Enrique Sosa
President
UNAQ
/
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UNAQ Educating the Future of the Aerospace Industry

By Sofía Hanna | Wed, 04/20/2022 - 09:45

Q: How did UNAQ’s curriculum adapt to digitalization as a result of the pandemic?

A: The pandemic made all institutions rethink their approach to higher education, in particular for aerospace. UNAQ is possibly the top aeronautical university in Latin America and one of the best in the world. Some of our programs are 70 percent practical so during the pandemic, our professors faced a major challenge in educating remotely. Some programs were paused during this period but we are working to restart them as we move toward remote learning modules and develop new content and platforms inside our VR lab. The pandemic taught us that we need to maximize virtual learning content for aeronautical maintenance.

 

Q: How does UNAQ collaborate internationally and how do these affiliations affect the university’s programs?

A: UNAQ is a key role player in the establishment of companies in the State of Querétaro. For some aeronautical global companies, 100 percent of their Mexican staff is trained at UNAQ. The university is usually considered by companies and governments willing to invest in Querétaro because the state is aware that the formation of human capital generates investment and adds value.

 

In the academic field, UNAQ has international recognition with universities, embassies, and institutions from countries such as Colombia, Canada, USA, France, Spain, United Kingdom, among others, for the development of research projects, student mobility, conferences, virtual classes, study trips, among other activities. We are currently working with Purdue University on the prototype of a water tunnel at UNAQ.

 

In addition to this, we have 4 representative teams dedicated to participating in international unmanned aircraft competitions, experimental rocketry, rovers, and pico-satellites. They are very enthusiastic young people who have put the name of UNAQ and Mexico very high by winning and participating in these NASA and SAE Aerodesign competitions, to name a few.

 

Q: How involved is UNAQ in the recruitment and hiring of its graduates and how can you help to create more opportunities for local talent? 

A: We have a variety of models depending on the program. Our higher education programs include an internship during which students develop a project with a company, which often hires a large number of graduates. We also have a job center that works with the local cluster to help our students build professional relationships.

Some students will find jobs in other regions but our main focus is to work with the local cluster to close a virtuous circle in which the government invests in human capital, academia does its part and the industry provides job offers. Companies in the US are using aggressive recruiting tactics but this speaks to their lack of local technical talent and the aging of their workforce. Mexico has potential thanks to its younger population and training capabilities. In the long term, international companies will not just look for talent in Mexico but move their operations here.

 

Q: What efforts can the government take to avoid the international relocation of Mexican talent?

A: The best support the government can provide is to give young people the opportunity to study and to make good jobs available. Queretaro’s model was established on those principles. By investing in establishing companies here, young people can take advantage of the opportunities these companies create. Our students do not depend on the government; they need opportunities to develop their capabilities and competitive job offers.

 

Q: What technology trends will disrupt the industry and how will this impact your academic offering?

A: There are numerous innovative trends in aviation and maintenance, such as electrification of aircraft, hydrogen-fueled airplanes, lightweight vehicles for urban transportation, aerial taxis, autonomous planes for package delivery, airplanes capable of traveling at 10 times the speed of sound, composite materials and microelectronics and the arrival of 5G and 6G in telecommunications.

This year, we will inaugurate a new on-campus laboratory with General Electric for data sciences to develop sustainable technologies in aviation. Having a partner like General Electric speaks to the quality of our campus and the efforts being made to remain on top of current trends alongside international industry leaders. We are also working with aerial and maritime forces to remain on the vanguard of areas like applications of composite materials for their safety; the training of advance applications of composites, which are being developed by Safran in Queretaro, is in charge of our university. Continuing to advance toward digital platforms will reduce our dependence on the installed equipment and strengthen our capabilities for digital production, another major trend.

Our students are certified in software for mechanical design and alongside Siemens, we offer a low-coding certification for engineers and technicians. The aerospace industry has a shortage of talent, especially of programmers, but through this certification, companies will be able to cover this need and programmers will only have to handle more complicated tasks. The airplanes that will fly in 2030 will be designed today and next year, we will have to start manufacturing them. We are already in the future of innovative technologies.

 

Q: How has UNAQ made sure that its academic curriculums follow the industry’s true and current needs?

A: The higher education programs are designed based on clients’ needs and in some cases those of the state. Sometimes the state wants to develop certain skills that are not industry-related to attract investment from other industries and solve social problems that may or may not be related to the industry. For postgraduates, we offer a complete program that links research to industry problems. Almost all of our postgraduate students come from companies looking to increase or create specific technological development.

 

Q: What role does UNAQ play in the sector’s recovery and how soon do you think the industry will return to its pre-pandemic levels?

A: UNAQ aims to be a facilitator for the industry’s recovery. The industry in Queretaro will likely reach its pre-pandemic levels in 4Q22 but globally the sector might not recover until the summer of 2023. Our role is to respond to the rapid growth in the demand for human capital. Jobs in Queretaro’s aerospace industry fell to 8,500 in 2021 but we expect that the sector will need over 4,500 professionals in 2022. A large number of those workers will pass through UNAQ to be certified. We are happy to contribute and are ready for this challenge.

 

Universidad Aeronáutica en Queretaro (UNAQ) is a public university that aims to train professionals and researchers in the aeronautical sector. It is part of the General Direction of Technological and Polytechnic Universities.

Sofía Hanna Sofía Hanna Journalist and Industry Analyst