Sustaining Key Skills in the UK Military Aircraft Industry

The Ministry of Defense of the United Kingdom commissioned the RAND Corporation in California to help Her Majesty’s Government figure out how, in the face of the growing dominance of US and European aerospace manufacturers, Britain can retain the human infrastructure for a healthy military aircraft industry. This short but pointed book outlines a solution.

This concern is not limited to the UK. British designers have played an important role in the creation of generations of highly successful military fixed-wing aircraft, and the loss of this capability would be a grievous loss to the industry as a whole.

Indeed, what fascinated me most about this book is that worries about “skills retention” in the face of long-cycle industry downsizing extends to a series of industries in the US, Japan, and elsewhere. As this AP article notes:

Centerline Machining & Grinding in Hobart, Wis., which makes custom parts for manufacturers in the paper industry, plans to add to its staff of 26. But it’s struggling to find the skilled tradesmen it needs for jobs paying $18 to $25 an hour.

CEO Sara Dietzen laments that local vocational schools cut back training courses in recent years, having concluded that the future for manufacturing was dim. Not from her view it isn’t. For her company, output is all about speed.

Applying that background, this is a fascinating read, and far more relevant than its limited title suggests.

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