Boeing gets ready for stiff competition from overseas

By:  Jeanne Lockhart
Source: KIRO

In concurrent announcements, the Boeing Company and Washington Senator Maria Cantwell announced a major hiring increase, and a partnership to increase competition in the aviation industry.

According to The Boeing Company, it is suffering from a scarcity of skilled labor and will need at least 21,000 new workers to satisfy demand for commercial aircraft.

The announcement came on Friday at the Farnborough International Airshow. Boeing representatives say that the company has committed to building 396 new airplanes valued at around $37 billion. Boeing has also received orders for about 10,000 other 737s.

However, Boeing says it will not be able to meet these commitments unless it can hire new highly skilled workers.

Experts estimate that Boeing alone will need over 21,000 new aerospace workers over the next ten years to replace retiring "baby boomer" workers and to satisfy industry demand.

Part of the problem, according to Boeing, is that available workers are not skilled enough to compete with international manufacturers like Airbus.

In response, Senator Maria Cantwell announced Sunday that she will hold a Senate Aviation Subcommittee hearing on aviation competitiveness on Wednesday July 18. She will address the shortage in skilled aerospace engineers, machinists, and other aviation workers.

"Part of the issues that we're going to be discussing is what can we do at the community college level and the apprentice program levels to get more workers in aerospace," says Cantwell.

Cantwell has stressed the importance of local education so that Seattle workers stay competitive in the global market. She also hopes to get young people more interested in the aerospace industry.

She hopes that, through the subcommittee hearing, she can highlight the importance of growing local talent.

"[We will be] Working with the businesses and the educational institutions to create almost a continuous learning environment where people can upgrade their skills," says Cantwell.

The subcommittee hearing will include representatives from Boeing, as well as the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA).

Machinists, Inc., a major Boeing supplier, will also be working with Cantwell. The company has led the effort in recent months to re-train and educate workers to compete in the global aviation industry.

"We just came from a site where we met up with a bunch of workers who had just come through that process and they were excited to upgrade their skills, and get more pay, and become even more efficient," says Cantwell.

The aerospace and aviation industries are expected to grow by more than $1 trillion over the next 20 years. Experts say this is due to a growing global middle class, as well as commercial and personal travel demands.