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August 30, 2011 Vol. 4, Issue 6


The aerospace workforce saw more stability than change in 2011, according to two benchmark studies by Aviation Week.

In an effort to establish a single, credible source of information regarding the state of the workforce, Aviation Week conducted its annual Aerospace and Defense Workforce Study, which examined the corporate sector, and its second Young Professional Study, which evaluated young professional workforce across government and industry.

Aerospace and Defense Workforce Study

The industry has experienced a shift, with increased commercial opportunities and decreased government spending in the past three years. With programs maturing or ending, there have been numerous layoffs. How long this downsizing will continue is uncertain.

In a time of tight budgets, companies are placing a heavy emphasis on retaining talented employees. In addition to health benefits, they are offering pay raises and promotions exceeding those of the information technology sector and U.S. averages in general. This tradeoff is made at the expense of professional development opportunities.

Key findings include:

  • Women make up one-quarter (24.7%) of the workforce, a number that has not changed much since 2000.
  • The hiring forecast for 2011 is up from 19,000 in 2010 to 31,000 jobs. This is higher than the predictions for 2012 and 2013, which are forecast at 22,000 jobs openings per year.
  • Base pay increased by 3.2% versus a national average of 2.5%.

The industry’s impending retirement wave did not materialize this year. The average retirement age increased from 55-57 to 62 (reported by all but two organizations). Voluntary attrition rates for the general workforce have slowed, but young professional attrition rates remain higher than those for the general workforce. Young professionals (age 35 and under) comprised 22% of the workforce in 2010, down from 35% in 2000.

(Note: The data for the 2011 study reflect the 2010 calendar year.)

Thirty-two organizations participated in the corporate 2011 A&D workforce study, which represents 90% of the industry.

Young Professional Study

Eleven companies participated in the 2011 Young Professionals study. The population consisted of a 10% random sample of the workforce under the age of 35. Key findings included the following:

  • 65% of the workforce is not looking for a new position at this time. Of those who are looking, 35% are searching within their organization, while 26% are job-seeking outside their current employer.
  • Top factors in their career decisions are technological and intellectual challenge, benefits (e.g., health care, investment plans, advanced degrees, learning, and flexibility), location, and the opportunity to advance.
  • The top frustrations are bureaucracy and politics. Over half believe that the pace of decision-making, progress, and management of change are not what they could or should be.
  • Half (49%) plan to stay in the A&D industry until they retire.

A heavy emphasis on access to management, opportunities to for career growth, and a balance between life and work were identified as important.

The study found that three-quarters (76.6%) of respondents were white. Latinos (5.19%) and African-Americans (4.43%) accounted for just under one in ten of the survey population, and one-third (33.5%) of respondents were female.

This year also marks the first year of results from the longitudinal young professional study. Volunteers from the 2010 Young Professional Study participated. (The survey attracted a 30% response rate.)

Key findings include:

  • 27% plan to stay with their current employer for ten years.
  • 36% changed jobs in the past year.
  • 44% were promoted.

The Young Professional Study was initiated in response to a three-year escalation of voluntary attrition among young professionals.

Aviation Week started the workforce study in 1997 and conducted the first Young Professional Study in 2010.

Read more about the Aviation Week reports.

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