Between the CHIPS and Science Act and the Fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, recent legislation is intensifying the focus on the available supply of electronics engineering talent — and at the same time, even if inadvertently, upping the ante in terms of competition for a workforce already in critically short supply. 

With developments like these afoot, and poised to compound existing talent shortages in the field, what’s the most effective workaround for employers? And what’s the right approach for those considering rolling out potentially costly upskilling and reskilling initiatives in the year ahead? 

In this blog, Peter Parsons, solutions principal, Randstad USA, breaks down what’s next.

the confluence of electronics engineering and avionics

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to notice emerging workforce trends in the roughly $47 billion avionics industry, as Parsons explained. 

“All aviation is becoming more and more electronics based, and at the same time, the importance of a lot of the mechanical components is decreasing rapidly,” he said. “To a certain extent, you can see what’s happening in avionics in microcosm in the automotive industry right now, with cars turning into rolling iPads.”

Such an outlook will be of little reassurance to employers in the avionics space, of course, where the current levels of talent scarcity are almost impossible to overstate.

The numbers speak for themselves: 

  • The workforce is rapidly aging, with as many as half of aerospace engineers becoming eligible for retirement within the next five years. 
  • Meanwhile, tech firms are increasingly tapping into the avionics engineering workforce — which creates new challenges at a moment when more than eight out of 10 aerospace and defense (A&D) companies are actively recruiting for data analytics roles. 
  • On top of that, 76 percent of the leaders on engineering and tech teams say their organizations are experiencing critical skills gaps at present. 

With avionics talent increasingly hard to come by, what will be the best corrective measures for employers in the field?

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Between electronics engineering and, say, avionics engineering, we haven’t historically seen too many people cross over, yet it’s totally doable. On-the-job training can compensate for a lot more than most leaders think. Ultimately, though, I think it’s less about reskilling or upskilling than it is about shifting the focus areas for talent.

Peter Parsons, solutions principal, Randstad USA

workarounds and solutions for avionics employers

Given the existing talent shortages, foregrounded by stats like the above, it’s no wonder human capital leaders are so eagerly considering upskilling and reskilling initiatives, which often appear to be the most effective near-term fix. 

But, Parsons cautions, to do so effectively, you have to start with a highly tailored approach. 

“The field of ‘avionics engineering’ itself can be something of a blanket term,” he pointed out, “since it encompasses everything from aircraft design to engine design and infrastructure design, plus all of the complex execution behind that.” 

So how, then, to go about building more robust and future-oriented talent pipelines in order to keep up with skyrocketing demand? 

In Parsons’ conception, the solution is probably more readily at hand than you might realize — and in a sense, terms like “upskilling” and “reskilling” don’t even apply.

“Looking at the current dynamics of the talent marketplace, you have to rethink the end-to-end challenge,” Parsons said. “It’s not about changing skill sets per se, and it’s not about ‘finding’ great candidates at this point.”

He continued, “In my experience, ‘upskilling’ and ‘reskilling’ are sort of misnomers, because it’s really about shifting the focus areas for people on your engineering teams instead. They aren’t learning anything fundamentally new. Rather, it’s about accelerating their development through training programs. And I think the key question — the question that’s going to most directly influence bottom-line outcomes — is, ‘Can we get someone with, say, one year of related engineering experience to the point where they’re able to competently operate as if they have three?’”

key takeaways

Answering questions like these won’t be easy, of course. Yet for talent to make the leap from many types of electronics engineering to the field of avionics is easier than many employers may think. At the same time, it isn’t going to happen without comprehensive, forward-thinking programs and policies in place. 

For actionable insights on how to bridge that gap at your organization, including best practices for future-proofing your avionics workforce today, get in touch with the engineering experts at Randstad.