John Schmidt, global managing director for Accenture’s Aerospace and Defence business, told FINN that the number-one workforce challenge in aerospace is the shortage of STEM graduates.
“There are just not enough STEM graduates coming through, and there's competition for those graduates from 'non-traditional' sources,” he said.
He explained: “In the US, if you graduated from the University of Washington several years ago as an aerospace engineer, it was almost assured you'd be going to Boeing. Now you have a choice: do you want to work with Boeing in Renton or would you [prefer] to work downtown at Amazon and still be able to put that aerospace industry degree to work?”
Related to this, Schmidt noted that some plants and facilities may struggle to attract new talent to their company because of the location.
He commented: “And, of course, we're seeing a lot of technology disruption which is requiring people to be reskilled to be able to leverage [new] technologies – whether it's artificial intelligence or augmented reality.”
Research from Accenture suggests that over 40% of aerospace executives expect that their workforce will need to be retrained over the next three years.
Technology: Challenge and solution
However, as well as disrupting companies and creating new training challenges, technology is also helping business in aerospace and beyond to address the skills gap.
Accenture talks about using 'DARQ power', including Distributed ledger (blockchain) Artificial intelligence (AI), Reality (virtual, augmented and mixed), and Quantum computing.
“The thing that we're doing the most is bringing in artificial intelligence technologies,” said Schmidt.
“That could be something more straightforward like robotic process automation…. which takes away an administrative task from an engineer, which then frees them up to do more engineering.” Looked at another way, it could also allow companies to do “as much engineering with fewer engineers,” Schmidt said.
In the future, it could involve the more advanced use of DARQ technologies.
Looking ahead to the future, Schmidt advises companies to look for workers that are flexible and able to pick up and leverage technologies easily and intuitively, rather than hiring for specific skills.
“As we look forward, this need for reskilling is only going to increase,” he said.