From education to employment

How the aerospace sector can fix its chronic skills shortage​

The aerospace industry is at a pivotal moment. As it plots a path towards advanced digitalisation and the adoption of new technology, the focus is shifting toward the delivery of a sustainable future for flight and greater economies for OEMs and operators. But there’s a snag – technological advancement is anchored by people and our industry is facing a chronic shortage of skills.

We are starting to see this shortfall impact transformation programmes and the delivery of projects. A recent study, published by BAE Systems Digital Intelligence, revealed that more than 97% of decision makers in aerospace, defence and government are now struggling to maintain a competitive edge across data, people and technology.

The importance of developing a digital advantage through people

While technology and digitalisation have the potential to mitigate the various risks associated with the skills shortage, we need to acknowledge the importance of attracting diverse talent with the varied skillsets required, to engineer and build the next generation of solutions for the sector.

To drive further efficiencies and add value to effective digitalisation across the engineering lifecycle, businesses need to focus on developing long-term solutions to reduce the ever-widening digital skills gap.

Increase cross-fertilisation of technology and people

Technology plays a key role in transformation and it’s time for aerospace to tap into the potential of working with existing and emerging technologies from other industries. Partnering with organisations and people outside of the industry can enable firms to embrace the application of transferable technologies and agile working methodologies.

Cross-fertilisation between aerospace’s existing talent pools and complementary expertise in parallel industries could enable the industry to unlock greater through-life value, by reducing manufacturing and maintenance costs.  Having a willingness to collaborate with external expertise and partnering with non-aerospace companies will be key to enhancing operational efficiencies within industry. This will require us to improve processes, by accelerating design timescales and reducing testing times, along with associated costs.

Improving talent retention through training and upskilling

As part of exploring next-generation products and services, the aerospace industry has defined clear sustainability goals and the race is on to be the first to deliver innovation in this area. For me, this means that to achieve engineering excellence, we must look to augment our traditional skillsets with an entrepreneurial mindset, so that every engineer is primed to think about customer need, innovation and delivering on business goals.

To create a culture of upskilling and a desire among talent to look beyond traditional paths of learning for aerospace engineers, we need to build new learning programmes that provide engineers with training in complimentary or emerging technologies and in building the digital skills they need to thrive in our industry.

I firmly believe that technology like AI will help us to optimise automated solutions for repetitive tasks. We will, however, always need engineers to drive innovation and concept work. As the skills needed across the lifecycle rapidly evolve, it’s important to ensure that these engineers have access to the right training programs to develop future skills – ones that complement what they know today, augmented with the ability to harness and make best use of emerging technologies.

Repositioning the sector for a brighter future

Looking ahead, the aerospace industry has a great opportunity to shine a light on the innovation it is leading on, positioning engineering as an attractive career opportunity where people work on solving the biggest challenges facing their generation. We can attract the talent we need in our sector if we grasp this opportunity to position aerospace as an industry at the forefront of new technologies, contributing to Net Zero and defining a new future for globalised mobility.

As the scarcity of top talent continues to impact the industry, now is the time for business leaders to adopt and implement industry-wide initiatives that are in-line with the shifting personal, societal, and environmental values of the next generation of engineers. This involves understanding that the new generation of workers have a different set of expectations and priorities about who they work for and how they work.

By fostering a culture of collaboration, continuous development (to remain competitive) and a strong commitment towards sustainability, aerospace can acquire and retain the innovative thinkers with key digital and engineering skills it needs – setting our industry up for continued success.

By Jeff Hoyle, Executive Vice President Global Aerospace & Defence at Expleo

Related Articles