A Census that Matters: Aerospace and Defense Workforce Study Launched

American citizens depend upon the highly skilled and dedicated men and women who make up our aerospace and defense workforce to help them fly safely, keep our country secure, and to provide the sustained innovation that results in continued U.S. leadership in the global economy.

Our workforce is a valued national asset that can’t be left to atrophy.  Yet we are at risk of one of the most serious structural threats to our industry in a generation.  Our industry is facing an impending retirement wave and a shortage of trained technical graduates while work and skills requirements become increasingly advanced. Also, rising global demand for aerospace systems such as civil aircraft and Unmanned Aircraft Systems may further impact workforce requirements.

To address this issue smartly, we must first know more about the extent of the problem by staying abreast of specific employment trends to comprehend where resource gaps exist or may soon exist.  That’s where the annual Aerospace Workforce Study, conducted by Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine and Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), in partnership with AIA and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics comes in to play for our data-driven aerospace companies.

The survey instrument that will help inform the study was launched in March. It will provide company leaders with usable data on workforce gaps and trends throughout our industry, focusing on hiring forecasts, compensation levels, retirement trends and the demographic make-up of our industry.  It will also contain explanatory information about the influences that drive the career decisions of promising university students and young professionals.

AIA member companies are critical to the success of the study.  Because responding companies tell us they use this data for strategic planning purposes, we have worked to ensure consistency of the data requested from year to year. Given the new Administration’s and Congress’ focus on creating good paying manufacturing jobs in our country, we have also included a new section on manufacturing.  This information is important to know, as the voice of American aerospace and defense companies, to formulate policy recommendations that enhance our future workforce.

To make this year’s study as valuable as possible, we encourage companies to fully and promptly participate in the data gathering and submission process. Companies that respond to the survey vehicle will receive the final workforce study results including:

  • Analysis of industry-wide data
  • Aggregated industry data (compensation and demographics)
  • Aggregated data by size of organization (by headcount category)
  • Trends identified in executive qualitative interviews
  • Results of the university student survey, covering a 10 percent random sample of engineering students
  • Results of Young Professionals’ Study, canvassing a 10 percent random sample of employees under age 35 at 13 different companies, and a longer-term study based on a focus group of young professionals that first gathered in 2010.

The study findings will also be reported in Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine this September.  This effort provides a useful example of AIA’s ongoing work to

collaborate with stakeholders to inspire, educate, improve access to and retain a diverse and qualified aerospace & defense workforce.  If you are with a member company and haven’t received the Aerospace Workforce Survey, please contact Robin Thurman at Robin.Thurman@aia-aerospace.org.  We certainly appreciate our member companies’ support of this vital project!