Oct. 1, 2018, © Leeham Co.: The Choose Washington NMA task force said last week it will release this month recommendations for improving aerospace workforce activities in Washington.
It’s about time.
The task force was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to come up with a plan to persuade Boeing to choose Washington as the assembly site for its prospective New Midmarket Airplane, the NMA.
Two studies, one by the Teal Group and the other by Price Waterhouse Cooper, conclude Washington is the best aerospace cluster and location to build the NMA. The conclusions are unsurprising, given the maturity, size and scope of the cluster in Puget Sound (the greater Seattle area). No other place in the country has this level of aerospace activity.
But the reports failed to adequately address the top priority that Boeing has: the need for skilled workers and engineers.
At long last, the NMA council is getting there.
I’ve written several times about the absence of focus on workforce by the NMA task force.
Boeing faces retirement of more than 5,000 engineers and technicians over the next 5-10 years. It faces a like number of retirements from the touch-labor workforce, over the same period.
In neither case is there a clear path to replacing this workers in these quantities.
The looming engineers shortage is one reason Boeing looks to Embraer in proposing a new, joint venture company. EMB has lots of engineers with little to do, now that the E2 program is largely complete. Assigning NMA work to them is an obvious benefit of the JV.
When I attended the I-90 Aerospace Corridor conference in April in Spokane (WA) (the state’s second largest aerospace cluster), three key people at the conference complained to me on the sidelines that the NMA council was missing the boat (to mix the metaphor) by failing to address the workforce need.
At the Leeham Co./Airfinance Journal Southeast Aerospace and Defence Conference in Mobile (AL) in June, the Aerospace Alliance members “got it.” When asked what the top emphasis was for companies seeking to locate in the Southeast, it wasn’t incentives or lower cost of living and doing business. The answer was “workforce, workforce, workforce.”
The NMA task force last week announced that it will announce strategy and policy recommendations this month. (It seems to have taken the lead of Airbus and Boeing, which announce airplane orders two or three times via Letters of Intent, Memorandums of Understanding, Air Show events and finally the firm orders….)
“It’s no surprise Washington has the deepest pool of aerospace talent of any state,” the NMA task force said in a press release. “It reflects the incredible work happening at K-12, apprenticeship, community and technical college, and university levels to equip Washington youth and adults with highly competitive aerospace skills,” said co-lead Chelsea Orvella of SPEEA, the Boeing engineers union. “I’m confident in and impressed by the vision our work group is bringing forward to grow these strengths well into the future.”
The NMA Council’s Workforce Development Work Group will propose “an innovative workforce and education strategy for aerospace and advanced manufacturing.
“Meeting since March, the work group assessed programs contributing to the state’s robust system of aerospace-related workforce development and identified 12 areas of improvement as part of a comprehensive strategy to grow aerospace careers and support the needs of aerospace companies,” the task force’s press release said. “The group is currently using its comprehensive strategy as a platform to develop a set of policy recommendations for consideration by the NMA Council. Strategy and policy recommendations are due to be released in October.”
A preview as it was outlined to me:
A lot is already being done but not coordinated and regional rivalries tend to compete with each other rather than work with each other, said a person familiar with the process. The Work Force task group wants to eliminate these rivalries.
It’s something that some of the states in the Southeast already do. For example, Mississippi’s high schools and colleges have easily transferable credits–which many of Washington’s educational entities do not.
The task group’s recommendations still have to run the gambit of the entire Choose Washington NMA council and its executive board, whose members represent the very rivalries that proved to be roadblocks on previous commissions appointed by governors.