Nation & World

Aerospace hiring heats up

Next year the aerospace, defense industry could hire up to 60,000 nationwide

Los Angeles Times/TNS

UCLA student Mia Reyes was recruited by Northrop Grumman for an internship last year, and plans to intern with the company again this upcoming year. Mia is interested in working in the aerospace division.
Los Angeles Times/TNS UCLA student Mia Reyes was recruited by Northrop Grumman for an internship last year, and plans to intern with the company again this upcoming year. Mia is interested in working in the aerospace division.
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This summer, a Coolhaus ice cream truck rolled up to the edge of Northrop Grumman’s Redondo Beach, Calif., Space Park campus. It offered free frosty treats — from Raytheon recruiters.

That’s just one hiring strategy employed by aerospace and defense companies these days. Lockheed Martin and Boeing have Facebook or Twitter accounts tailored specifically for recruiting.

A Northrop Grumman billboard towers over a major El Segundo thoroughfare, promoting careers at the company.

The increased U.S. defense budget, record orders for commercial aircraft and the launch of new, cutting-edge programs have aerospace and defense companies scrambling to hire engineers and other skilled workers.

They’re especially interested in those with experience in software, artificial intelligence and autonomy — pitting them against tech companies for the same pool of workers.

Aerospace and defense companies historically “haven’t had the Googles and Amazons and Yahoos to recruit against,” said Harold Carter, director of engineering and technology at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale.

“Quite frequently now, especially in software-related disciplines ... we’re certainly seeing it’s much more competitive.”

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Next year, the aerospace and defense industry probably hire 58,000 to 60,000 people across the country in a mix of new jobs and to account for attrition and retirements, said Carole Rickard Hedden, editorial director of Aviation Week Executive Intelligence, which produces a yearly report on the industry workforce. About one-third of those hires will be on the West Coast.

That’s up from about 50,000 hires industrywide last year, said Frank Slazer, vice president for space systems and workforce at the Aerospace Industries Association trade group.

Many companies are seeking to staff up after recent program wins, including the stealthy B-21 bomber, NASA’s low-boom supersonic X-plane and hypersonic missile research.

Roy Azevedo, Raytheon’s president of space and airborne systems, expects the hiring boom to continue for years.

“It rivals what we saw in the 1980s,” he said. “The openings are roughly doubled from just about a year ago.”

A Northrop Grumman official has said the company plans to add more than 2,000 jobs by late next year at its top-secret aircraft plant in Palmdale, where the company plans to complete final assembly of the U.S. Air Force’s B-21.

The Pentagon plans to buy 100 of the bombers by the mid-2030s for at least $80 billion.

To attract young talent, aerospace companies are constant presences on college campuses. Last fall, Mia Reyes, 20, met Northrop Grumman recruiters through a resume workshop at a UCLA Society of Women Engineers event and took a tour of one of the company’s local facilities through her involvement with the Society of Latino Engineers and Scientists.

Those meetings led to an internship this past summer at Northrop Grumman, where the third-year aerospace engineering student worked on stress analysis of aircraft structures. She’ll be interning there again next summer.

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Entry-level electrical engineers earn $75,000 to $80,000. With 12 to 15 years of experience, that salary could increase to $146,000 to $150,000, according to Aviation Week data.

Entry-level software engineers in aerospace and defense make about $76,000, according to Aviation Week. The national average for those workers is about $95,000, according to Glassdoor.

Companies are also looking for experience in cybersecurity, electric and rocket power systems, as well as data analytics.

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