For all the talk about U.S. aerospace companies needing to increase productivity so they can meet major competitive and Pentagon affordability challenges, there is another reason no less compelling—aerospace employment is falling.
Credit retirements and voluntary attrition, coupled with jobs that defense contractors are shedding in anticipation possible sequestration (see “Wrecking Crew,” AW&ST, July 2, p. 00).
In 2011, the retirement rate was 2.8%, and the voluntary attrition rate was 7.7%. This year, the sector expects to lose some 56,000 jobs, bringing the industry’s population to less than 596,000, according to Aviation Week’s 2012 Workforce Study. The analysis, done in conjunction A&D companies, represents more than 75% of the industry. It projects a continuing decline in the number of people employed in the aerospace and defense sector through 2015, with the industry’s population dropping below 500,000 within five years.
It is difficult to predict what the state defense contracting business will be in five years, given all the uncertainty that will continue to hang over the sector for some time to come. But it’s also irrelevant. By any definition, the U.S. defense budget still will be huge at mid-decade, and the Defense Dept. almost certainly will be demanding that defense contractors deliver products and services to market faster and according to cost and schedule commitments. If employment is fall, industry will need to wring even more productivity from their operations, either through technology or process improvements.
The workforce study, done in conjunction with industry and academia, also include a survey of young professionals (under 40). It revealed an added complication for the industry that many companies may not be factoring into their resource planning: some 45% of the men and women survey said they plan to leave their current employer within the next five years.
A comprehensive analysis of Aviation Week’s workforce study, which also includes a survey of university students, will be published in Aviation Week & Space Technology in late August. An outside advisory panel got a preliminary look on June 26. Look for it; you will find it most insightful.