Case Study

‘See where your skills are in demand’

6 October 2021

DECA rep Robert Wood accidentally stumbled upon the Aviation Skills Retention Platform and Talent Retention Solutions, two schemes supported by Prospect, and immediately recognised how they could help careers such as his own.

During the pandemic, many employers, especially in the hardest hit sectors, such as aviation, reduced the size of their workforces – sometimes to the bare minimum required to maintain basic operations.

The whole economy, and individual industries, will take time to rebuild capability and capacity. The tapering out of the government’s furlough scheme, which ended in September, could also result in a second wave of job losses.

So, it would be prudent for many workers to keep an eye on the horizon for opportunities that could be available for them.

This is where the Aviation Skills Retention Platform could be of great value for many Prospect workers ­– not just in aviation but across many engineering, technical and skilled professions.

The ASRP has been set up by the same team who developed Talent Retention Solutions a decade ago to help engineering employers match-up with people whose jobs had either gone or were at risk in the defence industry.

TRS was established as a partnership between manufacturers, government, professional bodies and unions to retain key skills and enhance supply chains, particularly in the advanced manufacturing sector. Prospect has been an active participant in the scheme since its inception.

In essence, as well as simply advertising opportunities, employers looking for particular skills can trawl through a database of registered workers with those skills and look at their CVs before approaching them directly.

No more jobs for life

Robert Wood, chair of Prospect’s branch at the Defence Electronics Components Agency, stumbled upon the TRS website when a group of new apprentices were being inducted and were sent welcoming emails with useful information.

While Robert is approaching retirement, having worked for the MOD since he was 19, he could immediately see the value of the ASRP and TRS schemes.

“At the induction, the learning and development manager, was telling the apprentices that the world is changing. He said most people will move jobs about 11 times in a lifetime now,” Robert recalls.

“I thought the TRS would be good for your career and seeing what skills and qualifications you would need for various jobs. You can also see where the technology is moving, and where your skillset needs to develop.”

“From what I’ve seen of it, TRS have all types of jobs available, and lots that were within the MOD. There’s a lot of movement between MOD bodies, such as DSTL and DECA, because they’re all technical types of work.”

Another major benefit of the TRS and ASRP is the emphasis on technical, mechanical, engineering and electronic skills.

Having seen technical colleagues move into areas such as sales, finance or HR because their pay had fallen behind, Robert is glad of the recognition that there’s still plenty of value in having specialist skills.

He says: “We’re trying to bring people’s skills come to the foreground and put them in the shop window and say, ‘these are the things I can do.’”

The only downside is that the TRS was not around at the start of his own career, he jokes.

Career history

Robert started at RAF Carlisle in 1990 as an assistant to the clerical officer in the avionics section.

However, he soon discovered that doing the technical work suited his skillset better than the clerical work, so he soon went down the road of becoming an avionics technician.

First, the avionics section at RAF Carlisle was moved to RAF Sealand, and through years of attempted privatisations, mergers, spin-offs and the creation of various bodies, it is at the Defence Electronics and Components Agency, where Robert now plies his trade.

He succinctly describes it as an ‘electronic repair agency for defence assets’ and says they’re increasingly expanding into army and navy electronics, as well as the traditional avionics work.

An issue that he has been coming to terms with is the lack of reward for the years of training and service required to pick up specialist skills.

“This is where the TRS is perfect because while we might think our skills are too niche, unless you see the outside world, you don’t know.

“It’s very easy to sit in a bubble and think there’s nowhere else I can go. This shows there are lots of organisations who would want what you can bring.”


We have more than 11,000 specialists, scientists, engineers and managers working in the defence industry.


Prospect has members working in aviation, road, rail and maritime transportation, as well as regulation and research.