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Attrition rate

July 26, 2010

I really like the Editor's Desk blog over at Aviation Week and this op-ed is no exception. The author, Tony Velocci, poses this scenario:
The next time you are in the company of a young engineer who has been working in the aerospace industry for a relatively short period, ask them if what they are doing in their job even comes close to what they envisioned when they were still in school. While you're at it, ask them how long they expect to remain with their current employer.
  
Don't be surprised if they tell you their job falls short of expected and that they are looking around. This disconnect is a problem for aerospace companies, because it gets at the heart of why the industry generally has a poor history of attracting and retaining top talent.
Apparently turnover is increasing for young professionals with the full workforce study showing up in next month's magazine. As his editorial states, the young professionals who they contacted for their article were not surprised by the overall survey reports. I was only surprised by this tidbit:
When they entered the aerospace workforce nearly 60 percent thought they would promoted within 18 months.
I guess I didn't realize people were still that naive. I remember reading an article quite a few years back about what high school students expected they'd earn in their then top choice careers. And they numbers were way up there. Gender played a role as women had more toned down expectations (commenters on the internet argued this was because women were wiser about the real world, not that they understood they had less earning potential than the boys). The minimum experience around here to even think about getting promoted is generally two years, but I've seen that stretched out. Granted some people will do well and get promoted very soon. But many more will be waiting for a better title, for recognition of work done, and for the opportunity to work on meaningful projects where they are learning more.
 
Right now I don't think anyone cares. There are enough out of work engineers and enough senior citizens delaying retirement that it's no big deal. But give it another ten years and companies are going to be hurting for mid-level people. Around here at MegaCorp we already are. You get the fresh out of college faces and the leads with 15+ years of experience. There's not a whole lot in the middle, the kind of people who are generally your workhorses.
 
I can't speak to exactly what I envisioned in school. I went back to school with my eyes wide open. I had a pretty good idea engineers didn't sit at their desks running equations all day or building new mousetraps in a lab somewhere. It's a lot of paperwork and drudgery. You don't get to go back to everything you learned in school, only some of it. There's a lot of red tape and a lot of oversight. And all those junior and senior level engineers who think they finally make "enough" money are fighting even harder for the few interesting projects. So maybe in school they're imagining recalibrating the warp drive and reversing the polarity. But in practice it's a lot of climbing through jefferies tubes.
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