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Aerospace: skills policy must be part of a wider European recovery plan for the sector


16 Oct 2020


Social Europe & Jobs

Today, industriAll Europe took part in a high-level roundtable on a future EU Pact for Skills for the aerospace sector with Commissioners Breton (industry) and Schmit (employment), plus the CEOs of Airbus, Saab and Leonardo. The aim of the meeting was to discuss how an EU Pact for Skills could best serve the needs of companies and employees, in light of the impact of COVID-19 on the sector.

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the aviation sector is well known. With flights cancelled and travels bans in place, the number of flights plummeted resulting in the cancellation or postponement of orders for new aircraft. As a knock-on effect, the aerospace industry announced thousands of layoffs (e.g. Airbus 15,000 and Rolls-Royce 9,000 jobs) and job cuts in the supply chain in various countries including Spain, France, the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland.

European aerospace is renowned as a high-tech, high-value industry and therefore requires a highly-skilled workforce. New EU ambitions to lower carbon emissions, on top of tough international competition, increases the pressure to produce market-leading green technology. This requires more specialised skills and more investment at a time when the sector is struggling to survive. 

Isabelle Barthès, Deputy General Secretary of industriAll Europe, said:

“Trade unions have been calling for an urgent European roundtable to discuss the recovery of the aerospace sector and we therefore welcome today’s meeting. We need to be realistic however and skills are only part of the solution. The topic of skills needs to go hand in hand with a strong industrial policy to keep the sector a success.

‘’Today, thousands of workers are facing redundancy and we cannot lose the skills and competencies that have been built up over decades. We need urgent European action to protect the industry, to save our jobs and to keep these much needed skills in Europe.’’

Flying into recovery

Last week, industriAll Europe released their aerospace recovery plan ‘Flying into recovery’, which calls for urgent action to protect the 600,000 direct jobs in the EU, with thousands more in the supply chain across Europe. The recovery plan stresses the importance of anticipating skills needs, ensuring that all workers have access to training as well as the necessity of reskilling and upskilling workers.

IndustriAll Europe is further calling for combining short time work with training to keep workers, and their competences, in the sector. We call on companies to become ‘’learning companies’’ which requires new work organisation by combining work and training and adapting workplaces. Trade unions also continue to call for dual learning, on a lifelong learning basis, to effectively ensure that companies are more present in education and vice-versa. 

Isabelle Barthès added: 

‘’Skills are important, but they are not a silver bullet. They need to be part of a wider European recovery plan for the sector including a strong industrial policy. We need the European Commission, national governments, and CEOs to come together again for a wider discussion. Action is needed to save jobs and skills now.’’