Back to Top

September 30, 2010 Vol. 3, Issue 9


Aviation Week, industry leaders, and the Academy collaborated on the launch of an inaugural Young Professional and University Student Research Study.

Increasing concern among aerospace and defense leadership about new technologies and up-and-coming sectors siphoning young talent elsewhere prompted this addition to the long-standing workforce research Aviation Week has performed since 1997. With a 15.7% voluntary attrition rate for young professionals in 2009, an advisory board of industry and academic leaders and young professionals took on the challenge of understanding this critical population of the workforce. The result was a survey of young professionals (under 35 years old) and university students that shed new light on this critical demographic in the aerospace workforce.

The study yielded several key findings:

  • Young professionals and university students are interested in aerospace and defense careers.
  • The demographics for this population do not exactly mirror those found in the corporate world or society.
  • Over one-quarter report they would prefer to remain with their current employer for their entire career, and over half say they would stay in the same industry.
  • Expectations and reality regarding time between promotions are not aligned.
  • Strong relationships with direct supervisors, flexible work environments, independence, and variety in assignments drive work satisfaction (among working professionals).
  • Personal interest and the ability to make money drive the selection of a college major (among students).

Among the university students, two-thirds (67%) of those studying engineering report interest in a career in aerospace and defense. Within the first 18 months on the job, over half (57%) expect to be promoted, with fully eight in ten (80%) foreseeing promotion within 24 months.

The study reports that mentoring relationships are important for the transfer of both company processes and technical expertise. Organizations need to acknowledge a difference in culture between twenty-something employees and those in their thirties, as the younger cohort is still transitioning from the intensive feedback environment of college. Additionally, the report recommends that industry and government organizations continually recruit their current employees by keeping them engaged and challenged.

The study also reports that changes in NASA’s mission and strategy affect the current and future workforce. Across the board, the aerospace and defense workforce is concerned about how changes in the industry will influence recruiting the next generation into STEM fields.

The Advisory Board for the study emphasizes the importance of continuing to track the individuals who volunteered for this study.

Read the full report.

About the Author

Share With Your Colleagues