TBY talks to Jorge Gutiérrez de Velasco Rodríguez, Rector of Universidad Aeronáutica en Querétaro (UNAQ), on the importance of the aerospace discipline, developing competency, and the sector's key actors.

Jorge Gutiérrez de Velasco Rodríguez
Jorge Gutierrez has a degree in engineering from the Instituto Tecnológico de Querétaro and a master's degree from the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro. He served in various roles at the Universidad Tecnológica del Estado de Querétaro from 1997 until 2006, when he left to manage the creation of the Universidad Aeronáutica en Querétaro (UNAQ). Since the founding of the UNAQ in 2007, he has served as Rector.

Why is it important to have specific aerospace disciplines at the university?

This is not always the case. Industrial sectors usually have a talent pool within which the base is mainly technical people who do the manufacturing and assembly of goods and components. This is true of the engines, landing gear, avionics, interiors, and many other components that make up an aircraft. This base of talent usually constitutes around 70% of the workforce. The skills required for this work are similar in the automotive industry, home appliances, and IT hardware sectors, but the aerospace industry is nothing like those other manufacturing sectors. It is, therefore, important to have people who are properly trained in as close as possible to a real-life environment in which they will develop competencies, such as those for the proper working of the aircraft that we usually use. Aerospace transportation services are the safest in the world, and maintaining this is a matter of regulations. Authorities in every country have defined what training conditions are required for people to have the license to perform the maintenance on a component or an aircraft, or to dispatch an aircraft as safe and ready to fly.

What is the importance of establishing links with the private sector?

Connecting with the private sector is the important activity we need to keep up with. Initially, the companies defined the conditions under which they would come into Mexico and Querétaro State. They wanted land to set up their workshops and manufacturing facilities, and after that they wanted technical, management, and R&D people. The most important issue for us was how we could develop the necessary competencies. The only way we figured out how to develop competencies is through the technical knowledge that the companies have transferred to our trainers. This has allowed us to define and co-design a curriculum and list of competencies for that technical training and our bachelor's degree programs. Furthermore, we have done this based on the number of people the companies need for every position in their plants to set up and run their businesses. This is the main idea behind our strong links with the companies; they train our trainers, and we are then able to understand and fulfill their needs. The other reason is to have a closed cycle whereby our graduates then become eligible for employment with the companies. We view success as having our graduates appropriately employed within these companies, developing their own businesses, or being part of an R&D center working in the sector.

Where do you see the Mexican aerospace industry and UNAQ in 2020?

We would like to be the key player in identifying what the needs are for companies in the short, medium, and long term, together with the key actors in the sector, such as the Mexican Federation of Aerospace Industries, A.C. (FEMIA). I am the President of the R&D Commission within FEMIA, and we are involved in many other organizations as well. UNAQ is at the heart of the aerospace industry, as we have been able to understand the industry's needs for the past 12 years, resulting in our success in setting up training processes to further develop the industry. UNAQ is a key player for technical training, middle and top-level management, and R&D activities in Mexico. This is because of the relationship we have established and will continue to build over the short, medium, and long term. West Virginia University is 112 years old and its aerospace and mechanical engineering department is ranked 22nd in the US. It looked at Mexico and UNAQ and decided to enter into a joint venture with us to offer a double degree master's program, with one year at each university. We are pursuing a similar program with Cranfield University, which is a private university in the UK. Cranfield is a top institution for developing aerospace industry R&D solutions.