Carole Hedden

Carole Hedden
Aviation Week Survey Ranks Companies on Job Satisfaction 

Technological challenge ranks No. 1 in considerations by aerospace/defense professionals when looking at employment opportunities.

Provided that compensation is similar and disregarding geographic location, professionals ranked technological challenge as the No. 1 issue in an Aviation Week electronic survey conducted on in 2001 and in focus groups in 2002 and 2003.

AW&ST Exclusive Survey Shows an Industry Facing Employment Issues 

Aspiring to be the industry of choice among the most capable engineering and technical talent is one thing--achieving that goal is another.

Such is the challenge for U.S. aerospace/defense companies, which will have to replenish their ranks in the years ahead as the workforce ages and other high-tech sectors lure the "best and brightest." Couple this with the fact that the net employment has been steadily declining in the last 15 years and the situation becomes troubling, according to many industry observers.

Aerospace Leaders Still Wrestling with 'People Issues' 

Formal and informal surveys of U.S. aerospace professionals continue to indicate "people issues" remain high on the list of management and employee concerns. In general, progress is being made, but leaders are continually challenged to eliminate unflattering perceptions of the industry and build a next-generation technical workforce.

In surveying U.S. aerospace and defense (A&D) companies for this report, several trends emerged:

TSA Launches Massive Workforce Buildup 

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. (ret.) George Naccara's new job combines many skills--facility space allocation, perimeter and internal security, structural engineer, information technology leader, acquisitions, policy development and training. However, what keeps him awake at night in his post as the new federal security director (FSD) at Boston Logan International Airport aren't these things; it's the people part. Naccara will hire about 2,000 people as federal employees to work security at Logan. He needs them in place, trained and certified by Nov.

IT Creates New Careers 

Northrop Grumman's biggest hiring challenge for 2002 isn't the Joint Strike Fighter. It's actually in the Northrop Grumman Information Technology business, which is expected to hire 4,000 people this year. That follows 2001 when 4,000 new hires also joined. Jason Gropper is one of the new breed of IT professionals that Northrop Grumman is seeking. He wasn't lured by the IT industry or fast-wealth offers of stock options.

Engineering and Then Some: Tailoring a Custom-Made Niche 

Walter Moguel is typical in that he's not a stereotypical engineer. He doesn't fit the image of writing code in a cubicle all day, and he needs the fire created by change and risk.

Air Guard, Airline Careers 

There are many aerospace-related outcomes from the events of Sept. 11. At least two affect pilots in disparate ways.

Air transportation is in a relative free-fall, resulting in 5,692 pilots placed on furlough. That's slightly more than 6% of the total 94,571 active airline pilots, the most pilots on furlough since the early 1990s.

At the same time, Air National Guard (ANG) fighter pilots are seeing flight time escalate from the typical eight training sorties per month to as many hours as they can handle flying airspace-protection missions.

Variety, Teamwork 

Kyle Franklin is just the type of person Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. executive vice president and general manager/JSF, has in mind when he discusses the Joint Strike Fighter program at Lockheed Martin. Burbage faces the challenge of hiring up to 4,500 engineers--some 60 per week each week for five years--should Lockheed Martin be awarded the JSF contract. Approximately 40% of the new hires will come straight from college campuses.

Maintenance Techs 

For more than three years, the air transport industry has warned that a projected shortage in aviation maintenance technicians could bring flights to a grinding halt. The reasoning includes an assertion that too many young people are being told they must go to college instead of adopting a technical trade.

National Labs Target 

Engineers and scientists working at the U.S. national weapons laboratories aren't joining the team to be stewards of aging technology. They're seeking opportunities for pure science and research. To recruit them, however, the labs must employ new tools and ideas.

At Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M., the goal is to hire 400 engineers and scientists this year. In addition, the lab wants approximately 80% of those new hires to come directly from the college campus, where the focus is on research rather than applied science.

USAF May Fall Short 

Alicia Hartong considered the real estate adage--location, location, location--when she chose aerospace over an engineering career in the automotive or paper industries. With her mechanical engineering degree, she thought she could build an entire career in aerospace in her hometown of Dayton, Ohio.

Opportunity Knocks 

A career fair at the Paris air show? It hasn't been done before, but Airbus is marshalling its forces to convince engineers throughout the world to join the consolidated company. With 4,600 positions opening in the next year--including more than 1,500 in engineering--the company intends to sell its excellence as an employer along with its excellence as an aircraft company during the show.

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