It’s a slow August for news, but here are two items we’ll bring to your attention:
Airbus and Mobile: This story discusses how the Airbus plant at Mobile (AL) will add to the aerospace cluster there. The comparison with Seattle, which we make, highlights a real challenge we see for Airbus and the aerospace cluster in Mobile. The supply chain here is struggling under the weight of the high demand for airplanes (not just at Boeing, but all the OEMs), both in terms of product and skilled help. As a member of the Board of Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance, we hear of the manpower shortage all the time and the efforts by the State and others to boost training and education to meet demand.
The shortage of skilled labor, and of engineers, is a major challenge for Boeing, and (like it or not) one reason for outsourcing. But the impact on the supply chain is equally great. The lower Tier suppliers in effect become the training ground for the upper Tier and Boeing. This means there is a continuous skill-churn that these small businesses really can’t afford.
Washington State is not the only place where this problem exists; it’s a national problem. What we hear at PNAA is story after story of foreign students (notably Chinese) coming to this country for engineering education then taking their skills home rather than emigrating here. Nationally, there is a wide imbalance between education and training and demand. The shortage of our education institutions in graduating the skills in STEM and touch labor is large. Even high schools have cut back on vocational training of all kinds.
In this State, budget cuts have severely impacted the community colleges and high-ed schools. The aerospace industry is but one of those hurt by these cuts.