Jorge Gutiérrez de Velasco
Aeronautical University in Queretaro
Expert Contributor

UNAQ: Training Experts to Advance the Aerospace Sector

By Jorge Gutiérrez de Velasco | Wed, 11/04/2020 - 13:49

Higher education institutions in Mexico (IES by its acronym in Spanish) are facing great challenges, and those with educational offerings aimed at the aerospace field experience these in a very real way and with great intensity, especially in this era of pandemic.

For these institutions, training professionals for such a technologically demanding industry involves combining elements that require a great deployment of economic and human resources. For example, introducing the latest technological equipment to young people who have decided to take this path requires finding innovative strategies and the use of new paradigms. The creation of the Strategic Aerospace Agenda of the IES is an endeavor that Mexico will have to face with bravery. Its first goal: to integrate the team of experts that will conduct its construction.

The IES with aerospace offerings have decided to participate in a large coordination effort to create a strategic document, whose fundamental objective is to prepare themselves to provide the Mexican aerospace sector with professionals with knowledge and competences, and thus grow to the levels that Mexico needs to position itself as a key player in the world's aeronautical landscape. This is certainly a visionary exercise that, from its very conception, revealed its complexity, both in terms of resource management and in terms of willingness; bringing together all the IES with aerospace offerings in Mexico and getting them to work in a coordinated effort in its creation has never been done before.

Therefore, it was identified as necessary to prepare an X-ray of the entire higher education system to obtain an inventory throughout Mexico of those institutions that lead aerospace training and to contact the most important public higher education subsystems and iconic institutions in the country to encourage them to join this effort. The subsystems summoned are: The General Directorate of Technological and Polytechnic Universities (DGUTYP), the National Technological Institute of Mexico (TECNM) and the General Directorate of University Higher Education (DGESU), as well as two large iconic institutions in Mexico: the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Through the leadership of these institutions and after a great management effort, it was possible to integrate an initial inventory of 25 institutions throughout Mexico that offer aerospace training, which contributed at least one expert in the aerospace field (professors and researchers) who will represent them in the work of developing this high-level public policy document.

The institutions that will be participating are: 13 from the northwest, two from the northeast, eight from the center and two guest universities from the south of the country. Likewise, the participation by educational systems according to the number of institutions that contribute are: 12 technological and polytechnic universities, seven national technological universities, four autonomous universities, as well as the presence of UNAM and IPN.

The technological and polytechnical universities that will be participating are: Aeronautic University in Queretaro, Apodaca Polytechnic, Chihuahua Polytechnic, Yucatán Polytechnic, Hidalgo Metropolitan Polytechnic, Guaymas Technological, Hermosillo Technological, Nezahualcóyotl Technological, Nogales Technological, Tijuana Technological, Southern Sonora Technological and Yucatán Metropolitan Technological.

The national technological schools that will be working on this initiative are: Chihuahua Technological, Ensenada Technological, Hermosillo Technological, Querétaro Technological, Tijuana Technological, Irapuato Technological and Ecatepec Superior Studies Technological.

The autonomous universities, some with great aerospace experience that joined these works and that depend on DGESU are: Baja California Autonomous University, Chihuahua Autonomous University, Ciudad Juárez Autonomous University and Nuevo León Autonomous University.

The list is completed with the participation of UNAM's High Technology Unit and IPN's School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering.

These twenty-five initial institutions, which contributed 33 academics and researchers, face an interesting task to say the least: to join wills, coordinate, reach agreements and, with great inventiveness, creativity and vision, propose projects that will position them in the medium and long term at the level of the most innovative and flexible educational systems in the world, those that provide relevant answers to the needs of the sector that the professionals they train will serve.

What is the status of these institutes and universities in terms of equipment and facilities? Is this equipment enough? How can students achieve state-of-the-art equipment competences that may not be accessible to these institutions? These are just some of the questions regarding a fundamental issue, but what can we say about the matter of teachers and researchers? Are they enough? Do they have the necessary training? How can they be trained to transmit knowledge about careers that do not yet exist? What should we do to begin their specialization? When should we begin to train them?

And what about the educational offer? Do we know what aerospace careers exist throughout the national territory? Are they sufficient? Will they cover the training needs of the future? What careers should be created so that, when new technologies arrive, Mexico will be prepared to attract the investment that requires them? Under which modalities should this educational offer be delivered; for example, virtually or in dual mode, where the participation of industry is preponderant, if not vital, for the development of professionals that will be required in a post-pandemic era?

As can be seen, the creation of an instrument of this type, an instrument of public policy, strategic and of a high level, will be very useful for the IES themselves, which, if they choose to take a leading role, will have a vision of the steps they must take in order to be better prepared to face the future. Secondly, it will serve government authorities, who will have elements to promote initiatives that transform the educational scene in Mexico, promoting reforms from the legislature. Thirdly, it will benefit the aerospace sector, which will have an inexhaustible source of professionals with useful skills. And finally, it would benefit the young people and professionals of the sector who would have the possibility of becoming productive, happy and useful citizens in society.

The creation of the Strategic Aerospace Agenda for Higher Education Institutions is an initiative that involves great effort and resources, but above all, the challenge of summoning wills in favor of the education that the Mexican aerospace sector deserves.

Photo by:   Jorge Gutiérrez