Meeting future talent needs in the UK Aerospace and Defence sector

Global competition for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) talent is squeezing the UK’s aerospace and defence (A&D) sector, leaving them struggling to secure the skills they require. As hiring plans fail to solve this problem, A&D businesses must focus on reskilling the workers they already have if they wish to succeed.

Despite strong growth projections for 2024, the UK’s A&D sector remains hampered by a chronic skills shortage. There are currently more than 10,000 open STEM vacancies across the sector – and it is impacting the industry with lowered productivity, lost revenues and an inability to replace highly skilled workers who are leaving for opportunities elsewhere.

Unfortunately, global competition for STEM workers is not the only talent problem affecting A&D. A mix of deeply-rooted issues are also driving the sector’s talent squeeze, forcing many candidates to look outside the industry for new opportunities, or to seek roles with A&D organisations in overseas markets such as the US, Germany, France and Italy.

So what is going wrong?

Deep-rooted problems impact the A&D sector’s ability to recruit STEM skilled candidates
Slow vetting procedures UK candidates can wait up to 18 months to achieve necessary security clearances – many refuse to wait that long.
Lack of infrastructure to handle volume hiring Slow and unwieldy recruitment processes are damaging the candidate experience and discouraging talent from further discourse.
Locality A&D jobs are 2.4 and 2.2 more times concentrated in the North West and South West of the UK, often away from major cities, making them less attractive to younger candidates.
Intense competition from other industries Industries such as life sciences, pharmaceuticals and consumer technologies are competing in the same talent pool as A&D employers.  Often, these competitors offer faster, more candidate-friendly recruitment processes and higher compensation.
Low diversity levels The sector struggles with ethnic, gender and age diversity – having only 20.5% female and 7% ethnic minority full time employees, and with 40.1% of male and 29.1 female workers over the age of 50.
Pay parity Fierce competition from overseas and outside the A&D sector is escalating compensation offers, leaving many of the UK’s smaller A&D organisations unable to compete.
Over-reliance on hiring managers who lack adequate training Frontline hiring managers are expected to identify key transferable skills, but in many cases they lack the training to do so, and may even be unaware of an organisation’s talent shortage.

Where does this leave the UK’s aerospace & defence industries?

A difficult mix of ageing workers, global markets, intense competition, deep-rooted recruitment problems within the A&D sector, and a national shortage of digital skills has left the UK’s A&D organisations facing a dilemma – demand for their products and services is high, but there are simply not enough new recruits available to meet current talent needs. This leaves the industry with one solution: When hiring alone cannot fix the talent problem, reskilling the workers they already have is the only way A&D organisations can succeed.

But, to achieve this goal, employers must understand that effective reskilling is reliant on outcome-based solutions that drive a training programme towards a purposeful result, not a loose idea of improvement. This means instead of conducting programmes that deliver new, generic skills for all their employees, businesses should provide targeted training to a select group of workers, giving them the skills and capability to achieve a specific goal in the future – such as a new product design or major systems change.

How can A&D employers implement such a plan?

How to achieve a successful A&D reskilling programme in seven important steps:

  1. Conduct a skills and capability audit to determine the skills your business already has.
  2. Match your organisational plan to a workforce skills plan. What skills are you missing now, and what skills will you need to deliver the achievements you are aiming for in 5, 10 or 20 years?
  3. Is it better to build than buy? Building allows you to create the skills you specifically need in the quantity you need within your strategic timescale.
  4. Motivate your trainees: Training programmes can fail because the employees become disaffected and drop out of the course. Provide incentives that reward employees if they pass the training.
  5. Make the most of your managers: Managers are the talent scouts within your organisation. They are in the best position to identify and help reskill potential talent.
  6. Select your training solution to deliver an experience that produces the best outcome to support your strategic goals.
  7. Measure, manage, optimise, scale: Successful training programmes are always a work in progress with room for continuous improvement. Never let your reskilling programmes go stale.

Learn more about the seven steps to successful workforce reskilling here.

Reskilling your A&D workforce – a task best shared

Research reveals that reskilling is successful in 75% of all cases and on average, reskilled workers are 12% more productive than they were before retraining. However, it is likely than many A&D organisations will lack the necessary labour market intelligence and depth of resources to successfully deliver these ambitions. For them, employing the services of an outside retraining and skills enhancement service that can analyse the organisation’s talent needs, assess their workforce capabilities and then deliver a programme to build on those foundations may be a better way to go.

The Talent Solutions approach – a results driven philosophy

With 1.8 million new engineers and technicians needed in the UK by 2025, Talent Solutions’ deep understanding of the global talent market is helping A&D organisations overcome their most pressing workforce challenges. Our Total Talent Management solutions shift the goal from simple attraction to creating a unified talent ecosystem that helps balance your recruitment portfolio with a high-value, high-return investment in reskilling, re-engaging, re-imagining and retaining your best people and giving them space to thrive.

Learn more about the Talent Solutions approach to workforce reskilling. Achieve a better outcome at every stage: Recruit, Reskill, Retain.

Contact Talent Solutions now.

Reskilling programmes in action:

Discover how Capgemini, Babcock Engineering and QinetiQ brought new skills and energy to their workforce with unique Talent Solutions reskilling initiatives.