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Solving the Aerospace Skills Shortage by Recruiting from Other Industries

  • by: Ryan Abbot
  • On: 12, Aug 2020
9 min read

In addition to the Covid-19 pandemic and rapid increase in demand for leisure and business flights over the past decade, the Aerospace & Aviation sector is facing another critical issue: a lack of skills in the next generation of pilots, technicians and airline staff.

Boeing’s 2019-2038 Outlook forecasts that the global demand for pilots will double in the next seven years alone – 800,000 new pilots will be required by 2037 – with 98,000 new business aircraft pilots also needed over the next 20 years.

The global Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) sector also faces dramatic a reduction in technicians. More than 2 in 5 (42%) of Aerospace & Aviation leaders identify a labour shortage in the maintenance technician field as their most urgent business problem in the next few years.

With the sector forced to think creatively and innovate like never before, industry leaders are beginning to look to other technical and Engineering industries to access and build new talent. Here are five ways Aviation leaders are recruiting talent from other sectors.

5 Ways to Recruit Skills from Other Industries into Aerospace

1. Collaboration

Identifying transferable skills is usually an underrated but potentially revolutionary recruitment strategy. Those already trained in the following areas are well suited to a career in Aerospace:

  • Automotive – Formula One pit crew and prototyping teams thrive in fast-paced environments where safety and performance must simultaneously be prioritised

  • Marine – Skills required for pilots and aircraft engineers are similar to those taught in the maritime industry

  • Engineering – From architecture and IT to quality assurance and supply chain operations, trained Engineers have a wealth of design and manufacturing skills

  • Energy – Building and maintaining wind turbines require similar abilities to the build and maintenance of aircraft, and the ability to think calmly under pressure and pinpoint focus in potentially hazardous situations well positions those working in Oil & Gas and Nuclear Power for other vocations.

The above sectors are all also facing their own skills shortages; instead of competing, the sectors can identify the types of talent they really need and work together to identify these early on and pass them to other sectors where they best fit. Collaborating with other industries with similar products, processes and environments means both parties will be facing many of the same challenges – such as automation, carbon efficiency targets and customer personalisation demand – enabling an understanding of the requirements of each business, and resulting in a mutually beneficial acquisition of skills for all involved.

2. Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are not only a way to engage young people looking for their first role, but are also an innovative route into finding and securing talent from other industries. In today’s economy with over 200 applicants on average for every job role, and particularly in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis, many individuals will be evaluating their lives and wanting to pursue their passion – without investing much-needed money into University degrees or lengthy courses. Skilled engineers, technicians and skilled staff from other industries can begin an Aviation apprenticeship which fully utilises their existing skillset and experience – giving them an advantage over younger Apprentices – whilst providing them with a starting salary and structured financial package.

Pilot apprenticeships have been increasing in popularity in recent years and proving particularly successful with applicants older than the usual teenage Apprentices, who have previous experience in demanding STEM career paths. Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, easyJet and TUI operate accessible training programmes for those at any age, either at entry level or requiring A Levels or equivalent. Qantas is investing $15million into a pilot school, and Emirates has already opened a $135million flight academy to train the next generation, evidencing the appetite for Aerospace Apprentices and their success so far in building talent.


3. Innovative Marketing

The solution to the skills shortage lies in redefining the way that businesses recruit and attract potential talent. A lack of awareness in skilled individuals of all ages and backgrounds is preventing potential talent from truly understanding what an Aviation career path offers – but innovative marketing can change this.

The next decade looks set to be one of the most exciting in history for the sector. Business leaders and marketing departments can develop a recruitment campaign that focuses on the future-focused nature of the industry and the innovative projects that new hires would become involved with, such as:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Smart planes, autonomous and pilot-less carriers, robotics replacing human interactions and increasing safety
  • Environmental Advances – Biofuels, green planes, sustainable materials projects and transforming air traffic control
  • Collaboration – Partnering and communicating with organisations and industry bodies around the world to combat international challenges and drive creative solutions
  • Modernising Flying Experiences – Updating architecture and airport design to improve health and wellbeing, placing mindfulness and psychology at the heart of Aviation whilst facilitating social distancing to protect passengers in pandemics
  • Changing Flight Forever – Creating faster, more efficient and more effective planes that can fly around the world in only a few hours.

Directly involving individual prospective employees and positioning them at the heart of the success of the Aviation industry is the best way to attract, fully engage and inspire skilled talent.

Industry leaders can appeal directly to the motivations and career desires of skilled individuals in other sectors by promoting their recruitment campaigns across not only their websites and social media channels, but also in the places where passive candidates are: industry websites, blogs and publications relevant to their own sector, online discussion communities such as Reddit and LinkedIn and Facebook groups that correspond to their current job titles.

Tailoring your recruitment marketing to different groups can deliver a much more personalised candidate experience, attracting and engaging potential talent with a message that an Aviation career is well suited to their lifestyles and career goals and can deliver the rewards, experiences and benefits they most value. Whilst the current young demographic, Generation Z, value financial independence, travel, learning new skills and having new experiences, older generations who are already skilled workers in another industry will have different interests. Millennials are also a socially conscious generation that want a potential employer’s values to match their own, which companies can tap into by promoting environmental investment and corporate social responsibility and charity programmes. Generation X are more interested in stable employment and financial and career growth, meaning promoting pension, bonus and reward schemes, in addition to career development, can attract talent in this demographic.

4. Schools

Recruiting from an early age enables the acquiring of talent from other industries before they have a chance to access the same talent pools. Those who work in Aviation know that the industry offers a vast variety of exciting career opportunities – but many of the next generation are completely unaware that these careers exist.

In a globally connected world where students are bombarded with choices and expected to make life-changing decisions from an early age, the technical industries need to shout louder to reach potential engineers and technicians before they are lost to the sector.

The Aerospace & Aviation industry can plant the seeds of new career choices by visiting schools in person and developing partnerships with education bodies to benefit students, schools, colleges and businesses. By coming face-to-face with pilots, technicians, designers and airline crew, students can not only derive first-hand insight in an invaluable learning experience, but budding talent pools can also get the answers to questions about uncertainties which may have previously discouraged them from venturing further towards the sector.

Involvement in primary schools and youth groups can facilitate industry representatives in speaking about the benefits of their career, not only of working for airlines and MROs but in being part of the incredible things that they do and the amazing experiences they create. Industry leaders and new Aviation Academies can tackle the aviation skills shortage by promoting the importance of engineers and technicians to the history and future of our globalised and technologically advanced world.

Partnering with schools, colleges and universities to better market industry careers, communicating directly with young people themselves and using these insights to inform recruitment strategies are the beginning of the solution to the skills shortage.


5. Inclusive Employer Brands

The International Society of Women Airline Pilots reports that only 5% of pilots worldwide are female – meaning that female representation in the industry has grown by a shockingly low 1.5% since 1960. However, diversity is also incredibly low in other sectors where industry leaders may find transferable skills. Just 9% of the UK’s engineering workforce is female, and despite encompassing over 14% of the UK’s population, only 6% of UK engineers across the industrial sectors are from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds. The lack of diverse representation in the technical industries suggests a less than positive experience for many diverse individuals working in these sectors – Aviation leaders can identify those skilled engineers unhappy in their jobs and engage them to transfer across to the sector.

Attracting and gaining the confidence of diverse talent can be as simple as adding your voice to the support of diverse communities or as broad-scale as creating your own global diverse networks. By sponsoring events centred around diversity in the technical sectors or adding the company logo to a Women in STEM website, industry leaders align their brand with the values of their diverse employee base to inspire and encourage minority groups looking to enter the field.


Companies can also tap into their existing diverse employee base to find out how to build a truly inclusive and welcoming employer brand. Find out how the diverse engineers in your company really feel, and what they want and need from their employer. Speak to diverse groups across the sector at networking events and research studies online, to understand the policies and brand values that appeal to diverse engineers when job seeking.

Advertise in channels that you have not advertised in before but that attract and engage diverse audiences directly. For example, look at Facebook LinkedIn groups for BAME or LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) engineers, message boards and popular blogs and YouTube channels aimed at people with disabilities who work within your industry. Gaining referrals from diverse employees in your business (who will be able to recommend your business as a good employer who values diverse groups). Team up with a well-known union or network for diverse groups to advertise, speak to and engage with their thousands of diverse members.

Recruiting Technical Talent

Partnering with a recruitment company that specialises in Aerospace & Aviation jobs can offer unique insight into the wants, needs and situations of potential talent, and help your business create a bespoke plan to reach new talent pools.


Find out more about VHR’s Aviation recruitment services.

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