Semta Chairman urges aerospace industry to skill up for global growth

Tue, 10 July 2012

Leading industrialist Allan Cook CBE is encouraging the aerospace industry to acknowledge a changing sector landscape and take steps to ensure its continued success in an increasingly globalised market at this year’s Farnborough Airshow.

Speaking at a Royal Aeronautical Society event at the show, Mr Cook, who is chairman of Atkins and of SELEX Galileo and deputy chairman of Marshal of Cambridge, urged aerospace leaders to protect and grow the skills base for the future. Mr Cook is also chairman of Semta, the sector skills council for advanced manufacturing. 

He said: “In a changing landscape in which aircraft are now 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.”

The UK sector, contribution of more than £60 billion per year which includes civil aerospace, defence and space, is the largest in Europe and second only to the United States globally, and the market is experiencing growth at twice the rate of Gross Domestic Product. The value of the sector to the overall UK economy is clear through Gross Value Added (GVA) figures, which reveal that employees in the aerospace sector contribute £76,100 per employee compared to a national average of £35,000 per employee.

Allan Cook continued: “I believe the UK retains a critical role in world’s aerospace sector but without the right skills and investment we face a daunting future. And, critically, 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. 

“Employers are struggling to attract young people with STEM skills into the industry and a third of high tech manufacturing firms have recruited from outside the UK due to a lack of suitably qualified people resident here. With Semta insight revealing that the aerospace sector needs to recruit 15,300 by 2016 to cover retirements or growth, businesses need to act now.”

There is a range of support available for aerospace employers that are experiencing skills challenges or need to upskill – both through the Royal Aeronautical Society and sector skills council, Semta. There have also been three significant developments that will help employers hone the necessary mix of knowledge, practical skills and the right attitude to improve the talent pipeline:

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 exhibited 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.

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