The UK’s defence and aerospace sectors are continuing to be squeezed by a shortage in STEM talent, leaving ‘high-trust’ businesses vulnerable to being outpaced by overseas counterparts.
The UK Commission for Employment and Skills revealed earlier this year that 43 per cent of STEM vacancies were hard to fill due to a shortage of applicants, leaving tech skills in even higher demand.
The lack of STEM talent in the UK has seen 97 per cent of decision makers from across aerospace, defence and government admit they are struggling to gain a digital advantage across data, people and technology, according to a report published today by BAE Systems Digital Intelligence, conducted by market research agency Vanson Bourne.
Nearly half of respondents added that greater access to STEM talent will help them overcome certain barriers in areas such as cybersecurity.
Skills shortages in the UK have hit almost every sector, including logistics and pharmaceuticals.
James Hatch, chief digital officer of London-listed BAE Systems’ Digital Intelligence business, said that “if we unlock the country’s digital advantage, the future will host a richer and safer society and the UK will have an increased global influence, across defence, technology and science, and cybersecurity.
“These organisations cannot risk failing in the way a start-up can, the cost would be too great, impacting security at both a national and international level… They are responsible for handling the country’s most sensitive and secret data, delivering services to citizens and safeguarding democracy. While the barriers are numerous, unlocking digital advantage in a high trust context is significantly imperative, enabling organisations to solve some of today’s most urgent problems and defend against adversaries who are always innovating.”
Dave Armstrong, group managing director of BAE Systems Digital Intelligence, noted that “numerous geo-political and socio-economic factors – from the conflict in Ukraine, to climate change, Brexit, inflation and a labour market crisis” have given the UK a “stark reminder” to grapple with its current digital vulnerabilities.
Businesses and the government have found that concerns over the security of new technology to be the UK’s top barrier to advancing its own tech literacy, which could be alleviated with more STEM talent in the workforce.
Both must also have a more “centralised” management, overseen by STEM leaders, in a bid accelerate innovation and tackle cybersecurity risks, research fellow in cybersecurity and cyber threats at RUSI, Sneha Dawda, said.
Concerns over cybersecurity have grown significantly following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
British satellite bosses Dr. Kathryn O’Donnell and Tony Holt at In-Space Missions, added: “Cybersecurity is another challenge… finding the right people to advise on all of these factors with the correct balance of knowledge, experience and pragmatism, can be really difficult as we’re coping with a global talent shortage.”