Defense Industry Must Learn to Woo Millennials.

AuthorShattuck, Jeremy A.

"Millennials are killing the [fill in the blank]." Changing attitudes by this younger generation are transforming society. But what about the defense industry?

The stakes are much higher than disappearing phone booths, DVD rental stores, newspapers, golf courses or other businesses they are blamed for destroying.

At stake are hundreds of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs, thousands of nuclear warheads and the national security of democratic nations.

Bottom line: the millennial-led defense industry will establish new heights of capability and superiority for the armed forces. But they may not initially "swipe right" when it comes to national security jobs. The integration of millennials into the defense industry workforce and positions of leadership is predicated on an evolution of all parties.

Regardless whether it's requited at first, the defense industry wants millennials, because it needs millennials. If for no other reason than the growing job vacancies, which are the result of two forces: the "silver tsunami" and steep defense sector growth.

The Defense Department was obviously not hiring much during the "peace dividend" in the late 20th century. The federal defense workforce civilian ranks decreased by over 20 percent.

Likewise in the private sector, cuts to large defense programs kept the boomers away, and as a result, the average age for defense workers is older compared to the median age of other American workers. Meaning the upper ranks of defense industry are closing in on retirement over the next decade.

Separately, as the defense industry rebounded and grew quickly after the millennium and continues to grow in an increasingly unstable world, new jobs are being created that need to be filled.

The defense industry needs to improve in many aspects if it wants to fill these vacancies. First, a revamp of talent capturing methods is required. This includes hastened background and security clearances, more competitive salaries, and increased presence in urban and ex-urban areas preferred by millennials.

Background checks can typically take months, leaving potential candidates out to dry while other offers come knocking.

Competitive salaries are also an issue. Millennials are the highest indebted generation coming out of college. A lack of competitive salary will drive them away into other industries to pay off those school loans--and the sooner the better for them.

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