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Engineers have pilot position in aerospace jobs market

PARIS--The race to sell airliners, particularly between Airbus and Boeing, is putting the aerospace companies of the world in cut-throat competition to recruit engineers.

There is a worldwide shortage of people with the qualifications needed by the companies gearing up to meet demand for an estimated 20,000 aircraft in the next 20 years.

The European airliner manufacturer Airbus for example is using Twitter accounts to talk to potential recruits and is to hold an international recruitment day on June 30th, interviewing 100 candidates from 15 countries selected from more than 6,500 applicants.

Tom Enders, who has just switched from the top management of Airbus to manage the parent group EADS, said that “the pool of talent in Europe at least has clearly become too small.”

Airbus says that of 12,000 jobs available in the sector in Europe last year, only 9,000 were filled.

At U.S. aircraft maker Boeing, the vice president for human resources Rick Stephens told AFP that the United States produced 72,000 to 74,000 engineering graduates a year but “we don't see enough students completing engineering degrees to be able to fill what we believe will be the needs” of the aerospace industry.

His counterpart at Airbus and EADS Thierry Baril said: “We must fight like hell on the international market to get the best talents.”

When Boeing closes a factory as it did this year at Wichita in Kansas, putting engineers on the market, “everybody pounds after them, Airbus and Bombardier,” Baril said. “It's a little war for talent.”

Problem for Sub-contractors

The biggest companies say that even so, they manage to recruit owing to the strength of their brand names, but worry about problems encountered by their sub-contractors.

These companies can become weak links in the production chain when Boeing and Airbus increase their output.

The president of small and medium businesses in the organisation grouping French aerospace firms (Gifas), Thierry Voiriot said that “engineers are more attracted by the big names and think that in these companies there will be more opportunities for development.”

This problem is exacerbated if big groups use head-hunting firms to try to attract engineers away from the smaller companies, he said, adding however that such behavior was the exception.

In general, the big manufacturers had a policy of trying to ensure that the entire industry would be supplied adequately with engineers in the next few years.

Stephens said that the U.S. industry had been taking this approach for the last three years. “We all agreed that we would help create a large talent pool and then we could go and fight for them,” he said.

Firms in the sector work with schools and universities to help draw up programs which meet the future needs of the industry.

Airbus, and the third-biggest manufacturer in the world, Embraer of Brazil, run their own engineering schools.

The president of Embraer Aviation Europe, Luiz Fuchs, said: “We have our own school in Sao Paulo. This has been a very successful program where we attract people who have no possibility perhaps to go university. So we develop them, we pay attention to them, and we put them on the market.”

Promoting the Image of Engineers, with Hollywood

Stephens said that Boeing, which does an increasing share of its business abroad, needs to attract talented people outside the United States.

Airbus goes a step farther, considering itself to be not a European but a world business.

Of 4,000 people whom it will recruit this year, 90 percent will be hired in Europe and the rest in India, in the United States, China and Russia, Baril said.

Enders said that Airbus would open an innovation unit in India to be managed by an Indian.

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This Feb. 21 photo shows the working area in the Labinal plant (a branch of French aerospace and defense group Safran), near Toulouse, southwestern France.

(AFP)



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