The Arguile Search Blog

The AI threat: Just how real is it?

Not a week seems to go by without some headline-grabbing news about artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. Many are scared that automation will take their jobs – indeed, recent figures suggest that some 4 million contracting roles could be lost to automation.

Admittedly, for some roles, the roll-out of automation will be bad news but for others, there are many benefits. Overall, the World Economic Forum predicts that there will be a net increase in the number of jobs. It foresees 75 million jobs across all industries being displaced by 2022, but 133 million new jobs will be created because of automation.

Could it be that the potential threat of AI to contract management is a bit more bittersweet than the headlines would have you believe?

Legacy systems stalling progress

There are several factors to consider when looking at the impact of AI on the sector. Currently, legacy systems and attitudes are stifling AI’s adoption and any pros or cons stemming from it. AI requires a lot of data in a useable format to work efficiently – and many organisations simply don’t have suitable quantities of clean data to use. Before implementing AI and automation, organisations have to get their data governance and management in order – and that takes time.

Additional roles created

Additional human roles will be created through automation. Nine in 10 employers actually increased their headcount because of automation, in roles which only exist because of automation. 16 per cent of companies have expanded their IT teams, for example, to help systems run smoothly. Within contract management, manually intensive work such as tagging documents can be done through automation, leaving human employees to focus on negotiation, support, management and strategy. These are generally the more interesting aspects of the job, so a degree of automation should be welcomed by contract managers.

Reskilling becomes commonplace

That said, some positions will be completely automated and former workers in those roles will be forced to re-skill. Lifelong learning will be crucial in the future, with people unsure which roles will be automated next.

To futureproof themselves, contract managers must focus on honing their human skills such as communication, empathy and critical thinking. How to achieve that is still largely unanswered. There’s been a boom in online learning platforms in recent years, or alternatively people may turn to short courses, distance learning or formal academia.

The disruption caused to individuals who are automated out of a job cannot be underestimated. There’s the stress of losing a position – which some people may have worked in for a long time – couple with the pressure to retrain and possibly finance that training. Workers in low-skilled positions are most at risk of automation and will be most impacted by the financial strain of job losses and reskilling. They may not be able to afford to switch careers and learn new skills. Some antagonism towards automation and AI should be anticipated from those who have lost their jobs to it and organisations.

Responsibility a grey area

The responsibility for retraining and moving redundant workers is still under discussion. Organisations that lay-off significant numbers may find themselves responsible to find alternate roles or training for those individuals, if not legally, then under a duty-of-care to employees.

Governments may be forced to step in when mass redundancies hit a sector, to prevent widespread unemployment and the knock-on economic effects. Alternatively, the onus may fall to each worker, which offers an unwelcome financial burden. It may also increase inequality, as those in low-paying, highly ‘codifiable’ jobs won’t have the means to rapidly reskill and find new careers. Some may fail to find a new role completely, pressuring governments to improve social protection measures. Universal Basic Income may become a necessity.

The benefits of automation

The perks of automation cannot be overlooked; there are cost-efficiencies and productivity improvements involved in automating manual tasks. Beyond this, contract management processes are being improved with greater visibility. AI can automatically classify contracts and tag documents, making them available to relevant parties. It can flag key dates and highlight any compliance issues.

Then there are the benefits to employees; they will be free of excessive admin tasks. Because processes are more efficient, they can get more work done in a shorter timeframe. Job satisfaction may improve, especially if they can work on more negotiation or strategic tasks. That said, greater productivity may lead to shorter working weeks – with possible pay cuts as a result.

Weighing up automation

Automation is not a clear-cut benefit, nor is it completely a risk. But it’s coming for every industry and most roles. Dealing with automation is likely going to may your job easier, but if it’s too effective then you’ll likely lose that role. For some, this provides a great opportunity to reskill in different areas, expand their careers and enjoy the streamlined effects of automation. Others may not be so lucky. It’s vital that as we embrace automation, we do not overlook those who’ll be negatively impacted.

The sky’s the limit for contract managers in aerospace

The aerospace sector soared to new heights as the new records for deliveries were set within the UK. The value of such deliveries is estimated to be worth £13 billion to the sector. This spells great news for the UK and its manufacturing industry, as well as the people working within it.  

Strong growth is predicted to continue globally throughout 2019. Fuelled, in part, by a resurgence in passenger air travel. Growing military tensions have also contributed to its current strength.  

Life is good, therefore, for contracts and commercial managers currently working within the sector. But how long can it last for? Is the performance of 2018 and 2019 something for contract and commercial managers to savour in the long-run, or merely a flash-in-the-pan? 

To unpick this loaded question, you must consider the drivers for today’s success. 

An arms race for aerospace 

First, geopolitical tensions are causing countries to increase their military budgets. This is positively affecting the aerospace industry due to the demand for military aircraft. In particular, there is a demand for light air support aircraft.  

Across the world, numerous tensions are causing unease. Chemical attacks on UK soil has damaged the UK’s relationship with Russian. Meanwhile, North Korea consistently threatens its neighbours. Demand for defence and military equipment is on the rise in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, North Korea and the East and South China Seas. Other countries are locked in a tit-for-tat battle as they seek to ensure their military capabilities exceed those of potential attackers. Western Governments and NATO members are increasing their military spend to remain competitive and counter global threats. 

With that said, military threats are no longer solely airborne. For contracts and commercial managers, keeping on top of current risks is a worthwhile endeavour. Cyberwarfare, specifically, has catapulted to the top of the list of concerns that military leaders have. If future battles are fought on computer screens, then the demand for military aircraft will tail off. 

Growth in passenger travel 

A boom in air passenger travel is boosting the aerospace sector’s performance. Commercial aircraft production is in demand, indeed with a backlog of orders. Boeing and Airbus each delivered 49 commercial aircraft in February 2019, an increase of 11 deliveries compared to the same time in 2018. This year, Boeing plans to deliver between 895 and 905 commercial aircraft. This is a 12-13% increase compared to 2018. Similarly, Airbus plans an 11% increase in aircraft delivery. 

However, a significant disruption to the industry is likely after Boeing’s challenges with the 737 MAX. After the Ethiopian Airlines crash, the company has suspended all deliveries of its 737 MAX airplanes. Boeing’s woes don’t stop there, with its shareholders, crash victims’ families and airline companies all suing the manufacturer. The long-term impact of this on Boeing’s financial performance, along with the reputational damage, is yet to be determined.  

The impact of Brexit 

You cannot mention UK aerospace without looking at the ongoing influence of Brexit. UK aerospace leaders reported a slow-down in orders towards the end of 2018 because of uncertainty around the UK’s relationship with Europe.  

As Brexit negotiations continue, loss of orders and investment in the sector may further impact growth. Although the industry, as a whole, is on the up, it may have risen more dramatically if Brexit had not affected the UK’s supply chain. Future disruption to this and a lack of consensus on trade between the EU and UK will increase costs for UK aerospace.  

Many volatile influences 

With external factors such as military tensions and trade agreements currently up-in-the-air, contracts and commercial managers must keep on top of all potential influences on the sector. Brexit is a big topic to remain abreast of, as is the rising tension between North Korea and the rest of the world, the continuing unrest in the Middle East and the ongoing 737 MAX crash consequences.  

The sector is going through a busy period now, but this performance is subject to many volatile elements. The imperative for contract and commercial managers, therefore, is to work hard in building relationships, fulfilling orders and boosting productivity today. Whilst also keeping their eyes on an uncertain future. 

Why relocate for your career?

Sometimes, the perfect job isn’t a short commute away, in fact, the best position might be a few hundred miles away. Relocating for your career might seem drastic, but for many people, it is a positive move. When you take the leap to another city, or even another country, your career can go much further – and not just geographically.

Much to consider

There is a lot to be considered when relocating and many people are involved in making a decision. Moving to a different area impacts your friends and family too. For those with children, the decision can be more complex; there are pros and cons to moving your family, but they may benefit from better facilities such as schools and outdoor spaces. Moving your children from a busy city to a peaceful seaside could expand their horizons and bring a calmer dynamic to the fold. However, there is the potential disruption to their social circle and school network.

When considering a move, you must consider your holistic happiness and job satisfaction. What lifestyle does the new location offer? Swapping high rises for rolling hills is a no-brainer for some.

Paying off in the long term

Career-wise, relocating can pay dividends in the long run. First, it shows that you are deeply committed to your career. That will make your CV stand out to any future employers. Of course, your benefits package and pay may drastically increase and your standard of living could improve. Moving to an area where the cost of living is lower and getting a salary increase at the same time, is a double-boon for your bank account.

Network and skill building

The opportunities offered by a role in a new location can be extensive. It’s a sure-fire way of building your soft skills and extending your network. Relocating can be character-building, enabling you to go outside of your comfort zone.

You’ll be exposed to alternative ways of thinking and different people. Some areas are well known for certain industries – Bournemouth, for example, is becoming known for a booming tech scene dubbed ‘Silicon Beach’.

Gaining an edge in the market

New places can also introduce you to new cultures – especially when you move internationally. In the future, if your business is expanding, you may have the edge with your experience of the local area. Indeed, some form of international experience is often needed to get that coveted place in the boardroom.

Reaching the next level

Take, as an example, the experience of Anna Chow, who relocated after working for 24 years at AT&T. She decided that she was at the right stage in her family and professional life to move across America, from New Jersey to Texas. There, she took a job leading sales operations, progressing rapidly through three different positions to eventually become President of AT&T’s national business. A well-timed career move catapulted her to the top of her career ladder.

At any stage of your career, relocating can be the jumpstart that it needs to reach the next level. It’s a life changing decision – one that will make you a better professional and a stronger person.

Addressing the diversity challenge in the UK aerospace industry

Addressing the diversity challenge in the UK aerospace industry

The Aerospace and Defence sector has a longstanding diversity problem. Many organisations are aware of the disparity and actively seeking ways to include better representation of groups. But the diversity challenge is still a thorn in many sector leaders’ sides, not least because of the headlines generated whenever gender pay gaps or BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) recruitment figures are revealed.

However, headlines can be deceiving and while more can and is being done to better redress the inequalities that exist, we must not lose sight of the great strides that have already been taken over the last few years. Take the issue of pay as a case in point.

Pay disparity

Figures obtained by PayScale show that the median salary for male workers within the sector stands at £37,591 while for their female colleagues that figure is 13 per cent less – at £32,609. Yes, there is a sizeable gap but compared to the UK national average pay gap of 17.9 per cent, the aerospace industry is faring rather well in that regard. Much of this is down to the concerted efforts of many of the sector’s largest employers.

Indeed, BAE Systems recently reported their 2019 median gender pay gap to be at 9.1 per cent – a narrowing from the 11.2 per cent reported in 2018. Rolls Royce, for their part, has a reported median gender pay gap of 8.1 per cent, while MB Aerospace’s stands at 6.4 per cent. Mettis Aerospace states theirs at 3.4%.

The industry as a collective has rallied to drive greater parity when it comes to pay. Last summer, 50 UK companies in the aerospace and aviation sectors signed a Charter to work towards gender balance within the industry. By abiding by the terms of this new agreement, the sector as a whole could do much to address that other major challenge to which it has long struggled to effectively address – attracting new talent into the industry.

Overcoming the STEM challenge

In 2015, the then Aerospace Industries Association Chief Executive Officer Marion Blakey, stated that the industry does “not have a robust pipeline of young people with the right skills and training coming into the workforce.” She was right then and the same can still be said today. Indeed, the aerospace industry is being faced with some critical skills gaps. Boeing, for instance, estimates that the sector will need 637,000 more pilots and 648,000 airline maintenance technicians by 2036.

However, progress in tackling the skills shortage is certainly being made. According to The Engineering Council, the number of female engineers is rising year on year and now make up 13 per cent of Chartered Engineers. But, clearly, there is still a long way to go. Then there is the representation of people from different ethnicities or sexual orientations to consider; a third of engineers from minority ethnic backgrounds don’t find engineering very inclusive and 85 per cent have had assumptions made about them based on their ethnicity. Moreover, why should the aerospace industry encourage diversity?

Recruiting from a more diverse talent pool will help to fulfil those needs, and organisations will also benefit from getting the best talent for each role and a wider range of viewpoints to better inform business decisions. And it all starts at the very beginning.

Start as you mean to go on

Improving diversity is a long game. Companies must inspire the next generation to look at aerospace and aviation as a potential career path. For example, aerospace firm Northrop Grumman has been working with schools to promote STEM education amongst women and ethnic minorities. It also provides educational grants and internships.

Inviting female and BAME role models to speak in schools is one of many vital steps, which will make all students aware of the opportunities open to them. 

Improving the employer brand

A company that can show a diverse workforce and that is actively addressing the diversity challenge will be a more attractive proposition to new recruits – particularly younger workers. They are more likely to work for an employer who shows them that they focus on inclusion and that it’s their skills and experience that really matter.

Financial performance

Improving diversity goes beyond generating positive coverage and improving reputation. It can have tangible impacts on the bottom-line and can boost financial returns. Companies with good gender diversity were found to deliver better long-term returns by investors. Plus, having a mix of ethnicities on a team can make it easier to understand and enter new geographies.

The diversity challenge in aerospace is significant and requires industry-wide collaboration to address it. Solutions are required at several levels – within schools, within the industry and outside of the sector. Improving diversity should be a priority for aerospace companies, not only because it is the moral thing to do, but because there are many business benefits to be realised.