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Securing the future of UK Aerospace jobs

10/07/17 Tom Drew - CertRP Principal Consultant, Electronics & Technology

Last year, the UK aerospace sector grew 6.5pc to £31bn. Aerospace has seen an average annual growth of close to 10 per cent between 2011 and 2015, outpacing the wider manufacturing industry, according to ADS, the industry lobby group. Britain has over 2,500 aerospace companies who manufacture everything from engines & airships to complex components for aircraft, which make up 79pc of the sector’s £28.4bn of annual exports. Growth in Britain’s aerospace industry - the world’s second largest - could be harmed by a failure to secure a good Brexit deal, sector chiefs have warned.

The prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU in 2019 having not negotiated an exit deal with the European Union was labelled as “Chaos, the worst possible outcome.” by trade body ADS. Launching its annual assessment of the industry, ADS said UK aerospace companies’ combined turnover rose by 8pc last year to £31.8bn, placing Britain behind only the US in the global league.

Britain’s Aerospace Industry Statistics:

120,000 people are employed directly via UK Aerospace sector
118,000 people are employed indirectly in the UK Aerospace sector 
The UK Aerospace sector is worth £31.8bn
£27.7bn of UK Aerospace manufacturing is exported

Almost 90pc of demand is from overseas, making the sector one of the UK’s biggest exporters. The industry employs 120,000 people directly, mostly in highly skilled and well-paid jobs such as airframe design, mechanical design engineer jobs and software engineer jobs to aerodynamics and instrumentation engineers etc. with a further 118,000 positions supporting aerospace companies.

The commercial airliner market is dominated by pan-European Airbus and US-based Boeing, and although neither builds complete aircraft in Britain, both rely on UK-built parts to make their products. Companies such as BAe, Leonardo, and Airbus build the Eurofighter Typhoon and Leonardo Helicopters the Super Lynx. Both manufacturers have record order books, meaning even as they ramp up production rates, they have almost a decade’s worth of work in hand, and are reliant on UK aerospace businesses to help them meet demand.

Recently the Aerospace Technology Institute has received £1.95bn in research and development (R&D) funding from the Government to support the industry from 2013 out to 2026, which has been 100pc matched by business for a combined total of £3.9bn. The focus is to develop the UK’s existing expertise in engine design, wing manufacturing, and aircraft systems, as well as transformational technologies such as additive manufacturing. Also known as 3D printing, additive manufacturing allows aircraft parts to be built out of lighter materials such as carbon fibre, and to be produced with far less waste.

Strong partnerships already exist of course – 25pc of the value of a Rolls Royce engine Boeing 787 is made by UK companies, including landing gear developed in Gloucestershire and a de-icing system for the wings developed with GKN and Ultra Electronics. Rolls-Royce engines have been chosen for around half of the 1,151 Boeing 787s ordered so far.

Boeing has worked with UK suppliers for 80 years and spent almost £2bn, supporting 12,700 jobs in the supply chain. The US Company also employs more than 2,000 people within the UK, working with both military and commercial aircraft.

Employees in UK Aerospace companies, by job function*:

35% in Production and Assembly 
19.5% in Research & Design and Engineering
14.3% in Sales and Business Development 
11.5% in Consultancy 
10.4% in Support Staff
9.3% in other Aerospace related job

*ADS/Gfk NOP Industry Intelligence Survey 2015

Tom Drew, Redline’s Principal Consutlant for the Manufacturing and Operations division, works with a focused number of high technology and engineering customers in the UK aerospace sector.  Clients include Curtiss-Wright and Eaton. Eaton’s UK subsidiaries design, manufacture and integrate the industry’s most advanced products and technologies for hydraulic systems, fuel and inerting systems, motion control and engine solutions for the aerospace industry.

Tom comments: “The UK’s aerospace industry has thrived off the back of its competitive advantage in the production of high-value-added technology-intensive products, and it forecasts this will continue. Since 2002, the UK industry has more than doubled overseas sales from £13.2 billion to £28.3 billion, an increase of 114pc.”

Tom continues: “However, Britain’s essential role in the global aerospace industry could come under pressure as a consequence of the Brexit process. For example, Airbus builds the wings for its airliners in Britain, with the company’s huge plant in Broughton, North Wales, and exports them to factories in Europe. The concerns around the nature and conditions of any Brexit deal raise serious questions about the next generation of aircraft and where they will be produced. Airbus could face growing political pressure to bring technical jobs back to France, Germany, and Spain as a result of the UK's decision to leave the single market. If Britain, which is already in the grip of a skills shortage in STEM careers loses access to European talented engineers and technicians as a result of freedom of movement controls arising from Brexit, Germany, France  and Spain will have their position strengthened when bidding for new aerospace contracts.”

The UK’s aviation and aerospace industry has enjoyed a virtuous circle in recent years, with growing global passenger demand boosting orders for new aircraft, and developments in aerospace technology and design making flying greener, quieter and more profitable.

“Change is inevitable, but UK-based aerospace companies hope the new world ahead will not mean new obstacles but an environment that allows them to keep thriving with the ability to hire the talent they need from anywhere in the world thus safeguarding the long-term future of any aerospace engineering, manufacturing, and production in the country.”

If you require assistance and advice on recruitment in the aerospace and defense sector, or if you have a vacancy you would like us to assess for you, please complete the vacancy form via this link and we will get back to your shortly.

For more information on this article, please contact Tom Drew on 01582 878848 or email TDrew@RedlineGroup.Com