• Article
  • 22 May 2024
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Daniel Seath

An Analysis of the Current Skills Gap in Aerospace and Defence – Where Are We?

Skills Gap Aerospace And Defence + Listing Image

We’ve previously written about the skills gap in the aerospace and defence sector. Building on this, we’re starting a series to analyse the current state of the skills gap and plan for the future.


To begin, let’s look at what skills the industry lacks and how this relates to the rise of advanced technology in aerospace and defence. The short answer is that, as always, education is falling behind technological advances. But let’s dive into this a bit deeper.

The Rise of Advanced Technology

Anyone familiar with the aerospace and defence industry will know that it’s long been at the forefront of technological advances. This is particularly true in areas such as composite materials, computer-aided design, and digital systems. Although the pandemic impacted the growth of aerospace and defence, it’s fair to say the industry is back on track.

In fact, the last few years have seen a meteoric rise in emerging technologies, whether this is electric drivetrains, 3D printing, advanced materials, or rising digital trends like AI and machine learning. Perhaps a perfect example of this is the increasing popularity of eVTOLs and, by extension, unmanned aerial vehicles.

Both concepts involve advanced technology that was considered relatively niche even a decade or so ago. UAVs, for example, rely on complex AI and machine learning to be truly autonomous, and eVTOLs will (theoretically) run entirely on electric power – something that’s brand new to the aerospace sector.

All this translates to new technologies advancing at a rapid rate. As they reach maturation, it will be vital to have a workforce that not only understands them but is also proficient in their use. Without this innate familiarity, we may see a slump as those new to the industry attempt to catch up.

What Skills is Aerospace and Defence Lacking?

So, what does this look like in practical terms? First is the lack of skills in the digital sphere. While this is a large bracket, it can be broken down into key areas like AI and machine learning, coding, and digital analysis. Having specialists in these areas will be vital, but we must also look for those with transferrable skills.

For example, we’ll likely see a rise in engineers who need to be proficient with AI as its role in design increases. AI has the power to think of new and more efficient designs for aircraft, batteries, and more, but only if we know how to use it properly.

Then there’s the issue of addressing a lack of pure STEM graduates entering the sector. Many can be put off by misconceptions or potentially better offers elsewhere, which can only be changed by an industry-wide shift.

A recent survey found that 48% of defence contractors reported a shortage of engineers. Considering engineers are the most fundamental part of the industry, it is a necessary problem to solve.

This can only be done with greater investment and collaboration with educational institutions and programmes to guide graduates towards these roles. While this won’t happen overnight, it will be possible to catch up.

Final Thoughts

The skills gap in aerospace and defence isn’t new but has become more obvious in the last few years. Advanced technologies are growing in importance, and the number of people trained to use them isn’t keeping up. Even more niche roles will emerge in the future, magnifying the issue. However, provided we look for ways to solve it, the skills gap will be entirely manageable.