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Today in Defence: An aging workforce and a lack of young talent entering the A&D industry.

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

Photo source: istockphoto

The aerospace and defence industries are facing a shortage of skilled workers. The aging workforce and a lack of young talent entering the industry are the main reasons for this problem.

The phenomenon of an aging workforce and a lack of young talent entering the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry is a concern for many companies in the sector. An aging workforce can lead to a lack of diversity in terms of age, skills, and experience, which can have negative impacts on innovation and competitiveness.

The aerospace and defence industries have been facing challenges due to demographic changes in recent years. According to our Defence expert, the average age of workers in these industries is increasing each year, with the average age being 45 years old.

As also supported by a recent report by Deloitte, The A&D workforce is getting older. "The aerospace and defence sector will face significant challenges as its workforce ages," said Greg Westcott, director at Deloitte Canada. "Culturally and operationally, this presents significant challenges for companies."

This poses a problem for companies because older employees may not be willing or able to adapt to technology changes coming down the pipeline, such as autonomous vehicles or artificial intelligence (AI), according to the report. This could lead them to retire early or leave their jobs altogether if they feel like their skill sets aren't being used properly anymore.

In addition, there has been a decrease in young people entering into these industries due to a lack of interest or knowledge about them as well as other factors such as a lack of funding for education or training programs. As a result, companies are struggling with finding enough skilled workers who can keep up with demand levels for their products and services which results in them needing more employees than they currently have available at any given time.

Continuing what our Defence expert has stated, here are additional factors that contribute to the aging workforce in the A&D industry: Retention of experienced workers - Many A&D companies may prioritise retaining experienced workers due to their specialised skills and knowledge, which can lead to a slower turnover of personnel and an aging workforce.

Attracting young talent - The A&D industry may face challenges in attracting young talent due to a lack of awareness of career opportunities, perceived inflexibility, and competition from other industries.

Lack of education and training opportunities - There may be limited education and training opportunities in the A&D industry, which can make it difficult for young people to gain the skills and experience they need to pursue careers in the field.

Negative perceptions of the industry - The A&D industry may be perceived as being overly conservative or lacking in innovation, which can discourage some young people from entering the field.

Given that skilled workers in the industry are not just engineers but also technicians, designers, and other prominent positions that are responsible, for example, designing and developing military aircraft, drones, and ships over many years, with them now becoming obsolete due to their retirement age, how can we ensure that we do not lose their invaluable experience? What will happen if we do not replace them?

The industry should be worried and take this issue into consideration as the projection of an aging workforce and a lack of young talent entering the aerospace and defence (A&D) industry can have such severe consequences, for example:

Reduced competitiveness - An aging workforce may lack the skills and expertise needed to adapt to changing market conditions and technological advances, which can negatively impact the competitiveness of A&D companies.

Decreased innovation - A lack of diversity in terms of age, skills, and experience can limit the range of ideas and perspectives within an organisation, leading to reduced innovation.

Increased costs - Retaining experienced workers may come at a higher cost, as companies may need to offer higher salaries and benefits to attract and retain talent.

Decreased productivity - An aging workforce may be less productive due to declining physical and mental abilities, which can impact the efficiency and effectiveness of A&D companies.

In Europe, the issue of an aging workforce and a lack of young talent entering the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry is a concern for many defence leaders. According to a report by the European Defence Agency, the A&D sector is facing a "perfect storm" of challenges, including an aging workforce, a lack of skilled workers, and declining defence budgets.

The European Defence Agency (EDA) is working with governments to help address this issue. The agency has launched a new initiative called "Future Skills for Defence" which aims to train and educate young people in skills that are relevant to the aerospace and defence industry.

The initiative will provide training programs targeted at young people aged between 16-30 who may never have considered a career in aerospace or defence. The aim is to attract more women into these areas by providing them with hands-on experience through workshops, simulations, and tours of sites such as Airbus' facility in St Nazaire, France.

The A&D industry is a major contributor to economic growth and employment in Europe, and addressing the aging workforce and talent shortages is important for the long-term success and competitiveness of companies in the sector.

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