What contractors in the aviation industry can do post-lockdown

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26 Aug 2020 @ 11:07 am

The UK has the third largest aviation sector in the world, behind only the giants that are China and the US. It’s host to a variety of roles for contractors in all kinds of sectors including R&D, engineering, design, IT, and infrastructure to name but a few. These can be involved in the manufacture and maintenance of the aircraft themselves, or they could be involved in other areas such as airports.

Needless to say, with aviation being one of the hardest hit industries during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been a difficult time for aviation contractors with many out of work for months on end, with contracts suspended or even terminated entirely – and all with little idea of when the industry might get back to its feet again.

How has lockdown affected the aviation industry?

Lockdown has seen the aviation industry take a hit on a massive scale. It was one of the first industries to be hit globally as lockdowns were imposed and people stopped travelling to coronavirus hot spots. The UK lockdown combined with Foreign Office advice against all but necessary travel saw the sector almost completely shut down, with only freight, emergency supplies and repatriation flights still in the air.

This has obviously been bad news for the travel industry, but it has also meant pauses in production and cancelled projects as various business try to make savings in order to keep themselves afloat. Airbus, for instance, reduced wing production at its sites in the UK and Germany, while Bombardier halted production in Northern Ireland and Canada.

General Electric, meanwhile, cut a tenth of its jet engine arm employees.

Airports around the world have also faced problems as footfall has been decimated. The Airport Operators Association put passenger traffic as down by 98-99% on the previous year. A variety of expansion plans for UK airports valued at as much as £1 billion have been put on ice for the time being at least. As well as the implications for the construction industry, there have also been consequences for contractors working in areas such as infrastructure and project management as projects have been mothballed or axed completely.

Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Birmingham and Edinburgh have all put the brakes on plans that were due to take place or had already started.

The government have so far resisted sector-specific support, instead focussing on their general support measures.

What’s happening now that lockdown has eased?

As things stand, flights have resumed to some destinations. However, as we’ve seen several times in the news over the last few weeks, countries are being removed from safe lists with short notice, leaving many afraid of the disruption ill-timed travel could cause to their plans should they have to quarantine for two weeks upon returning.

This has meant a slower re-start for the industry than many would like to see. In fact, some industry figures expect losses of £1 billion per month over the course of the summer.

This has been reflected in redundancy announcements, with UK aviation and aerospace firms announcing that almost 50,000 UK jobs could go. This is the biggest number of layoffs in any UK sector. In some cases, this also means contractors will also lose out, while in others hiring managers may want to take advantage of the flexibility of contractors.

What should aerospace and aviation contractors do now?

The first thing to do is remember that while it all might seem doom and gloom at the moment, this isn’t going to be like this forever. The next thing is to take proactive steps to either secure work now or put yourself on clients’ radars for work coming up in the future.

As we’re advising all of our contractors, there are a few simple ways to do this:

  • Reach out to previous clients (and recruiters) to find out the status of paused projects and to make them aware of your availability
  • Update your branding and marketing to ensure you’re easy to spot and remember
  • Get networking and arrange virtual meetings with previous clients, clients you’d like to work with, and recruiters
  • Have your business insurances ready to go

If you know you’re one of the unluckier contractors who isn’t likely to see new aerospace and aviation projects for a long while, then all is not lost. Although you work in a highly specialised sector, your skills will be transferable and highly sought after in others. You could, therefore, consider other industries that you could apply your skills to, at least until aviation is back to full capacity again.

Of course, we can’t help you find new clients, but we can help boost your appeal when you meet them by ensuring you’re fully insured and ready to start work. Give us a call on 01242 808740 to chat to one of our friendly, expert team.