Aerospace workers
2:03 pm
Mon October 24, 2011

Boeing employs 80,000; many more workers needed soon

The same day Boeing announced it is employing more than 80,000 workers in Washington for the first time in nearly a dozen years, Sen. Maria Cantwell said the state needs 21,000 more educated and trained workers to fill jobs in the aviation industry in the next decade.

The News Tribune reports Boeing has added more than 7,000 employees to its Washington workforce since last December as it upped production of the 737 in Renton and pushed the 787 and 747-8 to delivery at the widebody factory in Everett.

The company reports it had 80,666 workers in the state at the end of September. That's the most since December 1999 when it had 80,900. The company’s all-time high employment in the state was 104,000 in June 1998.

More aerospace workers needed

However, many of Boeing’s workers will be retiring and the world’s demand for airplanes will continue to climb, official said at a hearing of the Aviation Operations Subcommittee chaired by Cantwell at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Jim Bearden of the International Association of Machinists District Lodge 751 said in a press release Monday that nearly one-third of the union’s 30,000 members in the state are projected to retire in the next five-to-seven years.

Falling behind?

Add to that Boeing’s projection that 33,000 commercial aircraft will be demanded over the next 20 years, and you have a competitiveness challenge.

“If we cannot provide airplanes in the timeframes required by our customers, it is likely they will look to other manufacturers to satisfy their fleet needs,” said Michael Greenwood, Senior Manager for Boeing Commercial Aircraft Manufacturing and Quality. “So, as the business grows, we must also increase our capacity by growing our workforce to create the products our customers demand.”

On October 14th, Senators Cantwell and Patty Murray (D-WA) formally announced a $20 million investment that provides the capacity to train more than 2,600 workers with the skills needed by Washington state aerospace employers.

Kids don’t get it, yet

Cyndi Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Business Training Center with Edmonds Community College, testified today about the need to interest more youth in pursuing careers in aerospace.

“Although the aerospace manufacturing industry has many career opportunities and ladders, today’s youth appear to be unaware of and/or disinterested in pursuing aerospace careers,” Schaeffer stated in her written testimony. “There needs to be increased recruitment of middle school, high school, and young adults to the industry.”

‘Perfect storm’

Washington state’s aerospace industry accounts for 84,000 jobs, Cantwell’s office reported. That represents more than one-sixth of all aerospace workers in the nation. But more skilled workers are needed in Washington and nationwide, due to a “perfect storm” of increased demand, impending retirements and new technology.

Some 21,000 new workers are needed over the next decade in the state, according to a report by the Washington Council on Aerospace. Nationwide, the broader aerospace industry plans on hiring 32,000 workers this year, according to the 2011 Aviation Week Workforce Study.