But even where workers are plentiful, they often lack key skills. States investing in vocational programs and training packages for new jobs have an advantage in winning new factory locations. These are not the manufacturing plants of the past with thousands of workers streaming in as a whistle blows in the background and smoke billows from a stack. The new sites are highly automated, focused on high-performance work teams, and require a higher level of basic skills. Line workers are using hand-held devices and computers, programming in control options and assessing possible disruptions and problems.
So while manufacturing looms as a people issue, what worries study respondents more is the need for people who can dream and create; developing new technologies, products and service; connecting the dots between what is possible and anticipating the next need. Stephens and his peers across the industry also are keenly aware of the need to nurture that new generation of technical talent. “I don't know of anyone who is backing off the push for quality and quantity in terms of STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] professionals,” he says.
Survey respondents say this is their top concern: shortages in design, development and basic science. Within this category, the shortages tend to focus on software development, aerospace, mechanical, electrical and systems engineering.
The U.S. graduates 72,000 new engineers each year. Over the next two years, A&D companies plan to hire 8,100 engineers, as well as 3,000 software developers. They will be competing for them with the likes of Google, Apple, Microsoft, the oil and gas industry, and Wall Street.
The notion that there is a shortage of applicants is incorrect, according to members of the 2012 Workforce Advisory Board, who helped Aviation Week analyze the results of the survey. Rather, human resource departments are often flooded with applicants who know the keywords that will get them through online application screening but lack the high-level knowledge and experience needed for many positions in A&D.
And in some cases, companies that cannot find employees with the necessary skills are building classrooms. BAE Systems' U.S.–based Intelligence & Security sector set up a training facility for intel analysts. Now the company is duplicating that effort in cyber, where it trains both BAE employees and customers about cutting-edge cyberforensics that focus on what information cyberattackers are after and how they are trying to access it.
“A few universities are offering training capabilities, but they're very early in the process,” says DeEtte Gray, president of the sector. “It's challenging to recruit and clear individuals in the cyber and IT markets, so we're focused on establishing our own training capabilities in order to enhance the skill set of our workforce.”
While respondents point to engineering/R&D and manufacturing as areas of opportunity, they also point to looming shortages in program management and business development. After a more than decade-long campaign focused on developing program leadership bench strength, leaders are concerned that cuts to defense programs will send this talent to other industries when the opportunity arises.
•Where the jobs are. Those looking for work in the U.S. A&D industry can find it in manufacturing/operations or the defense/security sector. And, if you are qualified, jobs are available in engineering, software development, sustainment/ maintenance, repair and overhaul, as well as hourly production. About half of the 28,000 positions that respondents plan to fill this year are in the Northeast or Southeast U.S.