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October 3, 2019

SAN DIEGO, CA — The San Diego Workforce Partnership recently published a workforce study funded by Propel San Diego, an Office of Economic Adjustment grant awarded to the City of San Diego. The Workforce Partnership, in conjunction with the South County Economic Development Council (SCEDC), conducted survey-based research to better understand the needs in two segments of San Diego’s defense industry: Unmanned Systems and Professional — Scientific & Technical Services.

These two subsectors are significant to San Diego’s defense economy. The Professional — Scientific & Technical Services sector is the second largest recipient of defense contract dollars (after manufacturing), accounting for 18% of San Diego County defense contract outlays in 2017.

As for the unmanned systems industry, in 2017 San Diego received the highest concentration of DOD funding for unmanned systems technology of any location in the country. Two of the DOD’s largest unmanned suppliers are located in this region, General Atomics and Northrup Grumman.

The Workforce Partnership/SCEDC study involved two separate surveys. The unmanned systems survey gathered feedback from 20 local firms that specialize in ground, water or air unmanned vehicles. Most of these companies require their employees to obtain a security clearance and most prefer their employees to have some form of aviation/aerospace experience, including a FAA Part 107 certification.

Being that many companies identified knowledge of military language or DOD clearance as an issue to hiring, there appears to be a homegrown opportunity in San Diego with the amount of military personnel stationed in the region. Retraining these individuals to work in the unmanned systems industry could increase the desired labor pool substantially, given that most will already have security clearance, and some will have aviation/aerospace experience.

The professional, scientific & technical services survey gathered 152 responses from defense industry firms, 90 percent of which could be categorized into:

  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting
  • Architectural — engineering and related services
  • Computer systems design and related services
  • Scientific research and development services

Due to the nature of work within these four categories, engineering, computer occupations, scientific technical researchers, and project managers were the highest sought-after skill sets.

A key finding of this study shows that many hiring managers for defense industry firms are not aware of the certificate and credential programs in existence through San Diego’s education systems. When asked what new certification employers wanted, many requested certifications similar to those already in existence.

In the unmanned systems industry, demand for 4-year degrees and higher education seems to be related to firms who are experiencing hiring difficulty. Firms experiencing difficulty during the hiring process generally require a bachelor’s degree for the primary occupations at the firm. In some cases, firms would benefit by carefully considering job postings and eliminate unnecessarily strict educational requirements. The educational institutions in San Diego could assist in this area by offering curriculum in their courses that benefit the unmanned systems industry.

To address these issues, the Workforce Partnership developed an online tool that aims to help employers better understand data about the current information technology and cyber security workforce. Focusing on DoD directive 8570.01, the tool aims to make information technology and cyber security job metrics more accessible to employers and the workforce. It also provides information on training and testing pertaining to DoD approved certifications, helping to streamline the development of the cyber workforce here in San Diego.

If the tool is successful, the Propel team may incorporate further occupational clusters within the defense sector. This tool was launched for user feedback on September 24, 2019 at a Propel San Diego Stakeholder Forum. The input from employers at the Stakeholder Forum will be used to further refine the tool before publishing to the Propel San Diego website. The next chance to interact with this tool will be a the NDIA San Diego Fall Forum held in San Diego on October 8 and 9.

To review the complete study, please visit and select the Propel San Diego: Workforce Needs in Defense.

About Propel
Propel San Diego is an initiative lead by the City of San Diego in partnership with six key organizations in San Diego. This project is funded with Community Economic Adjustment Assistance for Reductions in Defense Industry Employment funds provided by the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment to the City of San Diego.Propel San Diego’s purpose is to develop a more resilient defense eco-system in San Diego. Whether it is connecting business owners to industry peers or finding the right talent or capital to grow your business, Propel San Diego leverages its network of partners to help companies grow in the San Diego region. We will serve as your advocate with local government agencies and facilitate introductions to industry trade associations and other private organizations throughout our region. To read more visit

About the San Diego Workforce Partnership
The San Diego Workforce Partnership is the leader for innovative workforce solutions in San Diego County. A joint power authority (JPA) entity and 501(c)3 nonprofit, the Workforce Partnership funds and delivers programs that enable all job seekers to develop the skills and knowledge needed for in-demand careers. The Workforce Partnership also provides ongoing labor market research on the region’s workforce trends and key industries. Its vision is to ensure that every business in our region has access to a skilled workforce and every job seeker has access to meaningful employment. For more information, visit

About the South County EDC:

The South County Economic Development Council (South County EDC or SCEDC), a non-profit organization was formed in 1989 by a group of South San Diego County business and community leaders, to promote education and encourage economic development in the South San Diego County Region.  Their member cities include Chula Vista, Coronado, Imperial Beach, National City, San Diego, San Diego County, and the Port of San Diego. They also work with partners in the northern portion of Baja California in the cities of Mexicali, Tijuana, Tecate, Rosarito and Ensenada. To read more visit:

Desiree Roughton
(619) 228-2959                                                                                                    

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