Economic View: Marcos Rosales
What are the key components and enabling factors that stimulate growth in Mexico’s aerospace sector?
MARCOS ROSALES: In recent years strategic government programmes have brought the aerospace industry to the forefront of the country’s economy, even more so than the automotive industry, which has been the main industrial segment for many years.
The growth of the aerospace industry requires that actors from both the government and private sector work together to capitalise on their respective knowledge and capabilities. It is fundamental that there is an exchange of knowledge and best practices between key players. This can be achieved through industrial clustering.
Mexico is blessed with a number of very important aerospace clusters in the states of Queretaro, Chihuahua and Baja California. Other states such as Guanajuato believe that they too have the industrial and innovative capacity to become major players within the nation’s aerospace ecosystem.
The Guanajuato state government is starting to develop an aerospace cluster with the medium- and long-term goal of replicating the successes of others. Although the guiding hand of the state government is important, it is the intervention, strategy and investment of the federal government that will ultimately elevate Mexico’s position so that it becomes a major international player.
Meanwhile, different government dependencies, such as ProMéxico, the Ministry of Economy and the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT), have their own individual contributions to make to the ecosystem.
In what ways are the links between aerospace manufacturing and MRO facilities fostering research, innovation and growth?
ROSALES: On the one hand, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are more rigidly controlled by their own manufacturing specifications, which they often derive from abroad, but on the other hand, their strategic position within our clusters helps facilitate an exchange of knowledge and best practices between key players.
Although there is no servicing cluster that involves a significant group of MROs, servicing companies leverage links with other institutions – public or private – to deliver the best possible outcomes for customers.
Manufacturing and service providers may possess different objectives, but they both share the same priority: to develop talent and increase capacity and quality throughout the entire value chain. Therefore, in cases where providers are looking for a specific part for an aircraft, their geographic proximity to and institutional links with OEMs help enormously.
Looking at how Queretaro has changed over the past 10 years, the size, scale and scope of development is staggering. This kind of growth not only has ramifications for aerospace manufacturing and the services sector, but also for the country has a whole.
What steps are being taken to ensure that sufficient human capital is available to support the country’s MRO industry?
ROSALES: Above all, this is an industry where English-language proficiency is a fundamental requirement for all employees. As a result, all institutions that offer aerospace-related programmes need to realign their priorities to include bilingualism at the top of their agenda.
Both written and spoken English are vital to building Mexico’s status as a global aerospace hub. However, it is important that the language is not taught as a separate module of any given curriculum, but integrated as part of a broader skill set that is fostered during technical studies.
Although there is still some way to go on this front, an increasing number of MRO providers are signing agreements with schools, universities and other institutions to share their experiences and explore the requirements of the sector. The relevant parties are also supporting the necessary changes to academic programmes.
Another element of the wider drive to develop human capital involves making sure that technicians who already have some experience build on their skills through on-the-job training. Due to the stringent international regulations placed on the industry, the time needed for a technician to become fully qualified is around 18-24 months, so for companies wishing to expand rapidly, the quality and availability of human capital remains among their key concerns.