While U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently announced a series of major cuts to the defense department, the jobs that are likely to be secure are in aerospace.

This year, U.S. aerospace and defense (A&D) companies will hire 15,469 people across all job categories, including 1,562 in production, according to the 2010 Aviation Week Workforce Study.

The demand for A&D workers is expected to increase in the coming years since nearly 30 percent of the A&D workforce are between 50-59-years old and nearly eligible for retirement, according to the 2010 Aviation Week Workforce Study.

For the larger companies with more than 100,000 employees, the rate of retirement eligibility by the end of 2009 was 19 percent of the workforce, according to the survey. By 2012 that number increases to more than 30 percent and by 2014, 40 percent.

However, the demand for workers educated in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is falling far short of anticipated need according to the Aerospace Industries Association. Only five percent of U.S. bachelor’s degrees are in engineering, compared to 20 percent in Asia, according to the AIA. Plus, more than 50 percent of all engineering doctoral degrees awarded by U.S. engineering colleges currently go to foreign nationals — many of whom are not eligible for U.S. security clearances.

“America’s failure to produce enough qualified aerospace professionals will jeopardize the ability of the United States to be the world’s leader in innovation, eventually endangering the nation’s security,” according to the AIA’S Launch into Aerospace report.

Security clearance is part of the hiring challenge, since 58 percent of A&D jobs this year require some type of security clearance.

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Eric Pecinovsky is the Director of Marketing for ClearanceJobs.com, focusing on brand development, web site traffic growth, product development. Build and maintain relationships with all departments who support the product line. Support cross-functional initiatives. Assess the competitive landscape. Development of brand/product strategy.