional Autonóma de México, which has enormous significance because it established an engineering faculty as well as  technology development  centers; Tecnólogico Nacional de México, with campuses in all the regions that are strategic for the sector: Universidad Autonóma de Nuevo León, with an important impact on northern Mexico; and the public universities in each of the states and the system of technological and polytechnic universities with a presence in each of the most representative clusters in the industry. 

2. Determining the needs of the national aerospace sector. Talking about these needs in the global context, we must address the needs of the aerospace industry worldwide and these are to be considered as one variable of big impact in the new normality.

3. Defining a vision of the future of the Mexican tertiary public educational system to attend to that strategic sector. This vision, if accomplished, will allow Mexico to be positioned as a game changer in the training of labour globally for its quality and availability, resulting in helping the sector to thrive. 

4. Creating an inventory of the abilities related to aeronautical training of the tertiary public education system. This radiography should consider at least the following matters: infrastructure, teachers, researchers, the link with the industry, enrolment and strategic location of the education centers.

5. Determining far-reaching programs and projects. These will have to be deployed vertically in each academic institution and with different impact depending on each institution, as well as horizontally, which is to say transversally, impacting all the education-related organizations in the same way.  

It is this concrete idea that we want to share: the tertiary public educational system with an aerospace offer, with degrees in upper level technician, engineering, masters and postgraduate programs, requires an important exercise of analysis of the national aerospace needs; based on this analysis, it must outline a vision of the key role academia must play to contribute to the development and wellness of the sector it serves; it should then determine the steps that must be taken at the national and local level; and finally, implement the plan in an exceptional way. This plan is called the Superior Academies’ Aerospace Agenda, emerging as a crucial instrument of the national public policy that will guide the public and industrial sectors toward what we need to be from the perspective of a superior aerospace education in order to achieve wellness in the long term.