Speaking at a Royal Aeronautical Society event at Farnborough International Airshow Allan Cook, chairman of Semta, urged industry leaders to acknowledge shifting business models in aerospace and prepare themselves with a robust multidisciplinary skills base.
Allan Cook, who is also chairman of Atkins and Selex Galileo and deputy chairman of Marshal of Cambridge pinpointed globalisation as a force for change in skills strategies.
Mr Cook said that in an environment where aircraft are rarely developed and constructed in one country “the opportunity – and the challenge – for the UK aerospace industry will be in ensuring it has the skills to continue developing its renowned expertise, as well as its well developed infrastructure and supply chain.”
Mr Cook believes that the UK aerospace sector, which contributes around £60 billion a year to the UK economy, retains a critical role in global aerospace networks but that this situation could shift if skills are not built in line with international requirements. He emphasized the urgency of the situation stating “this is not an issue that businesses in the sector will face in the future – it is happening now, with almost a third (29 per cent) of aerospace companies in the UK reporting skills gaps.”
Lack of home grown STEM skills are forcing a third of UK-based high-tech manufacturing firms to recruit from outside the UK according to Mr Cook.
Semta, the Royal Aeronautical Society and other organisations offer a range of services to help bridge aerospace skills gaps in the UK, including schemes to upskill existing employees.
Acknowledging the increasingly broad ranging skills aerospace employees will need to remain competitive these offerings have recently developed to cover a new mix of knowledge, practical skills and work ethics. Some examples are:
- University Technical Colleges: These new colleges for students aged 14-19 specialise in technical studies and are sponsored by a university. They offer full time courses which combine practical and academic studies. Employers help plan the learning and the qualifications, and they support work placements.
- Higher level apprenticeships: This new qualification offers the opportunity to gain a degree while earning and gaining real experience. The new Higher Level Apprenticeship for advanced manufacturing was launched this year, having been developed with employers such as Airbus, BAE Systems, GKN and Rolls-Royce.
- Employer University Links: With government support, Semta is working to increase the number of SMEs who recruit a graduate by improving employer-university links. With SMEs accounting for 99 per cent of the sector, but only 39 per cent recruiting graduates, the initiative will support smaller businesses in ensuring they have the right higher level skills they need to take advantage of growth opportunities.
Semta will be exhibiting at Farnborough Airshow 2012. Aerospace employers that are interested in finding out more about the support Semta can provide, or speaking to one of its training experts, should visit Green Stand Six within the Show’s Innovation Zone.