November 25, 2020
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Strategic Marketing and CommunicationsWebsite
Brian Talbot: Entering the aerospace workforce now is different in the COVID environment. It's important to find more avenues to get connected and expand your knowledge beyond the classroom. AIAA has hosted virtual recruiting events for our student members with companies like SpaceX, Ball Aerospace, and Lockheed Martin. We've created an online-based mentor-mentee matching program. We've also created new online educational opportunities that can differentiate candidates with both technical and soft skills. There are many opportunities out there, so look for new ways that you can find connections at the companies whose missions excite you. It's important for graduates to be proactive and take advantage of options available. It's through these channels that you can actively shape your career journey, even during challenging times.
Florida Institute of Technology
College of AeronauticsWebsite
Shem Malmquist: The freight operators are the best choice as they are all expanding and hiring-FedEx, UPS, Atlas, Southern Air, etc. Someone who has just graduated will probably not have the flight experience yet to be hired as a pilot (unless they had considerable experience and returned to finish college). Still, there are many opportunities in non-flight positions. There are also job opportunities for the feeder aircraft for the larger operators.
For those who are in non-flight positions, there are also opportunities. Both FedEx and UPS employ many engineers, for example. Also, there are defense industry job positions that graduates should consider.
Shem Malmquist: Outside of the freight operators, most airlines are cutting back due to a loss of demand. I would expect that to last about 2 or 3 years, but retirements and attrition should start to increase demand again after that time.
Shem Malmquist: Aviation is not significantly restricted to geographical areas. That said, FedEx is in Memphis, UPS is in Louisville, and the defense industry jobs tend to be concentrated on the West Coast, and of course, Florida, although there are specific jobs in other areas. Willingness to relocate is essential for any applicant.
Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Space Physics, Astronomy, & Cyber Intelligence and Security
Laura Polk: This is the million-dollar question. This global pandemic is a continually evolving situation, so my answer to this question was very different today than six months ago. I expect it to be different in another six months. But, my simple answer is, yes. The coronavirus pandemic will have an enduring impact on all of our lives, and no one will come out of this untouched. The good news is that mechanical engineering is still a very in-demand degree program.
Most graduates will find employment after graduation, as long as they are willing to keep their options open. The job outlook will look different for a mechanical engineering student wanting to work at an innovative startup versus a mechanical engineering student wishing to work for a large defense company. While many startups have to make more conservative financial decisions and may not be hiring, some defense companies have increased hiring during the pandemic. For example, Lockheed Martin added 5,000 new job postings over the summer.
My hope for this year's graduates is to graduate with a newfound appreciation for the positive change they can impart on the world. There is a lot in our world that needs to be fixed, and we need intelligence young people with innovative ideas to help improve some of our nation's most pressing obstacles.
Laura Polk: It depends on what area of Mechanical Engineering the student is interested in. Here at Embry-Riddle alone, we offer concentrations in Robotics, Energy, and Propulsion. The job opportunities will depend on what particular area of Mechanical Engineering the student has chosen to specialize in. In general, there are great Mechanical Engineering opportunities all across the United States. But, if the student decided to specialize in Propulsion and wants to work on rockets, I would encourage them to start looking at opportunities in Washington, Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico, and Alabama, since that's where many rocket companies have settled.
University of Florida
Department of Mechanical & Aerospace EngineeringWebsite
Bruce Carroll Ph.D.: The pandemic has a near term impact in terms of how classes are taught and in how companies are recruiting. Internships have become difficult during the pandemic. But so far, most major companies are continuing to actively recruit new aerospace engineers for permanent positions. The format of interviews has shifted to virtual methods. Career fairs are being held in virtual formats, and companies are making recruiting presentations to student organizations and holding open houses again in a virtual format. In some sense, the aerospace industries have been living in a virtual world for many years due to a large number of international projects. Practicing aerospace engineers are very comfortable with working remotely.
The longer-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic is unclear. Universities are preparing for budget cuts due to reductions in state revenues resulting from decreased spending during the pandemic. The federal government is better able to weather this economic storm, and we will simply have to wait and see the impact on federally funded programs related to spacecraft and military aircraft. The airline companies are struggling due to reduced travel demand. But these should be short-term disruptions and will resolve relatively quickly after the impact of the pandemic resolves. The long-term outlook for the current batch of aerospace engineering graduates remains positive.
Bruce Carroll Ph.D.: Aerospace jobs are available all across the US. Some pockets are well known, e.g. the locations of the large aerospace companies. There are also many startup companies in fields related to unmanned vehicles, drones, and personal urban aircraft. Companies in Florida and Georgia have been actively hiring graduates from our programs in recent years, and I think this will continue.
There is a strong demand in these two states related to military aircraft and armaments. This includes the maintenance of existing airframes and the development and production of new platforms. The commercial space industry is coming on strong with a large presence in Florida. There is also strong demand from both spacecraft and aircraft propulsion companies. The overall employment market continues to be strong for our region.
Bruce Carroll Ph.D.: Aerospace engineering is a very dynamic discipline that has always incorporated new and emerging technologies. We see growth related to autonomous systems for aircraft and spacecraft. Control systems are evolving and incorporating concepts from artificial intelligence and machine learning. Manufacturing technologies, in particular additive manufacturing, is having a huge impact on the aerospace industries. Specialized components are easier to produce. Manufacturing in space reduces the need to carry spare parts and makes long-duration space travel a closer reality. The incorporation of composite materials in aircraft and spacecraft systems is continuing to expand.
Active flow control and improved sensor technologies are resulting in various performance improvements, including higher efficiency in propulsion systems and reductions in acoustics signatures. Computational technologies and improvements to experimental techniques are reducing design cycles. Technology related to drones in urban settings for delivery and surveillance is becoming viable. Increased use of low altitude space vehicles is already expanding for communication networks. Over the next five years, aerospace systems will continue to evolve and incorporate the latest technology innovations.