Ready for a career that lifts off?
Fancy a career where you protect and serve the nation? If so the aerospace and defence sectors could be for you.
This career guide provides an overview of the aerospace and defence sectors as a career choice.
Working in the aerospace industry gives many career options; management, research and development, testing, manufacturing and maintenance. If choosing defence, your work place could be on land, in the sea or in the air.
The UK has the world’s second largest aerospace sector after the US. It has defied the downturn and continues to grow. It exports about 75% of what is produced and generates £12 billion in revenues.
Aerospace Prospects & Challenges
According to the Global Aerospace Outlook report 2013, published by ADS Group, the aerospace sector is set to grow over the next 15 years with 27,000 new large civil airliners and 40,000 rotor aircraft that could translate into UK orders worth £474 billion. Innovation and investment in skills is key to ensure this continued growth.
According to PWC, the industry is facing a number of challenges:
- Managing programme and supplier risk
- Managing a diverse customer base and maximising the value of the domestic defence market
- Managing trans-national organisations
- Investing in a changing mix of capabilities, technologies and segments
- Developing market share and footprint overseas and achieving best value in manufacturing
- Greater accountability in programme management
- Ongoing consolidation of the aerospace and defence sectors
- Intensifying cost pressures
- Greening of aerospace and defence products
Aerospace Market Segments
Market segments include commercial aircraft, military aircraft, UAVs; unmanned aircraft systems called ‘drones’ and the supply chain which provides thousands of components.
Commercial aircraft is a key sector and while the UK no longer builds complete passenger aircraft, the skills to build the key components are all in the UK. Components include; fuel systems, wings, fuselages and jet engines.
The military aircraft sector has born iconic craft including the Spitfire and Harrier Jump Jet. UK Military export sales contribute £35 million to the economy.
The supply chain has over 3000 companies employing 230,000 people both directly and indirectly. These range from large companies like Rolls Royce and small companies making specialised components.
Research is vital for safety and innovation, and research in the UK takes place at Bristol University, Cranfield University, Cambridge University, Nottingham University, Southampton University and others.
Space is the fastest growing segment, worth over £9 billion and employing over 29,000 people. Space is seen as a growth area by government with a strategy for it to be £40 billion in the UK by 2030 with 100,000 new jobs.
Skills & Aerospace Jobs
In the US, Aerospace is the third most popular field for engineering students. Roles include; customer support, universal grinder, software engineer, safety engineer, procurement manager, aircraft mechanic and software verification engineer.
Skills required in defence include; leadership, communication, the ability to work under pressure and good decision making. Aerospace roles can be more creative and involve lateral thinking and mathematical knowledge.
Aerospace Engineers and Career Prospects
The aerospace sector provides excellent career prospects for aerospace engineers, leading to a well paid management position within 5-7 years. Creating a specialism could also enable you to move into consulting and/or teaching/lecturing.
Well-known names include Boeing, Airbus, BAE Systems and Rolls Royce who manufacture engines and Honeywell International.
Aerospace and Defence Future Trends
Like many sectors, aerospace and defence are becoming increasingly technologically sophisticated and complex. Taking one example – the cost of a Boeing 787; 50% goes to hardware, 50% navigation, guidance and control, of which half of the latter is software. The invisible aspect of aerospace is how the systems control the vehicle, how they ‘talk’ to ground control and other vehicles in the sky, and how data is collected and used. This aspect, along with the trend to ‘big data’ make aerospace a career choice with excellent prospects.
Who knows what the future will bring? It may see flying cars, hybrid vehicles, and Mars bound rockets. As the world’s population grows, perhaps there will be a merging between the automotive and aerospace industries and we will have flying cars in the skies. What an exciting project that might be in your career.
10 useful links
- The Royal Aeronautical Society www.aerosociety.com
- Civil Aviation Authority http://www.caa.co.uk/
- The UK Space Agency https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-space-agency
- The Institute for Aerospace Technology http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/aerospace/index.aspx
- The Institute for Aerospace Education http://www.iae.aero/
- The Aerospace Technology Institute http://www.ati.org.uk/the-centre/
- Farnborough International Airshow (July) http://www.farnborough.com/
- The Aerospace Growth Partnership https://www.adsgroup.org.uk/pages/40227907.asp
- The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics www.aiaa.org
- Ministry of Defence (MOD) https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ministry-of-defence
Helping women to liberate their talent and ‘blow their own trumpet’ – successfully and comfortably market themselves for career success is a specialism. Rachel has done events for The Association of Women Solicitors, The Chartered Institute of Marketing, The Commonwealth Club and The Chartered Institute Personal Development, as well as many women’s networks.