maint training

Scanning the skills horizon

The skills gap in aerospace engineering is well documented and has prompted a wide range of initiatives to deliver new entrants to the industry, as well as protect and retain existing specialists in a marketplace that is increasingly competitive. Matthew Heath, aerospace, aviation and defence specialist at Jonathan Lee Recruitment considers the unique challenges facing the sector and how innovation will drive resource planning in 2016 and beyond.

The skills landscape in aerospace has shifted in 2015 as the design phase slows and aircraft production continues to ramp up. The key challenge will be delivery, whether that’s supplying critical parts and services on time, or supporting build rates of over 40 planes per month to meet growing global aircraft demand.

Inevitably, meeting the growth demands of the sector between now and 2030 will require investment and a potential 

increase in automated solutions. The decision on whether to invest in people or new equipment is a complex one. Whether you are an OEM or sub-tier supplier, an expert view on what is best for the future growth of your business can be the critical foundation on which the fortunes of an organisation rest.

Increasingly, interim managers skilled in facilitating and implementing change and increasing productivity with minimum disruption to output are being used to assess and plan the most efficient and effective route forward.

The rise of new technologies and materials in the sector is also increasing the demand for people who can develop new products, plan and test new production techniques to support innovation, without compromising on the rigorous quality, risk and compliance requirements of the sector.

Effective automation and robotics are proven to be a valuable way of re-allocating and optimising the skilled workforce in manufacturing. Airbus is exploring the use of smart tools, 3D printing and robotics as part of its major R&D project Factory of the Future. This kind of initiative demonstrates a real need for new and different skills in implementing change in both manufacturing and MRO operations.

Lease-by-the-hours schemes for planes and engines include comprehensive maintenance, repair and overhaul packages that track environmental performance and wear and tear in near real-time. This means that knowledge and understanding of legacy technologies, sometimes going back 20 years, is needed as much as understanding of the rapid advances in engineering being made in the sector.  

The sheer variety of roles in aerospace production and maintenance makes for exciting career prospects in the sector.  Whilst the three million apprenticeships targeted by the government will go some way to meeting future needs, the question remains; In a highly competitive manufacturing sector, how many will stay loyal to aerospace?

Those companies that take a proactive, flexible and well-planned approach to their recruitment requirements will be the ones that fly in the future.

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