An airplane landing at Lindbergh Field. Photo courtesy of Sydney Tran

Education policies in the region need to be updated to ensure there are qualified employees for the area’s nearly 830 aerospace companies, according to a report released Monday by the San Diego Workforce Partnership.

A survey of aerospace firms found large gaps between the demand for labor in some specialized areas and the supply of suitable workers, according to the partnership.

For example, area businesses have a need for around 100 industrial engineers, but only 11 are available. The partnership’s report found that the University of San Diego offered the only industrial engineering program in the county.

Large gaps between demand and supply were also found for materials engineers. There was, however, an overabundance of mechanical and electronics/electrical engineers.

“Even with an adequate supply of engineering graduates in many disciplines, almost 70 percent of aerospace companies reported experiencing some or significant challenges recruiting qualified individuals for engineering positions,” according to the report. “This could be due to aerospace companies competing with other industries to hire these graduates, or to insufficiently trained graduates who lack the desired skills.”

The aerospace industry also suffered from shortages of machinists and assemblers.

The report found that cost estimators and mechanical drafters were in over-abundance.

According to the partnership, educational and training institutions in the region are capable of producing the highly skilled labor needed by the area’s aerospace industry, but have to increase the talent base in science, technology, engineering and math in order for the sector to remain globally competitive.

The partnership noted that the average annual salary in aerospace is nearly $82,000, well above San Diego’s median of $59,000 or so.

Government spending on aerospace has climbed 38 percent over the past five years, with San Diego’s share $1.77 billion in 2013, the report said.

Besides the survey, the information came data from executive interviews, employment statistics and more than 10,000 online job postings, according to the partnership.

— City News Service

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