One solution previously mooted for Western industry's shortages of engineers was the mass recruitment of personnel from emerging nations with burgeoning educational establishments, notably China and India.

They could either be used for the "offshoring" of work or take up positions in Europe or the USA, it has been suggested.

Increasingly, however, this option seems unlikely.

There are obvious security considerations when dealing with defence-related work, the quality of some Asian university degrees is under scrutiny and many of those classed as engineers are actually more akin to technicians by Western standards, say industry representatives.

"Offshoring is a tactical solution that will address some issues, but will not be an answer to the big picture," says Andy Leather of the Society of British Aerospace Companies.