Outsiders (and many insiders) see aerospace engineering as an impenetrable field of specialisation. While this may be true to an extent, it is no more true than for other forms of engineering or specialist work.
But does this perception prevent people from transferring into aerospace engineering? And, perhaps more importantly, is industry experience necessary for this shift?
There is no single answer to the above questions, as it mostly depends on the job someone wants, and the job they are leaving. However, as a general rule, it is not a direct requirement to have aerospace engineering experience before looking for a job. Granted, you might have to take a few steps back in the career ladder, but it is still possible.
Arguably, the most important thing is transferrable skills, of which aerospace has many. Take Formula 1, for example. While there are many differences between the roles, it is still an industry based on engineering, data, and details. So, from a broader perspective, transferring between the two would not be too difficult.
The same is true for transferring within other engineering branches, such as aerospace and defence to emerging and disruptive technology. The founders of many eVTOL companies are perfect examples of this fact. Much of their experience comes from aerospace careers, which they have adapted to suit a new disruptive form of aerospace.
But we should also consider less obvious switches, such as from business management and project management. These are vital roles within aerospace, as we can boil almost everything down to a project or business that needs managing. Granted, it would require plenty of learning and pivoting, but it is entirely possible.
Perhaps the easiest criterion for deciding industry transfers is pace. Aerospace is a fast-paced industry that is currently absorbing many forms of emerging technology as we look to low-emission vehicles. Of course, it is an inherently disruptive industry in itself, too, but as such offers opportunities for wide ranging skillsets and knowledge bases.
However, pace is something that most engineers know all too well, and so should not be a major issue when transferring between industries. It may be a bigger shock for those moving from outside engineering, but it is arguably one of its main draws. Many of us in the industry enjoy how fast it moves despite recent downturns.
The industry slump in 2020 led to many moving away from aerospace into related sectors. If nothing else, this demonstrates that industry experience is not as important as transferrable skills.
However, now we must work to draw people back in from elsewhere, as aerospace is picking up again. We have previously mentioned candidate shortages and, while this was not caused solely by the pandemic, it certainly did not help.
Although aerospace projects have always been collaborative, this will only increase in the future as we incorporate more technology relating to AI and renewables, among others. We can only hope this will encourage more people to work within aerospace and transfer from other industries as they realise the range of possibilities it offers.