Wanted: Next-gen aerospace and defence talent

Leaders in this fast-changing sector need to rethink their reskilling and recruitment strategies in the face of a looming wave of retirements.

The Leadership Agenda

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The aerospace and defence (A&D) industry is changing rapidly, but many of its employees aren’t ready. In PwC’s 2023 Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey, A&D workers were less likely than overall respondents to rate key skills such as data analytics as important to their career over the next five years. Only 30% of A&D workers said that the skills needed to do their job would change significantly in the next five years, compared with 36% of all respondents.

These views likely reflect the makeup of the A&D workforce, nearly one-third of which is 55 or older. That creates a dual challenge for leadership teams. Not only are older employees in the survey less likely than younger workers to say that the skills required for their job will change in the next five years, but as the sector faces a wave of retirements over the next ten to 20 years, it runs the risk of being unable to attract talent fast enough to fill the ranks. One aerospace and defence analysis projects a shortfall of 3.5 million workers by 2026. Here’s how A&D firms can address this talent challenge head-on:

  1. Reorient your employee value proposition around a clear mission and purpose. A&D firms have a clear opportunity to attract younger workers—many of whom might otherwise avoid the sector—by articulating a mission and purpose in their work, such as enabling travel and connection, developing cutting-edge technologies or exploring space. Similarly, companies can reinforce this purpose by ensuring that all employees can share in the satisfaction of seeing the fruit of their labour: a new jet or satellite, for example. Some suppliers who work on upstream components can consider sending employees on field trips to see the end product firsthand. 
  2. Focus on skills instead of jobs. Rather than trying to replace each departing employee on a one-for-one basis, evaluate the skills and capabilities required by the organisation—today and in the future. Having a clear view of the supply and demand for key skills and looking beyond legacy requirements of a given job (like education or formal qualifications) can expand the recruiting funnel to include nontraditional candidates.
  3. Develop front-line and mid-level managers. Many current A&D managers came into their roles during the pandemic, a circumstance that denied them the in-person leadership experiences needed to succeed. Invest in learning and development for this group—particularly in emotional-intelligence areas like giving and receiving feedback. That’s a long-term investment that yields benefits in the form of a stronger pipeline of future leaders, an improved employee experience and a more resilient business overall.

The A&D sector is poised for growth, but its ability to capitalise on that opportunity is only as strong as its talent pipeline.

Explore the full findings of PwC’s 2023 Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey of 54,000 workers worldwide.

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Contact us

Justin Hall

Justin Hall

Global People Analytics Co-Leader Principal, PwC United States

Tel: +1 404 502 2300

Ryan Hawk

Ryan Hawk

Global Industrial Manufacturing & Automotive Leader, Principal, PwC United States

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