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Aerospace industry aims to attract millennial generation

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How can the aerospace industry keep talented new recruits in its workforce pool? Offer flexible job assignments and a variety of projects.

How can the aerospace industry keep talented new recruits in its workforce pool? Offer flexible job assignments and a variety of projects, according to the "2009 Survey of Aerospace Student Attitudes."

The survey culled the attitudes last spring of 600 aerospace engineering sophomores and seniors at 23 schools across the country. An overwhelming majority of the respondents were male (80 percent), U.S. citizens (96 percent) and Caucasian (73 percent).

Among the survey's findings:

  • The students selected salary, excitement, location and work/life balance as the four most important job attributes. While they felt that the aerospace industry compared more favorably on aspects of salary and excitement, they felt it compared less favorably on location and work/life balance.
  • Students expect significant mobility, moving jobs and even changing careers as often as every year or two.
  • 47 percent of students expect to gain new engineering responsibility every year or less.
  • Over 70 percent of students want to work for different companies or organizations over the course of their careers.

When presenting the findings this month, Annalisa Weigel of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, who is also an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said:

"These data are indicative of the values and desires of the millennial workforce, those workers born between 1981 and 2000. Their desires -- from what they value, to how they expect to work -- do not clearly align with the traditional aerospace industry. In order to attract a vibrant future workforce, the aerospace industry will need to change perceptions of what it has to offer. In addition, we saw that experiences at college can have a small negative influence on aerospace students' attitudes about the industry, so there is work to do in the academic higher education arena as well. Balancing the next generation's desires with the demands of the workplace will require commitment from the entire aerospace community, but we believe this survey aids in the important first step of recognizing the gap."

Image: National Aerospace Plane program / Courtesy of NASA Langley Research Center

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Christina Hernandez Sherwood

Contributing Writer

Contributing Writer Christina Hernandez Sherwood has written for the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education and Columbia Journalism Review. She holds degrees from the University of Delaware and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure