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Fortune: 'Silver Tsunami' to Hit Aerospace and Defense Industries Hard

By    |   Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:37 AM

A crisis is brewing in the aerospace and defense industries. Many workers are due to retire, but there's a slew of obstacles to luring new talent.

According to Fortune, the average aerospace and defense worker is 45 years old. And the so-called "silver tsunami," or aging population, will hit the industry especially hard.

In fact, 30 percent of Boeing's workers could retire today if they wanted. And Fortune says a survey from Aviation Week reveals that problem is not unique. Nearly 10 percent of aerospace and defense workers are currently eligible for retirement, and that number is set to grow annually over the next four years.

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Retirees Slammed with 85% Pay Cut (New Video)

Companies realize that it's imperative to find replacement talent, but doing so involves overcoming an array of challenges.

Students are increasingly entering the needed science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs, but their desire for aerospace and defense jobs is dwindling.

"Younger folks are taking a keen interest in industry outside aerospace; in healthcare, technology and the Googles of the world," Annalisa Weigel, a senior aerospace policy and economics lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Fortune.

Young workers prefer jobs with opportunities to move up and assume responsibility or to readily complete projects and experience achievement. Those elements are limited in an industry where one project can take a decade, Fortune explained.

Then, there is the money. Whereas a mid-career aerospace software engineer averages $93,288 a year, software developers at companies like Apple and Google get paid $20,000 to $35,000 more.

Some industries readily address skill and labor gaps with immigrant labor. But with aerospace and defense it's not that simple because government regulations require many of the positions be filled by U.S. citizens.

Christian Marrone, vice president for national security and acquisition policy at the Aerospace Industries Association, told Fortune the best way to lure young talent is with new and groundbreaking aerospace programs.

But Defense Department budget cuts, which are set to steepen by billions of dollars next year, make even that a challenging option.

Many say these struggles aren't just a labor problem and warn that a lack of qualified talent and resources to attract younger workers is actually a national security issue.

Companies and their lobbyists are appealing to Congress to reconsider the spending cuts.

They want to avoid "a new normal where lower defense spending is acceptable," Julian Zelizer, a history and public affairs professor at Princeton University, told Bloomberg. "They want to counteract the perception that lower spending won't actually endanger the nation."

But that may not be so easy, according to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

"It's a new generation of conservatives that may not have the same concern for national security as previously," Bloomberg said McCain forewarned. "A lot of them have never served, many of them are new in the Congress and many of them campaigned committed to cutting spending."

Editor’s Note: Retirees Slammed with 85% Pay Cut (New Video)

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A crisis is brewing in the aerospace and defense industries. Many workers are due to retire, but there's a slew of obstacles to luring new talent.
Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:37 AM
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