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Aerospace firms look to high schools to prepare future workforce

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Employers in South Carolina’s aerospace industry will rely heavily upon high schools to prepare their future workforce, but they also stressed post-secondary education is desirable for the high-demand jobs, according to a study released Wednesday at the SC Aerospace Conference & Expo.

The Aviation Week study also found that 91% of respondents in South Carolina indicated they would consider hiring an individual with no prior aerospace experience but who completed aerospace-specific manufacturing training through a technical institute, resulting in certification.

Companies participating in the trade journal’s survey indicated steady increases in manufacturing jobs across the board, the report said.

The six most in-demand job categories are engineering technicians, aircraft painters, production technician, machinist, inspector and A&P mechanic. (A&P refers to a mechanic who holds and Airframe and/or Powerplant certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.)

 “As Boeing completes its ramp-up in South Carolina – from zero to 7,500 employees in six years – and is now focused on execution of a highly complex program on a significant ramp-up trajectory, our sample of supplier firms with fewer than 500 employees allows us to glean a more accurate picture of the other firms in the state’s cluster,” said Carole Hedden of Aviation Week. “The survey responses provide insight into the hiring trends for these firms in the coming 18 months.”

An economic impact study by the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness, which also was released during the two-day event at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, shows that the impact of aerospace on state’s economy has grown to $19 billion, an increase of $2 billion since last measured in 2014.

Other highlights of the report by Joey Von Nessen, research economist at the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business:

  • Since 2010, when the state’s economy began recovering from the Great Recession, annual employment growth in the aerospace cluster has averaged 11.8%, which is more than seven times higher than the 1.6% average annual growth rate for the state overall.
  • Average total compensation in South Carolina’s aerospace cluster remains at approximately $70,000 per year, which is 69% higher than the average total compensation in South Carolina ($41,338) and 31% higher than the average total compensation of manufacturing jobs in South Carolina ($53,350).
  • The annual economic impact from the private sector aerospace cluster is nearly $9 billion.
  • For every 10 jobs that are created in the private sector component of the aerospace cluster in South Carolina, an additional 13 jobs are created elsewhere in the state’s economy.

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