September 11, 2014 / 11:43 PM / 5 years ago

Aerospace industry decries lack of graduates, diversity

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There is an urgent need to attract home-grown and more diverse engineering talent to the U.S. aerospace and defense industry, the head of the sector’s main trade association said on Thursday.

Marion Blakey, president and CEO of Aerospace Industries Association, gestures during the last day of the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington, September 11, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY TRANSPORT BUSINESS)

“We do not have a robust pipeline of young people with the right skills and training coming into the workforce,” said Aerospace Industries Association Chief Executive Officer Marion Blakey.

The science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines “are still really less than what we need in terms of young people, both in junior high and high school as well as in college,” Blakey told the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit.

Blakey said the shortage of young recruits resulted from a combination of factors, including the industry doing a poor job of portraying the field in a positive light to young candidates coming out of college.

The association has warned of a rush of impending retirements coupled with a shortage of trained technical graduates. While many industries can outsource engineering work or recruit foreign graduates, most design work on U.S. military systems must be done by U.S. citizens.

Architectural and engineering services added over 3,000 jobs in August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks job growth.

The industry could also do a better job of hiring and retaining women and minorities, Blakey said at the summit, held at the Reuters Washington bureau.

“We’re very concerned about diversity in the industry. We do not have both enough women (and) people of color coming in. And when we do, we tend to lose them at a greater rate,” she said.

“But we’re trying to address those things with specific programs,” she added without elaboration.

Blakey’s comments came days after U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told the summit that he planned to take action to boost the numbers of women serving in the Navy and Marine Corps, which currently stand at 18 percent and 8 percent respectively.

Reporting by Victoria M. Walker; Editing by Ros Krasny and Lisa Shumaker

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