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Aerospace sector is hit by shortage of engineers

The aerospace industry is suffering from "a chronic and terrible shortage" of advanced engineers, Business Secretary Vince Cable has warned.

This engineering shortage was the thing the industry was most concerned about, said Mr Cable, as he toured the Farnborough Airshow.

He declined to say exactly what effect proposed government cuts would have on the civil and military aviation industries.

But during a visit to the airshow yesterday, he said that one of the ways of supporting the aerospace industry was to help build up apprenticeships.

Northern Ireland's aerospace industry is worth £800m a year, and employs thousands of people.

The Business Secretary said: "There is a chronic shortage of advanced engineers - a terrible shortage. There are different ways of supporting an industry without just injecting cash. One way is through vocational training."

The airshow began yesterday with orders for rival civil aircraft makers, Boeing, and Airbus.

Boeing announced a $9.1bn (£6bn) order for 30 777-300ERs from Emirates Airlines. GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS), the GE leasing and financing arm, has also ordered 40 737-800s from the US aircraft giant, at a list price of $3bn.

Airbus announced US group Air Lease Corporation is to spend $.4bn on 51 A320s, Russian flagcarrier Aeroflot is buying 11 A330-300s, and GECAS has signed a firm order for 60 more A320s, taking the leasing group's order backlog to 99.

Mr Cable was shown around the Airbus A380 superjumbo, the world's largest passenger plane.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are among carriers due to take delivery of A380s later this decade.

Mr Cable said the A380 had "contributed massively to the UK economy".

Bombardier Aerospace, which employs around 5,000 people in Belfast, announced its CSeries jetliner programme has captured 50% of net orders in the 100 to 149 seat market segment over the last two years.

The jets are set to enter the market in 2012.

Bombardier in Belfast is designing and manufacturing the complete wing for the CSeries aircraft. Firm orders have been received for 33 of the aircraft, while options have been placed on another 90.