Mexico’s Sonoran government means business when it comes to building a skilled labor force – and that is good news for aerospace manufacturers.
With construction of a technological institute in Guaymas starting late this month, September will mark the beginning of studies for its first hundred-plus enrolled students, Enrique Hudson observes. Hudson manages The Offshore Group’s Roca Fuerte Industrial Park, home to one of the fastest-growing clusters in the Mexican aerospace industry. (Based in Tucson, Ariz., The Offshore Group is a corporation providing business services and infrastructure to companies in other looking to establish cost-effective low-risk production in Mexico.)
“A significant investment is being made here,” Hudson notes. “The government of the State of Sonora developed a study on the issue, and the results reflected that having such educational opportunities available to students would support the growth of the Guaymas aerospace cluster, and would create local jobs for local citizens.”
Indeed, the country’s aeronautical industry has grown exponentially in recent years. Today more than 260 U.S. and European aerospace companies manufacture in Mexico, up from 100 in 2004. Mexico currently employs 31,000 skilled aerospace workers, and that number is expected to skyrocket to 111,000 by 2020 – representing an increase of roughly 360 percent.
While The Offshore Group has partnered with a technical university in Hermosillo to design machining training programs providing basic skills for aerospace workers, offerings at the university in Guaymas would take learning to the next level, Hudson notes. Offshore Group management has met with its local plant managers and engineers for curriculum input. University instructors have developed teaching plans, and the Sonoran government stands solidly behind the process to the tune of approximately $2.2 million.
“We’ve worked together for months trying to fulfill the precision-machining needs that now exist in the aerospace and other industries in Guaymas,” Hudson explains. “As an integral part of this program, there is a strong linkage between the school and private industry. Students can participate in actual manufacturing projects.”
Areas of instruction at the new university will include English, mathematics, metrology, industrial organization, chemical and manufacturing processes, statistics, engineering, quality control and blueprint reading, along with courses on environmental issues and security, health and safety, Hudson says. Other course topics include aeronautic materials, welding, special processes, electricity, hydraulic systems and heat-treating.
A “Technical Apprentice Diploma” can be earned in two years’ time, with the opportunity for a student to earn his or her engineering degree in another two years.
“The opportunity to become engineers has had a great response in the Guaymas community,” Hudson affirms. “(Because) the industry and the school system have been involved in the program design, the pertinence of the program lines up with all of the industry’s needs.
“The government is very interested in turning this region into the pre-eminent manufacturing area for aerospace turbine technology in Mexico, (as well as for) special processing operations,” he adds. “I see a lot of commitment from the state government in working to bring these types of companies to our region. They have seen this as a great opportunity for the people of Sonora to grow and develop their skills, and improve the quality of their lives with local aerospace manufacturers.”
In addition to being near the U.S. border and having low worker turnover, Guaymas offers other benefits to corporations considering moving their aerospace operations to Mexico.
“We actually have manufacturing client company executives and personnel who have purchased summer homes here,” Hudson says. “Guaymas is not only about the aerospace industry or manufacturing. It was once, and still is, a fishing port – but it is also a center for tourism, agriculture and other economic activities.”