Airbus, Helicopter Orders Drive EADS to Seek 5,000 Extra Workers

European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. said it’s looking to hire 5,000 people this year amid surging output of its jetliners and helicopters.

Of the new hires planned, 3,000 will come at Airbus SAS, which is increasing the build-rate for A330 wide-bodies to 10 a month from nine, commencing production of the A350 model and working to bring the A320neo into service by late 2015. Output at Eurocopter is also gaining as rotor-craft orders increase.

“It’s not just engineers,” Thierry Baril, human resources head for both EADS and Airbus, said in an interview. “Given the growth in production we’ll be hiring in all categories, including shop-floor workers, technicians and people who work on the supply chain and procurement.”

The hiring plan will increase the payroll at EADS to more than 140,000 people and comes after the company added 7,000 new workers last year, 5,000 of them at Airbus. The jetliner unit enlisted 1,000 people more than originally envisaged to take advantage of a positive recruitment drive, Baril said.

Airbus currently has 12,000 people working on the A350 program, a figure that will rise to 16,000 when maximum production rates are reached. The final-assembly line for the long-haul plane has 450 staff, which will increase to 1,500.

National Balance

EADS, which also supplies satellites, rockets, jet fighters and defense electronics, will seek to narrow a gap between the employment of French and German nationals to reflect its ownership structure, according to Baril.

Some 39 percent of EADS workers are French, with 34 percent from Germany, 10 percent the U.K. and 8.5 percent Spain, while following a shareholder restructuring last year the French and German governments each own 12 percent of stock, with Spain controlling 4.4 percent. BAE Systems Plc, which once held a 20 percent share in Airbus, sold that stake to EADS in 2006.

“It’s easier for us to find aeronautical engineers in France than in Germany, so we’re redoubling our efforts in Germany,” Baril said in the interview in Toulouse, France, where both EADS and Airbus are based. “The goal is to keep the French-German balance under control.”

Hiring women is also a priority, Baril said. One-quarter of the engineers hired by EADS in 2012 were female, a positive proportion given that only 17 or 18 percent of university students studying aerospace engineering are women, he said.

The U.S. workforce of EADS amounts to 1.8 percent of the total, though that may rise as Airbus prepares to open an A320 assembly plant in Mobile, Alabama. Ground is due to be broken at the site before mid-2013.