Two-Fifths Of UK, European Skilled Aviation Workers Leaving, Survey Says

hangar with employee and aircraft
Credit: Hans Neleman / Getty Images

Almost two-fifths of British and European skilled aviation workers reported moving out of the industry, according to a newly launched industry survey from aviation talent recruitment specialists JMC Recruitment Solutions.

According to JMC’s 2021 Aviation Engineering Professionals Industry Survey, 38% have moved to an industry outside of aviation, the firm said Oct. 12. The survey polled nearly 4,000 respondents in the UK and Europe, in job categories such as B1 and B2 licensed engineers, aircraft fitters and mechanics, and sheet metal workers.

In a brief announcement, JMC did not proffer much explanation for the exodus, but it pointed to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Since April 2020 there has been a dramatic drop in global demand for aviation engineering contractors and new permanent staff, with JMC measuring a significant drop in engaged contractor numbers and requisitions for new permanent heads being canceled,” the firm said. “As a result of the impact on availability of work and ‘just in time’ nature of maintenance, pay rates too have reduced by between 10-15%.”

Brexit was another factor cited. About 58% said they believe Brexit had negatively affected their work options. Of those surveyed, 68% were contractors, 49% of whom said they thought that industry post-pandemic would offer less opportunity. Of the 32% in permanent positions, 10% said they were looking to move away from the industry.

JMC’s survey indicated that as the industry recovers, half of respondents said they believe pay rates will need to return to pre-pandemic levels or increase by 5-10%. Industry is seeing this already, JMC added, as airlines rebuild, put aircraft back into service and start recruiting again.

From aerospace to defense, aviation and aftermarket, every corner of the sector is reporting an uptick in voluntary departures—which, when combined with layoffs and furloughs from the onset of the pandemic—has exacerbated a gap in workforce skills and numbers.

JMC said its report underlines that more work is needed to attract new talent into aviation engineering, which needs to start during school years, as well as helping to retain existing skilled professionals as the industry recovers to pre-pandemic levels.  

Michael Bruno

Based in Washington, Michael Bruno is Aviation Week Network’s Executive Editor for Business. He oversees coverage of aviation, aerospace and defense businesses, supply chains and related issues.