The UK’s defence sector is at risk of falling behind other countries due to a shortage of STEM talent according to the latest research report from experts in workforce solutions, Guidant Global.

The company’s report Delivering the Defence Workforce of the Future revealed that a staggering 83 per cent of key decision makers and influencers in the sector believe that the country will fall behind in terms of technology development due to a lack of skills. A further 77 per cent are concerned that the UK’s defence capabilities will deteriorate as a result, with 72 per cent also indicating that economic growth is at risk – both heightened concerns at a time of global uncertainty.

According to the statistics, engineering skills are particularly difficult to source, with 48 per cent of employers in the defence sector experiencing a shortage of these attributes. Cyber & digital (33 per cent) and manufacturing & mechanical (25 per cent) skills were al so cited as lacking in the defence labour market.

While half (50 per cent) of employers are directly engaging with colleges, schools and universities to build a more sustainable pipeline of skills, Guidant Global has warned that too few are also looking at more immediate and innovative solutions.

“While it’s no secret that the UK is facing a shortage of STEM skills, the potential impact this could have on the defence sector is a concern,” says Joel Forrester, client solutions director at Guidant Global and Army Veteran. “In the summer of 2023, the Ministry of Defence published its revised Defence Command Paper, acknowledging that more needs to be done to recruit and retain key skills in the sector.”

Forrester continues: “While there is a clear recognition of the challenges facing the sector, the majority of employers are focused on longer-term solutions to skills shortages. Engaging with emerging talent will have a positive impact on bolstering the defence sector’s labour market in the years to come, but the immediate threat remains. Just 16 per cent of those we surveyed said that they were working with specialist STEM workforce providers, for example, which suggests that potential means of boosting much needed skills are being overlooked for success both now, and in the long term.”

With the UK’s defence sector at risk of falling behind other countries if current trends continue, Forrester concludes it is imperative that more strategic action is taken promptly.

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