Mind the talent gap: Is the aerospace industry facing a leadership vacuum?

Gavin Wingfield | 1 March 2024

The aerospace sector has faced a challenging period when it comes to tackling its skills shortage, employing 3,000 fewer people in 2022 in comparison with the previous year, along with around 300 fewer apprentices.

Gavin Wingfield explores the leadership challenges impacting the industry and the potential solutions to halt a leadership crisis in coming years.

The skills shortages at entry level have been well-documented, with significant action and investment to attract new talent into the industry and start closing this gap.

However, while the industry remained focused on entry level recruitment, far less attention has been devoted to the opposite end of the scale as experienced leaders approach retirement. And at a time when the sector, like many others, is getting to grips with a host of challenges, such as digital transformation and the use of AI, the legacy of under-investment in talent could leave a void at c-suite level in the years ahead.

The last twelve months has seen the aerospace industry finally beginning to recover from the impact of the pandemic, settling into a new normal. It’s vital that businesses utilise this relative return to stability to put an effective long-term leadership strategy in place, proactively investing in attracting talent and closing any gaps in experience.

The industry must act today to set the stage for future leaders, lessening the impact of succession challenges to come.

Leadership Assessment

While some businesses possess a thorough understanding of their leaders and managers, and its strengths and weaknesses, others would benefit from utilising leadership assessment to identify any gaps. Leadership assessment is an extremely useful process to evaluate management capability, ultimately providing a clear view of the overall performance of the c-suite both collectively and individually, identifying areas that require attention and development. As the sector has experienced a downturn, it may be thought of as counterintuitive to invest in assessing talent, yet we’ve seen examples of businesses making significant returns from doing so. Opening up a different kind of thinking and leading to attracting leaders from different sectors.

Transfer of skills and mentoring

When thinking about future leadership, it’s important that today’s c-suite is passing on the necessary skills and knowledge to the emerging leaders that will be picking up the mantle. Given the shortage of experienced aerospace leaders already within the industry, incoming executives will be expected to grasp the nettle quickly and efficiently.

Mentoring is also invaluable in monitoring individuals’ progress and ensuring that budding leaders have the right support network as they build their career – it not only allows the sharing of knowledge but improves retention and collaboration across the business. Companies whose leaders carve out time to mentor talented team members will reap the rewards in smoother succession planning as individuals build within the business.

Investment in development

Focused investment in skills and leadership training is essential to prevent a vacuum in a decade’s time when retirement beckons for many of today’s c-suite.

Businesses must put the time and budget into building sector-specific skillsets early, identifying and nurturing budding talent and ensuring that they remain supported and encouraged as their career develops.

Focus on transferrable skills

While it’s vital that businesses invest in future skilling, it remains inevitable that talent will need to be found elsewhere, in different yet complementary sectors.

Partnerships, collaboration, and skill-sharing between comparable sectors will allow aerospace businesses to embrace transferable skills and plug gaps in a different way.

Interim management

For those businesses experiencing leadership challenges, with an immediate need for experienced c-suite executives, whether to pick up the gauntlet from a departing CEO or to lead a change management programme, interim consultants will be key.

We know from supporting the likes of GKN Aerospace and other companies within the sector and the manufacturing supply chain, what it takes to place consultant leaders with high calibre experience into challenging strategic positions.


You can learn more about our Interim Management Services within the aerospace industry, or if you’d like to speak to one of our consultants, please contact us.

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