THE SOFTWARE TALENT GAP IN THE AEROSPACE AND DEFENSES
The aerospace and defense software industry is increasingly adopting innovative technologies to help manufacture, operate, and maintain its products. The market is booming as the demand for aerospace and defense products, such as aircraft, weapons, military equipment, and more, is increasing. However, the talent gap is rapidly growing.
There is an urgent need for skilled employees in today's organizations. However, companies are concerned about employees' lack of essential tech skills.
65% of employees believe their current tech skills will be outdated in the next 3-5 years. So who will fulfill their requirements? Organizations may need to look internally to upskill their workforce or outsource to other firms that can provide the right talent.
Tech skills play an essential role in the growth of any organization. Most global companies struggle to identify and recruit skilled tech employees, hindering their ability to achieve their targets.
Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, once said, "All businesses are software businesses," and that's what we are seeing nowadays. But only 29% of companies think they have the right IT talent.
Almost all companies today are supported by software, and we are seeing an increased demand for qualified tech experts. This, combined with a limited talent supply, has resulted in a shortage worldwide.
These are some factors contributing to the tech talent shortage:
- Due to Covid-19, a lot of employees have reconsidered what they want from life and have left jobs (Great Resignation)
- Lack of employees skilled in new technology
- Lack of quality researchers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
Business Impact Of The Software Talent Gap
Unfilled tech jobs are resulting in a significant impact on business revenue, budgets, and timelines. A recent report by Korn Ferry states that by 2030, there will be 85 million unfilled jobs due to a lack of skilled talent.
A survey of over 1000 business leaders found that €7.6bn is spent yearly on inflated salaries, temporary staffing, recruitment fees, and training — a 39% increase from €3.3bn in 2017. Similarly, the US could lose €132 billion annually because of skill shortages.
What Does It Take To Be A Software Engineer In The Aerospace And Defense Industry?
The defense industry is called a 'multi-domain operation' because it involves constant competition and integration across multiple arenas. All areas of military software (security and defense system) will affect battlefield results. This includes cyber security, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality. Malware and other software can be replicated and used for coordinated attacks in cyberspace and physical space, such as attacks on utility infrastructure.
For instance, Russia has been persistently bothering Ukraine with cyber attacks since 2014. Russia had intensified the attacks before the 2022 invasion, severely affecting the distribution of food, medicines, and other necessary supplies. Another objective of the cyberattack was to gain access to critical foreign policy, infrastructure, and military intelligence.
To keep our most important processes safe and secure, we need innovators who constantly update, integrate, test, and protect the software behind them. The demand for young professional coders will continue to grow among defense contractors. This is where software engineers play a vital role in the aerospace and defense industry.
To qualify as a software engineer in the aerospace and defense industry, a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering or other engineering fields such as computer science and electrical or science related to aerospace systems and security clearance is a must.
These are some of the core skills and soft skills that organizations always seek:
- Security clearance, depending on the work
- Experience with programming version control software like Git
- Experience in software development lifecycles, configuration management, and agile and scrum
- Experience with Windows or Linux
- Strong writing and presentation skills
- Strong problem-solving and interpersonal skills
- Skills & Confidence
- Critical thinking
- Constant learning
Challenges Faced Concerning the Software Talent Gap in Aerospace And Defense
In the past, A&D companies typically followed a more traditional path, concentrating on mechanical engineering and making hardware. This required a lot of technical expertise. Now, however, the focus has shifted from hardware to software. This change is because software controls virtually all aspects of most company operations.
The software for aerospace systems is becoming more and more complex as the systems themselves become more complex. To meet that complexity, companies need to hire top talent. It is extremely difficult for companies in the aerospace and defense industry to attract and retain top talent.
These are the possible reasons for the software talent gap in the A&D industry:
Low productivity and efficiency of existing employees
Almost one-half of the engineers in leading aerospace and defense companies spend their time on non-engineering tasks or lower-value jobs. The other half of them work on active engineering tasks. Moreover, at least 30% of that time is spent on rework. In the last several years, other support functions at A&D companies have been revised several times, but engineering has remained relatively unchanged.
Bain & Company analyzed and found that many A&D companies fail to update their hiring practices. Candidates with technical expertise but no engineering degree are often overlooked when recruiting new engineering talent.
Impact of the Great Attrition
Due to the recent increase in attrition (referred to as the Great Resignation), there are around 50,000 unfilled positions across the technology sector within the A&D industry, with the majority in software & technology-specific modules. The average age of aerospace and defense employees is 45, compared to 44% of the general US workforce. As a result of retirements or transfers to other technology industries and A&D, companies are losing a lot of their best talent.
Lack of flexibility in work
A&D companies looking to recruit tech talent need to think differently. Rather than the linear career paths of the past, modern companies should provide more flexible career paths. Compared to previous generations, they emphasize balance and purpose more. This shift is necessary because millennials want more latitude in their careers and the option to work remotely and on their schedule.
Also, they find the locked environment of security-focused organizations challenging in an era of open-source coding and habitual transparency. If A&D can fix such issues and adapt according to the preference of millennial tech candidates, they can steer back on the correct path.
Lack of awareness regarding future opportunities in the industry
Pressured by their budgets, government customers in the aerospace and defense demand more certainty about new programs' costs.
Additionally, legacy programs are also feeling the pinch financially because of the rising cost of fuel, materials, and labor. As a result, A&D companies are looking for ways to control their costs.
A&D leaders should view talent recruitment as a means to modernize the entire organization to succeed. They need to be bold and take risks in decision-making to innovate. This way, they can keep up with the competition and provide their customers with what they need.
They can go beyond the simple hiring mechanics by formulating strategies that will lead to more fundamental change. Here are a few recommended strategies to work on:
- Consider rethinking employee value propositions
- Talent management should be tailored to the technology industry
- Make the national-security mission more inclusive
- Build a healthier organization to improve retention
A significant share of aerospace and defense industry jobs lie in the government sector, which is already burdened with the budget, policies, approvals, and primary responsibilities. Due to this reason, there is a misconception that there are meager opportunities to learn and grow in the aerospace and defense sector. Therefore, talent recruitment teams must highlight the benefits and rethink value propositions. Additionally, they must provide employees with more opportunities and scope for innovation.
Ways to Attract and Retain Talent in the Aerospace and Defense Industry
To remain competitive with other industries, A&D should change its strategy and emphasize its legacy, including innovation, better work, and projects in the A&D sectors. Here are some ways to attract and retain talent in the aerospace and defense industry.
Put engineers to work on high-value tasks.
Industries have to focus on new technology that has high demand today and in the future. Companies must also focus on training and development to achieve higher productivity and get innovative ideas. Experienced employees should work on the technology with the highest return on investment.
The A&D industry needs to evolve with the times and offer its employees the right training to stay ahead of the curve. They should focus on providing digital content and skill sets. This will help support their existing workforce and allow them to meet critical future roles without relying on external sources.
Increase diversity and build an inclusive workforce
A more diverse workforce will always produce better results. An inclusive approach not only offers improved results but also closes talent gaps. A diverse work environment helps businesses access the most expansive talent pool and operate effectively in the global market.
Rethink the value proposition of employees
To build a workforce of top tech talent, A&D should strategically invest in hiring and retaining employees. Companies can provide incentives in cash or kind to their employees for performing well and achieving organizational goals.
Compensation, work-life balance, stability, location, and respect make an employee value proposition. The talent acquisition process must be employee-centric to make them feel important to the Company. Technologies like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be utilized to enhance productivity and redefine work so that employees can focus more on high-value activities.
Inspire and Motivate people toward the national security mission
The national security mission is essential to preventing fraud, cyber-crimes, economic downturns, and foreign threats. By working together, we can inspire and motivate people to join the national security mission and help keep everyone safe and work towards a unified mission.
Involve the leadership
The aerospace and defense industry needs to improve its perception and perspective about leadership and teamwork for employees. They need to identify how individual roles contribute to the business's overall objectives, which can improve perception and hiring perspective.
Implement productivity practices
Aside from setting economic incentives, companies can train their management team and promote a feedback-friendly culture. When it comes to supporting employees, it's essential to give them the respect they deserve.
Use data and analytics to source talent.
Aerospace and defense HRs can make AI-based hiring decisions to analyze top candidates and what is expected in their best hires. This can improve the overall quality of hiring and can reduce turnover.
Several HRs are using AI-powered Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to automatically screen thousands of resumes and reduce manual effort. AI and machine learning algorithms can also be tasked with mining candidate data. Moreover, AI can also analyze candidates' body language and facial expressions to predict their personalities.
The aerospace and defense industry is losing software talent rapidly and needs to hire and retain this talent to keep growing. The industry must innovate its hiring methods and change its culture. This will help bridge the software talent gap in aerospace and defense and enable the sector to reach its goals.
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What are aerospace and defense software engineer salaries?
The median pay scale for an aerospace engineer in the United States is projected to be $122,270 per year or $58.78 per hour. However, the A&D industry is changing and modernizing. As a result, software engineers' salaries are expected to increase by 8% from 2020 to 2030.
It is also crucial to look over the current situation, where software engineers are offered high salary packages in technology-centric companies over the A&D industry.
What are the job opportunities in the aerospace and defense sector?
A broad range of job opportunities offered in the aerospace and defense sector:
- Aerospace Engineer
One can specialize in aerospace engineering assignments such as flight tests, mission systems, or structural analysis and design of airframes.
- Systems Engineer
The responsibilities will be to build technology that monitors the climate, collects threat information, protects infrastructure, and collects threat information.
- Electrical Engineer
This role involves improving satellite communication, navigation, airspace management, and surveillance systems.
- Mechanical Engineer
In this position, the engineer will be responsible for researching, planning, designing, developing, and testing new systems for various aerospace and defense applications.
- Flight Inspector
A flight inspector will be responsible for maintenance and anticipating and solving potential problems before they arise.
- Quality Assurance Engineer
The quality of the software, systems, service, manufacturing, hardware, or program management might be the focus of one's efforts.
Who is an aerospace software engineer?
In the aerospace industry, software engineering is a necessary process that helps to design, develop, write, and implement software applications for aerospace products. Aerospace software engineers work hard to ensure that these products meet the needs of those using them.
How do I become an aerospace programmer?
To become an aerospace programmer or software engineer, you must have a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering or a field of engineering or science related to aerospace systems. Although, it is also essential to have a variety of soft skills with specific aerospace core skills to engage and work with the aerospace industry. Additionally, you will need to obtain a security clearance.
Can a software engineer work in the aerospace industry?
Aerospace software engineering is a demanding field different from that found in other industries, such as consumer markets. To work in an aerospace company, you should learn the basics of aerospace engineering and aviation mechanics. This knowledge will give you an advantage.