The Sunshine State has seen strong growth in the aerospace and defense workforce over the past half decade – so much so that Florida’s current share of the national aerospace and defense workforce is 5.3%. In total, 127,100 Florida jobs are supported by aerospace and defense. That includes 42,230 direct employment, as well as 84,870 supply chain employment positions in Florida.
The state saw a five-year employment growth rate (2012-2017) of 15.5%, while the average wage of aerospace and defense employees in Florida stood at $76,502 for 2017. For those with security clearance, the total compensation for workers in Florida was $85,365 – suggesting that the cleared workforce can expect a salary boost as well.
Florida Salaries by clearance level
According to the 2018 ClearanceJobs Compensation Survey results, total compensation for all surveyed security-cleared professionals worldwide is $93,004. As noted above, Florida stood slightly below the national average for total compensation; yet the mean base pay and total compensation increased by about 7%.
For those with Secret clearance, the mean base pay increased by about 10%, while the mean base pay of Top Secret professionals also increased by 10%.
Those with counterintelligence and full-scope polygraphs saw their respective mean base pay increase by 8% each, while the mean base pay of managers increased 9% and mean base pay of executives increased by 10%. For the latter group the median total compensation increased by 21%, and the mean base pay of senior level career professionals increased by 11%.
Central Florida: the world capital of simulation operations
One of the driving factors in Florida for aerospace and defense jobs has been an upward swing in military contracts. These contribute to the local economy in the form of jobs, as well as subcontractor opportunities. This has been especially notable in Central Florida, which has become a major market for defense contracts.
The region typically “snags” about $4 Billion in government contracts each year through the Central Florida Research Park, which is utilized by the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines for its respective simulation operations. As a result, Orlando has become the modeling, simulation, and training capital of the world according to the Orlando Economic Partnership. Currently 145 companies, with approximately 10,000 employees in total, call the 1,027 acre campus-like Central Florida Research Park home.
“Our relationship with the military and what the Research Park provides is almost like a mini-case study,” said Lt. Gen. Thomas L. Baptiste, USAF (ret), President and CEO of the National Center for Simulation.
“We are the one place that can bring the military, industry and academia together; and it has taken more than five decades to create what has become truly the simulation capital of the world,” Baptiste told ClearanceJobs. “This is unique that the four branches of the military work in R&D together instead of being confined within their own ‘stove pipes.'”
The National Center for Simulation is also adjacent to the University of Central Florida, which ensures that those students studying simulation technology can be easily recruited. In addition to working with the four branches of the military, the center also works with nine companies and brings in $5 Billion to the local economy.
Simulation isn’t the only game in town
The research park is also just one factor in job growth in Central Florida, as other firms have also increased hiring this year.
In August, Virginia-based Northrop Grumman Corp. announced new work agreements for its E-2 program, which was seen as great news for Central Florida. The company’s latest contract came from the U.S. Navy on Aug. 7, and was valued at $30 Million. Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems, based in Melbourne, will provide delivery of parts and material for aircraft in support of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft.
Northrop Grumman won more than a dozen E-2D and E2C contracts this year, totally nearly $400 Million. As a result, the company has begun hiring in Central Florida. It has added 226 jobs in Melbourne, four in Orlando, and three in Apopka.
In addition, the company will deliver software sets to include traceability and verification procedures for the United States Department of Defense as part of a three-year contract. That work will also take place in Melbourne, where Northrop Grumman currently employs more than 3,000 people.
South Florida is Seeing Job Growth, too
Pratt & Whitney also announced this summer that it will expand its site in Palm Beach County, and create 215 new jobs in the process. The company, which has called Palm Beach County home for more than 60 years, also noted that since 2012 it has brought more than 300 jobs to the region and now employs more than 1,300 residents of the Sunshine State.
“Pratt & Whitney is committed to expanding operations at our West Palm Beach facility and creating highly-skilled and good-paying jobs,” said David Carter, Senior Vice President of Engineering for Pratt & Whitney in a statement. “We are thankful for the support we receive from the State of Florida and Palm Beach County as we add 215 positions to our employee base of 1,300 and $100 million in capital investment in addition to over $88 million we’ve invested in manufacturing and technology improvements to this site since 2012.”
The aerospace company has been a partner with Enterprise Florida, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, and Palm Beach County’s Business Development Board.
Department of Defense in Florida
The role that the defense sector plays in Florida also can’t be understated.
“Defense contributes close to $80 Billion to the Florida economy and indirectly accounts for 750,000 jobs across the state,” said Lt. Gen. Baptiste.
“From what we’ve seen there is every indication that 2018 will be a very good year and 2019 will be a banner year for defense,” he added. “For the simulation industry more specifically 2018 and 2019 look very good. After the midterms it depends on what the balance of power in the House looks like, but because contracts are already in place next year should be another banner year, but we’ll have to wait and see beyond that.”
If there is a dark cloud to the silver lining, however, it is that the tight job market could remain, and talent could be harder to find.
“The unemployment rate right now means that companies have to compete for talent, so the work force is flowing so that those companies getting contracts are fighting to make the best offers,” said Baptiste. “There are talent challenges, even if the state has a lot of potential applicants.”
Baptiste noted that within 100 miles of the Central Florida Research Park there are 500,000 students, but there are still challenges in finding the right pedigrees right now to fill the openings. The other problem in Florida is that while many people go there after retiring from the workforce, there are many in the defense sector who will soon join those retirees.
“We’re not finding it hard to fill entry level positions in engineering and computer sciences, but the Baby Boomers are leaving those senior level positions,” said Baptiste. “So the question is how we can replace those who are flowing out of the top. That is the continuing challenge we face in Florida.”
This article is one in a series based on the 2018 ClearanceJobs Compensation Survey. This survey was administered online between October 30, 2017 and February 9, 2018. Participants had to have a current, active federal security clearance and be currently employed to be included in the results, which included 20,883 usable responses.