YouTube goes a long way in highlighting the creativity and delight some of today's university students take in being . . . well, a nerd.
Whether at Purdue University creating an over-engineered automated soft-drink dispensing system or at the University of Michigan putting a fresh take on dance-a-thon turned hack-a-thon, present-day engineering students add to the tradition of poking fun at who they are while reveling in what they do.
As a teenager, he looked at the night sky and was intrigued by cosmology and understanding the universe—when he was not playing baseball.
Baseball skills took him to a small Kentucky college where he decided to major in physics. During his sophomore year, he watched a six-part Discovery Channel miniseries, “When We Left Earth: the NASA Mission.” “That was when I was set on track to space, completed a NASA internship and transferred to the University of Kentucky.”
As with many an engineering student, Linda Kuenzi is good at math and science.
Both her parents are engineers. So engineering seemed the obvious path after high school.
In fact, Aviation Week's 2013 Workforce Study found that 65% of engineering students choose their major based on their “respect for the profession”—most often because of a personal relationship with someone in the field.
Young people seem to be getting the message that engineering offers opportunity: 84,000 U.S. students graduated from universities in 2012 with engineering degrees. That is up 12% from 73,000 just six years ago, according to the National Academies. And despite the downturn in the economy and in federal spending, the aerospace and defense industry continues to provide at least some of that opportunity.
It pays to be the new guy, according to data gathered for the 2013 Aviation Week Workforce Study.
Pay for new college graduates rose by 3.4% between 2011 and 2012, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). In the aerospace and defense industry, the increase was slightly lower, at 3.2%. Companies with fewer employees worked to retain their workforces, awarding pay increases on average of 4.1%.
As a war-weary nation grapples with how to cut military spending and a dysfunctional Congress allows meat-ax budget cuts to fall on the Defense Department and NASA, one might expect that the U.S. aerospace and defense (A&D) industry's best and brightest talent would be heading for the exits. Indeed, one-in-five A&D professionals under the age of 35 submitted resignations in 2012, up from 12% the year before. The good news: most left to go work for another aerospace company.
Reduced retirement savings accounts and depressed home values are keeping older workers on the job longer than expected, postponing a wave of retirements that could have decimated the aerospace and defense (A&D) workforce. But the generation behind them is planning for shorter careers.
Voluntary attrition levels in the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry have plummeted during the past two years, as young professionals and those nearing retirement age alike have opted to stay put in a poor U.S. economy. What concerns A&D leaders is what will happen as the economy rebounds and the competition for talent ratchets up again.
Employees may question how their company executives are planning for the future and dealing with change, but A&D leaders are well aware of the challenges. Data from Aviation Week's 2011 Workforce Study shows that A&D employers are carefully balancing their cost-cutting efforts to assure they deliver in three areas employees feel are most important: Technological Challenge, Valuing the Individual and Learning/Career Opportunity.
North Charleston, S.C., is 400 mi. from Cape Canaveral, but as far as aerospace workers are concerned the two places are a world apart. At the Cape, NASA's space shuttle program dropped 3,200 contract workers the day after the final mission ended. Many of these are engineers who have little hope of finding similar work in Florida. The picture couldn't be more different in North Charleston, where Boeing has hired 4,000 workers for an assembly line that opened last month for its 787 jet. Suppliers feeding the new plant are expected to hire hundreds more.
Aerospace and defense companies are looking for a few good men—and women—in spite of a very difficult 2009, which included freezes on salaries and merit pay, furloughs and layoffs. For the first time in seven years, the level of aerospace employment declined, according to 2009 year-end data from the Aerospace Industries Association.
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