The aerospace skills gap is a global problem. The demand for aeroplanes is increasing and it’s predicted that at the current rate, by 2035, an extra 29,000 passenger and freight aircrafts will be needed . This fast paced growth has worsened the skills gap and is placing further pressure on companies to fill entry level positions.
The millennial era
The aerospace sector has a growing number of projects in the pipeline alongside a candidate pool that isn’t increasing in size fast enough. In the UK for example, officials predict that 87,000 new engineers will be needed to fully service the expected growth.
The industry needs to change its reliance on senior experts who are approaching retirement in the next decade. While web platforms such as emindhub.com which allows the industry to access active retirees across the world are growing in popularity, they are definitely not the only solution to combatting the talent shortage.
The millennial generation will play a key role in the future of aerospace. Millennials are active on social media and increasingly drawn to cutting edge technologies and this is something that the aerospace industry needs to take advantage of. At its best, aerospace engineering is focused on sophisticated innovations and it is this image that needs to be promoted more often to graduates and entry level candidates.
Increasing salaries is not an entirely viable solution either. Aerospace needs to position itself as a field that is full of excitement, fulfilment, with potential for significant career progression.
Chris Taylor, Head of Aerospace at Spencer Ogden said: “Generous salaries do help but they’re not the answer - and not just because raising salaries throughout an industry as big as this one would cost millions. The new generation of engineers is attracted to companies that are developing innovative technologies and are not afraid to push boundaries.”
A combined effort
Businesses and government bodies have joined forces in an attempt to attract and subsequently retain talent, however these initiatives alone are not enough. Schools are also actively encouraging more students to explore engineering as a career path. The good news is that these changes seem to having a positive effect. Statistics show that A-level maths and physics entrants have increased significantly in the past decade; subjects which are the first steps to a career in engineering.
Last year, aircraft giant Airbus reported that of 12,000 jobs available in Europe, it was only able to fill 25% due to the extreme shortage of talent.
Mark Stewart, general manager and HR director at Airbus, and chair of the Aerospace Working Group with the AGP said: “It’s important that we continue to develop the skills we need in the future and there is no better place to start than with school children.”
Stronger emphasis must be placed on the relationship between engineering and schools, it would be in the aerospace sector’s best interests to start introducing work placements as soon as possible.
Organisations such as the Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP) are joining the effort to tackle the widespread problem. The partnership offers an Aerospace Industrial Cadets Programme which provides a framework for employers to enable them to provide workplace experience, ensuring young people are developing relevant skills.
Learning and development
Apprenticeships remain at the heart of building a future aerospace workforce. The UK government has pledged to deliver three million apprenticeships by 2020 and has placed significant emphasis on initiatives such as employer-led apprenticeships which are equipping young workers with the correct long-term skills. Apprenticeships are one of the best platforms to attract people under 25 and have the power to create prepared and qualified workers thus bringing a wealth of benefits to both the employer and individual.
While many companies choose to invest their time in competing for an experienced workforce largely by increasing wages, others choose to invest more time and money in the training of graduates and entry level staff, providing them with much needed on-the-job skills. By showing greater consideration to attracting this segment of the candidate market, employers can expect a logical increase in candidates who have genuine interest in the sector, with a drive and determination to succeed. Many hiring managers are aware of the lack of practical experience available and if they want graduates to hit the ground running they will need to improve training programmes on offer.
Aerospace is a crucial, international industry at the forefront of technology and this needs to be promoted more frequently and effectively to graduates. The sector needs to adopt a more aggressive approach towards promoting career progression and highlighting opportunities across the field. Too few trainees are being recruited across the industry and this needs to change. If the sector is not adaptive in its approach, the skills gap will only grow. Narrowing the gap can be achieved, but the work needs to start now and it need to be focused on the youth.