Strengthening Washington's dominance over aerospace

By:  Matthew Chibe, KEPRTV.com

Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) 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’s 650 aerospace employers.

Cantwell and Murray joined Air Washington at South Seattle Community College in West Seattle to unveil details of the new training programs supported by the investment, which the Senators supported. While touring a mobile training unit at South Seattle Community College in West Seattle, the Senators highlighted how this critical investment will help close a skills gap in the state’s aviation workforce and keep Washington state at the forefront of the 21st century commercial aviation industry.

"These job training programs are skilling Washingtonians to meet the needs of our state’s hundreds of aerospace businesses," said Senator Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee. "I was proud to back this investment, which will help close the aviation skills gap and put Washingtonians back to work. This critical investment will help keep Washington state at the forefront of the 21st century commercial aviation industry."

"This investment is fantastic news for workers and aerospace companies in Seattle and across Washington state," said Senator Murray. "Washington state has the best aerospace workers in the world, and this investment is going to give local organizations the resources they need to help make sure we stay at the front of the pack. We have companies in Washington state that want to hire, and we have workers that want to work—and we need to keep fighting to close the skills gap that too often keeps jobs from being filled."

Air Washington is a consortium of 14 community and technical colleges and several aerospace training organizations across Washington. The consortium was created to address and meet the needs of the state’s growing aerospace workforce in advanced manufacturing/machining, aircraft assembly, aircraft maintenance, composites, and electronics. Air Washington seeks to recruit and train more women, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and other underrepresented groups for aerospace jobs.

In 20 years, the global aerospace industry will be worth an estimated $3.6 trillion and Boeing has estimated that the world will need an average of 32,500 mechanics a year until 2030. The aviation industry in Washington state currently employs 270,000 people and represents 7.7 percent of all state employees along with 7.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product. As a percentage of its total workforce, Washington ranks second after Nevada in aviation-related jobs in the lower 48.

Cantwell has long fought to make Washington state a 21st century hub for the commercial aviation industry. In February 2011, Cantwell played a key role in shepherding the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill through the Senate, which invests in 21st century technology for air travel, creating high-tech aviation jobs and improving efficiency for travel and trade. The FAA reauthorization bill would convert the nation’s air traffic control system from the outdated, less efficient ground-based system to a more efficient satellite-based system. The GPS system, called NextGen, will allow aircraft to move more precisely into and out of airports, improving air safety and reducing flight delays that cost the nation’s economy billions of dollars each year.

In 2003, the Senate passed Cantwell’s amendment to the ‘Vision 100’ FAA reauthorization bill creating the FAA’s first advanced aviation materials research center. She successfully fought to have the new center based at the University of Washington. The Center for Excellence for Advanced Materials for Transportation Aviation Structures (AMTAS) leads the industry’s research of advanced aviation materials, such as composites and aluminum alloys, for use in future aircraft. AMTAS has changed the game for Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner. The Center’s students and scientists conducted research that proved to the FAA that pioneering composite materials in aircrafts could work. Boeing incorporated ATMAS’ findings into many of the new 787s’ systems.

In 2001, Cantwell also helped land initial funding to help grow a training program in advanced aviation materials started in the late 90s at Edmonds Community College. Since then, several other training programs at the state level have spun off from these initial programs and are currently helping to produce the skilled aviation workforce of the future.