French defence group Thales will grow its workforce by 15 per cent this year, according to its chief executive, as Europe’s efforts to support Ukraine’s war against Russia drive defence spending higher.

Chief executive Patrice Caine said it will recruit 12,000 new workers this year, having already recruited 11,500 people last year. That compares with the average 5,000 to 8,000 that the company has added to its ranks during the past eight years.

“All our activities — in defence, in security, aeronautics and space and cyber security — are all growing, which explains our recruitment needs, particularly for young talent,” Caine said in an interview with weekly publication Le Journal du Dimanche.

Thales’s growth comes as defence spending in Europe booms following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago. European nations are supplying Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government with military hardware to help fight the Russians and are also seeking to bolster their own defences at home.

The company’s share price has increased by nearly 60 per cent since the start of the war last year, well above the Stoxx Europe Total Market Aerospace & Defense industry index.

Shares in other defence companies have also surged in recent months, as investors bet on a protracted war, although some companies have been hampered by parts shortages.

Caine, whose business employs more than 80,000 people around the world, credited the company’s €4bn research and development budget and army of researchers for the “historically elevated” levels of orders it has received. “Thales proves there is an exciting future for our industry . . . not in low cost, low tech but in cutting-edge innovation.”

Most recently the group, which is Europe’s largest provider of defence electronics, was contracted by the French government to provide GM200 radars to Ukraine, which are used to detect drone and plane attacks.

President Emmanuel Macron said last month that French defence spending would increase markedly in the coming years, with the budget until 2030 set to rise by a third to €413bn.

However, Caine warned that France needs to increase its pipeline of engineering graduates in order to continue to feed demand for talent from groups such as Thales.

“Traditionally, we train a lot of engineers in Europe. It’s one of our strengths. But the situation has evolved. In France, there are 40,000 per year. We need to double that,” he said, adding that the decline in graduates in Stem subjects — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — was worrying.

“If we don’t do anything to halt it and restore the level, this decline could become a pitfall. The teaching of these subjects has perhaps not been sufficiently modernised,” he added.

Thales reports full-year earnings on March 8.


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