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Opinion

A blueprint for attracting and retaining talent


Why are so many students and young professionals attracted by jobs in Silicon Valley? One reason is this region’s reputation as the place to be for anyone who wants to push technology forward by going digital. Too often, U.S. aviation companies find themselves on the losing side in the competition for top talent. Michel J. Tellier of Dassault Systèmes says this does not have to be the case.

Attracting and retaining talent in the aviation industry has always been challenging, but it has proved especially difficult over the past few years due to the rise of high-tech companies in other fields. This has left my company and others in a fierce competition for the best and brightest at the very time when the International Air Transportation Association predicts that air travel will double to 7.2 billion passengers in 20 years. More travelers mean a greater demand for aircraft and innovations. On top of this, manufacturers have an almost eight-year backlog of orders because of a record number accrued over the past 10 years in the commercial sector.

Adding to the challenge, the number of aerospace software and systems engineers eligible for retirement is increasing, as documented by Aviation Week’s annual Workforce Study. While aviation companies are reorganizing to make their operations leaner, more agile and more connected, there is still a shortfall of talented engineers when the industry needs them most.

In an industry as technology-intensive as aviation, companies must attract top talent with the right set of skills. That means seeking new workers, whether aerospace engineers or workers on the plant floor, with various backgrounds who can leverage new technologies like additive manufacturing, robotics, modeling and simulation, and the latest virtual tools to help accelerate production to meet the demand.

Silicon Valley-based high-tech companies, including Facebook, Amazon and Google, are breaking into market space that was traditionally held by commercial and defense aerospace sector, or A&D. At the top of the mind of engineers in Silicon Valley are autonomous transportation, drones, complex systems-based products, a thrust of innovation in the space sector, and sustained activity in defense and cyber security. With cutting-edge technology and rapid digital transformation, Silicon Valley appeals to top engineers in a way we haven’t seen before. As such, engineers whose skill sets would more specifically apply to the aviation field now have a much wider opportunity to explore other professions.

Today, the aviation industry is rapidly innovating across design, manufacturing and product development. The shortage of top talent in the industry threatens to bring that innovation to a standstill. To help mitigate the looming skill gaps, Dassault Systèmes has implemented new solutions and procedures to attract and retain top talent to the aviation industry, including investing in educational programs and arming millennials with access to cutting-edge software and concepts.

Platform technologies appeal to a younger workforce

Today’s top performing companies usually focus on the future, which means focusing their investments in new areas of technology. Across industries, we see some of the leading technology companies, including Google, Apple and Amazon, adopting platform technologies in support of digital transformation. For enterprises and startups alike, a business platform is an all-in-one software solution that allows companies to manage the entire product lifecycle, from ideation to creation, from a single collaborative space in the digital realm. In fact, more than 70 percent of startups and 50 percent of traditional companies have adopted a platform technology. Implementing a platform technology ensures efficient communication and collaboration across offices, states and countries.

With more than 70 percent of companies worldwide already experimenting with digital transformation, those who don’t move with the trend will be left behind. Cutting-edge technology appeals to young engineers and is one of the major reasons they choose Silicon Valley over aviation.

My company’s 3DEXPERIENCE platform is an example. It streamlines work and helps to accelerate the onboarding and integration of new employees by providing them with one easy-to-use tool. It connects people, data, solutions and ideas by housing information in one intuitive, visual interface, which enables stronger collaboration and diminishes frustration for young engineers who are familiar with using cloud platform technology in their consumer lives.

Investing in the future

To create a culture of excellence and attract the best people, aviation companies need to invest in research and development. In addition to investing in our own R&D, Dassault Systèmes expanded its La Fondation initiative to the United States earlier this year. The company provides grants, digital content and skill sets in virtual technologies to education and research initiatives at forward thinking academic institutions, research institutes, museums, associations, cultural centers and other general interest organizations. It offers these institutions opportunities to transform the way people interact with and discover the world around them. In addition to influencing R&D today, La Fondation encourages a culture of innovation that students and researchers can take with them no matter what organization they join.

On-campus programs

Programs on college campuses invite students to bring to life what they’ve learned in the classroom. Students are encouraged to try new things and even make mistakes in a supportive and innovative environment. Additionally, through digital exploration of various software programs, the next generation of workers gets to understand the ins and outs of an organization prior to making a decision about employment.

Over the past year, we at Dassault Systèmes have created two innovative educational programs specific to the aviation industry to promote retention of talent. In April, we opened the 3DEXPERIENCE Center on Wichita State University’s campus to encourage firsthand experiences for young engineers in new ways of working and how they can help lead the transformation of how programs are delivered. The 3DEXPERIENCE Center was developed in partnership with the university’s National Institute of Aviation Research. Students get to oversee the process of creating a product from concept to production, all without ever having to create a physical model. This encourages them to push the evolution of airplane design, production and operation. This also allows students to have access to leading researchers to learn about the latest trends in aviation, including reverse engineering and additive manufacturing.

Additionally, in July, we partnered with eight educational institutions in Washington and with the Center of Excellence for Aerospace & Advanced Manufacturing to develop and refine the future workforce through cloud-based technology programs. These partnerships provide hands-on experience designing, engineering and manufacturing in the new Experience Economy where manufacturers design products to help customers build memories, rather than own products or receive services. Through the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, students can start a project on campus and continue building it anywhere in the world, enhancing domestic and international collaboration and communication. By exposing students to this new platform thinking, we are arming them with unique digital skills that industry leaders seek among new hires.

As demand for air travel and aircraft products increases, the aviation industry needs to ensure we’re equipped with talent to support these needs. By establishing a foundation for education early on for students to have access to the crucial skills needed to succeed, aviation and technology companies can better prepare for the future.

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Michel J. Tellier directs aerospace and defense (A&D) business for Dassault Systèmes, the 3-D design and lifecycle software subsidiary of the Paris-based Dassault Group. Based in Seattle, he holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

Michel Tellier Credit: Courtesy photo

A blueprint for attracting and retaining talent