French Industry To Use Paris Air Show For Recruitment Drive
PARIS—The French aerospace industry’s lobby group GIFAS is trying to help its members overcome unprecedented difficulties in hiring.
As the parent company of Paris Air Show organizer SIAE, GIFAS is putting an emphasis on harnessing this year’s edition of the show—running June 19-25—to promote careers in the sector.
It is not the first time the show has been used this way, but recruitment is now a greater concern than before. Hiring has become so challenging that it is impeding the production ramp-up led by Airbus and Safran. Recruitment has recently surpassed energy prices as GIFAS members’ priority problem, according to GIFAS chairman Guillaume Faury, also CEO of Airbus, speaking April 27 at the association’s annual press conference.
Students and the unemployed will be able to enter Paris Air Show for free over June 23-25. Special buses will be arranged to carry teenagers from Normandy, a key region for local aerospace and defense companies, to Le Bourget. “We will show them how cool aerospace is,” said Clementine Gallet, president of GIFAS’ committee for small businesses.
To give maximum publicity to a three-year agreement with the government’s employment agency, GIFAS is organizing a signing ceremony at the show. The idea is to better promote aerospace job ads locally.
In 2022, the association’s member companies hired a total of 18,000 people. This year they intend to recruit 25,000, significantly more than the 15,000 target set back in 2019.
When combined, GIFAS member companies had 195,000 staff on the payroll at the end of 2022. They hope this will hit 200,000—with the hoped-for additions and factoring in retirements—at the end of 2023.
Recruitments in 2022 were effectively more numerous than the expected 15,000, but were still short of the French industry’s actual needs. “Some small companies cannot run their production equipment because they do not have enough workforce,” Gallet said.
“That is not a purely French problem,” Gallet said. “It started with the loss in employees during COVID-19 in 2020, having them back is challenging. That is a global issue.”
Thanks to solidarity in the industry—with OEMs helping their suppliers—and strong government support, the French aerospace sector managed to retain a high proportion of employees during the pandemic. While the damage was limited, increasing production rates requires a greater head count.
Some roles have been particularly hit. In welding, sheet metal work and industrial maintenance, the number of newly qualified students coming to the end of their training programs is only half of what the French industry—including aerospace, naval, nuclear and energy sectors—needs, according to a survey presented by GIFAS’ metallurgy branch.
It is unlikely this problem will be solved any time soon. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 crisis, some students left their training programs before they had completed them. Those schools where production workers are trained still face a shortage of students.
Does the industry suffer from an image problem? “We should do more communication on our careers, the content of our jobs, the high technologies they involve and the sovereignty aspect, as well as the fact the solution to decarbonization will be found in the industry,” Philippe Dujaric, GIFAS’ social and training affairs director, tells Aviation Week.
At the Paris Air Show, the “Career’s plane” (known as the Avion des Metiers in French) will showcase demonstrations of a number of jobs, some of them involving spectacular manufacturing equipment. Education should start at a young age, Dujaric says, adding that some elementary schools will receive an invitation to the event.
Salaries are 15% higher in aerospace than in the services sector, according to Dujaric. An 18-year-old, after three years of technical high school classes, may earn an annual salary of €20,000 ($22,000, after deduction of social security contributions), Dujaric says. Another two or three years of training brings salaries to €23,000 per year.
Recent bankruptcies of clothing retail chains in France have sent thousands into unemployment. GIFAS is trying to make the most of the situation, seeing an opportunity to hire future aerospace technicians. Such an instance is rare and, as Dujaric points out, the employment rate in France for those aged 15-24 is at its highest level since 1990.