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​The War for Talent in Aerospace & Defence

  • Publish Date: Posted 4 days ago
  • Author: Jon Armstrong

The talent shortage is hitting the Aerospace and Defence (A&D) industry hard, forcing companies to lower production targets and endangering new programmes. To win the war for talent, companies will need to get creative with their recruitment strategy.

The A&D sector is set to see healthy growth in the next 20 years, including the construction of about 20,000 new aircrafts. This means the shortage of highly-qualified engineers must be addressed – the European market alone is expecting to need 12,500 a year over the next decade.

The main issue seems to be difficulty attracting talent. Of the 120,000 engineers who graduate in Europe each year, only 10,000 decide to work in A&D. The talent shortage is also affecting suppliers, potentially creating “weak links” in the supply chain that could break under the strain of an increase in production.

The battle for talent is also going global, with growing economies like China and India now able to attract international talent. Meanwhile, engineers who graduate in the US are more interested in working for tech giants like Amazon and Apple, and of the 70,000 who graduate each year, only 44,000 are even qualified to work in aerospace.

Key Factors

As well as the rapid pace of innovation, there are several more sector-specific factors behind the talent drought in A&D.

Competition – Competition for skilled engineers is intense in Aerospace & Defence, with the automotive sector often skimming off the best graduates by offering higher starting salaries. A&D companies need to modernise their work compensation models and invest more in marketing and PR.

Demographics – The general issue of an ageing workforce is having a particular impact in A&D, thanks to large-scale defence cutbacks in the mid-90s that created a ‘missing generation’ of 40 to 50-year-old operational talent – arguably the prime years for leadership.

Demand – Demand for highly skilled workers is growing across the board. In the US, for example, the number of requiring advanced judgement and complex actions has outgrown overall employment by a factor of three.

What Needs To Be Done?

Considering the challenges that lie ahead, what do businesses need to do to remain competitive in the war for talent?

Innovate Recruitment Practices

Building your employer brand is key. Be transparent about how your business operates and ready to address any doubts or concerns young workers might have. Under-40s are 61% more likely to take your employer brand into account when deciding whether they want to work for you.

Build a real, responsive social media presence where you actually converse with potential recruits. Try venturing beyond Facebook and Twitter and creating a presence on some of the less traditional platforms too.

If your pockets are as deep as Rolls-Royce’s, you could also try emulating their strategy. They provide financial support to a few hundred PhD students a year. About 25% of them are recruited when they graduate, as well as many new connections being created.

Go Global

Look beyond the West and consider recruiting top engineers from countries like Russia, India, and China. If you can create hiring operations based in these areas, you’ll score valuable talent that your rivals have missed.

Create a Great Working Environment

Highly skilled workers are used to a certain standard of living at home, so they expect more from their working environment. The best talent will have several similarly-paid job offers to choose between, and the company that offers flexible working and truly listens to employees’ wants and needs is likely to win.

Improve Knowledge Transfer

This strategy has nothing to do with recruitment per se; it’s about solving the issue of an ageing workforce by having senior staff pass their knowledge on to younger employees before they retire. Don’t rely on this happening informally; follow the lead of BAE Systems and create an intensive mentoring programme.

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