AN aerospace boss has called for government action to tackle the shortage of highly-skilled engineers equipped with the digital skills needed for the future.

Nigel Whitehead, chief technology officer at BAE Systems, made his plea as the firm unveiled a full-scale model of its Tempest template for a future combat aircraft developed with UK partners including Rolls-Royce.

He introducing the firm's White Paper on ‘Future Skills for our UK Business’ at its Samlesbury plant.

Mr Whitehead called for a concerted effort by industry, government and the education sector to ensure the UK fully benefits from the digital revolution.

He said the defence, aerospace, engineering and manufacturing sectors needed to work together prioritising investment in skills and retraining.

Mr Whitehead told the seminar at BAE Systems Academy for Skills and Knowledge that 'to help address the UK’s shortage of engineers, we need for a nationwide programme of activity to improve the perception of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects and careers and for the engineering industry to consider recruiting more people with highly-applicable skills traditionally more associated with arts subjects, such as creativity and problem solving'.

The document set out six guiding principles: creating a more diverse, inclusive and flexible workplace for the employees of tomorrow; a commitment to retraining and upskilling; prioritising investment in digital, soft and behavioural skills; supporting suppliers to develop skills in the digitally-enabled workplace; improving the perception of STEM subjects and careers; and championing vocational training;

Mr Whitehead, said: “I am personally really excited by the opportunities in today’s highly connected world and what the future will bring, but we cannot be complacent.

"By taking tangible action now and capitalising on the ambition of young people coupled with the UK’s traditions and advantages – education, strong legal frameworks, technical innovations and leadership – we can exploit the digital revolution and compete on the world stage.”

Dr Hayaatun Sillem, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering added: “Failure to successfully prepare for the impact of technological disruption means we will put at risk our ability to benefit from the opportunities created by digital transformation and other waves of technological change.”