• Article
  • 30 May 2024
Daniel  SeathPhoto
Daniel Seath

The Impacts of the Aerospace and Defence Skills Gap

Skill Gap Impact In Aerospace + Listing Image

In a recent post, we discussed the current skills gap faced by the aerospace and defence industry. It’s probably unsurprising that the gap is most present in advanced digital skills, closely followed by engineering knowledge of emerging materials and technology.


But it’s one thing to label the skills gap and another thing entirely to conceptualise what this means for the industry. Below, we’ll do just that by looking at the economic impact as well as the effect on projects and overall innovation.

Do Skills Gaps Mean Less Innovation?

Employees lacking key skills in emerging sectors will inevitably lead to issues surrounding creativity and innovation. After all, how can you be expected to innovate with new technologies if you don’t know how to use them? There will always be a delay between emerging tech and educating people on how to use it, but this gulf only becomes worse as the speed of innovation increases.

This isn’t to say that innovation will cease completely. After all, there are current employees with the knowledge needed to innovate and create new concepts. But as they leave the industry, it is necessary to replace them, and as new technology trickles down, we need greater numbers of skilled employees.

In turn, skills gaps will impact project timelines and overall competitiveness. If a company lacks people with the required knowledge, it can’t be expected to efficiently compete against a company that managed to hire the right people. This is a fairly basic fact that becomes more obvious as the skills gap widens.

The Economics of Skills Gaps

It should also come as no surprise that skills gaps have economic implications. A survey conducted by ADS last year found some important figures. In 2022, the aerospace industry employed 3,000 fewer staff than in 2021. This is a stark difference considering the impact of the pandemic in 2021. Similarly, the industry recruited 300 fewer apprentices than in the previous year.

The survey also found that, in the same period, there were more than 10,000 unfilled vacancies across the industry. When we look at this next to a survey conducted by the government, which found that 76% of respondents were unable to recruit staff with the right skills, the link should be clear.

However, this isn’t to say that the sector isn’t growing. In fact, in 2023, it contributed £37 billion to the UK economy. We may see this figure slow in the next few years if skills gaps continue to increase, but the aerospace and defence sector is pretty resilient.

The Cost of Training vs Hiring

So, to address these skills gaps, are we better to train new employees or hire skilled workers? The answer ultimately depends on the skills required, but both are appropriate in different situations.

Take AI, for example, specifically as it relates to autonomous systems. It makes sense for civil aviation companies to recruit from other sectors (defence, the automotive industry, etc.) to bridge the current gap. On the other hand, investing in university courses that teach entirely novel concepts makes sense for the long-term future of the industry.

The bottom line is that skills gaps require short- and long-term planning, which involves a mix of hiring, internal training, and external education. It is only through this mix, combined with an acute awareness of industry trends, that we can properly establish skills in aerospace and defence. Doing so should give us the sustainability we need to properly grow the sector.