How BAE's US arm plays to win the talent war

Product makers and services providers alike in the government market are all feeling the pinch in the collective supply of science and engineering talent amid fierce competition for workers and increased labor costs.

Companies have to fill key positions to support growth as budgets start turning up again and more contracts get awarded even as that workforce supply is disrupted by hyper demand, salary inflation and a massive security clearance backlog that keeps talent on the sidelines.

At a Defense One-hosted event Tuesday, BAE Systems’ U.S. chief executive Jerry DeMuro said the business started two years ago to use data analytics in its forecasts of key skill areas to hire for and also “embedded human capital planning right into our business planning process.”

DeMuro said the idea for BAE Systems Inc. -- the U.S. subsidiary of Britain’s BAE Systems PLC -- was to plan ahead in the event of both a defense budget increase like what is taking place now and program wins that require a staffing ramp up.

The BAE U.S. arm had “started looking at a number of critical skills in a number of diff business areas and actual geographic locations by skill set,” he said.

DeMuro estimated that 60 percent of the business’ manufacturing and operations jobs need skill sets in “STEM” areas -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We’re working with a number of universities in areas on defining programs, increasing our co-op programs, actually starting apprenticeship programs,” he said. “We’re running programs through community and have really changed our focus in how we project, plan for and work on attrition as well.”

“You can have the best capital equipment in the world, (but) without good people you don’t have a business,” he added.

Large, legacy defense hardware contractors such as BAE generally have larger upfront capital investment requirements to support their platform manufacturing facilities across the country.

Government IT and professional services providers by comparison generally require lower upfront capital investments, but increasing labor and real estate costs in the Washington, D.C. region have led them to search for new regions and sources of talent to mitigate that.

Leidos, CGI Federal, CACI International and Science Applications International Corp. are examples of large services contractors that have set up service delivery and other centers across the U.S.

The almost 700,000-strong security clearance backlog is also a factor in the tight pipeline and has only increased competition for technical talent, who can often hop between competitors if a recompeted contract is won by another company.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also connect with him on LinkedIn.

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