More than one-third of A&D employees under 30 are looking for another position within their current organization, according to this year's Aviation Week Young Professionals Study. Another 23% of respondents to the survey say they are looking elsewhere.

The economic downturn and anemic job growth in the U.S. may have knocked down attrition rates as employees stay put, but the desire to move on has not faded. This year's study, which was sponsored by NASA and the Aerospace Industries Association, followed a group of young professionals for two years. Forty-five percent of them say they are planning to leave their current employer within five years.

Where do they want do go? For many, the software industry—with its Googles, Apples and Facebooks—is high on the list. And when they do leave, young professionals say the top frustrations that drove them out include internal politics and unmotivated, uncooperative or incompetent colleagues.

The secret to attracting and keeping young A&D workers is the challenge, according to the study's young professional and university student respondents. They want to work on high-profile projects; they have an innate interest in things that fly, communicate and secure the nation. And they definitely prefer work that varies week-to-week, day-to-day and even hour-to-hour.

“We're coming off an environment where what we did changed every semester and usually three times within that semester,” explains Patrick Shannon, a member of the Young Professionals Advisory Board who works at Orbital Sciences Corp.

One of the staggering points revealed in the study was that better than 40% of the respondents do not know what they need to do in order to further their careers. This does not line up with the energy, time and expense put into corporate mentoring and career-planning strategies. It is difficult to ascertain at this point whether this lack in the younger workforce is related to a general uncertainty in the A&D industry or to a true misalignment of goals.