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New programs help boost available aerospace workers

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By Michelle Dunlop
Herald Writer
Gov. Chris Gregoire sent a message Thursday to the Boeing Co. and the Legislature: The state is serious about doing its part to keep the company and the aerospace industry here.
"We have the best aerospace workforce right here in Washington, but we can't take anything for granted," Gregoire said during a Senate committee meeting.
The meeting took place the day after Boeing's Machinists ratified a contract extension that guarantees the jet maker will build its 737 MAX aircraft in Renton. Gregoire called the Machinists' vote "incredibly good news" that will mean 20,000 jobs and $500 million in tax revenue to Washington state.
Before striking a deal with its Machinists, Boeing had said it was unsure where it would build the re-engined 737 jet. That prompted the state to start looking at ways it could be more competitive in order to keep Boeing work in Washington.
A competitiveness study, conducted by consulting group Accenture, called for Washington to step up its game on workforce training and education in order to provide Boeing and other aerospace companies with a steady supply of qualified workers. Boeing not only is speeding up jet production rates but it also is experiencing a wave of retirements by older, more skilled workers.
Gregoire has unveiled a $10 million plan to add capacity for engineering students at University of Washington and Washington State University. The plan also would create an aerospace research center and would increase aerospace lesson plan support to high schools.
To help that effort, the Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center in Everett announced Thursday that it will begin a new program aimed at attracting high school students for careers in aerospace. The center will coordinate with skill centers across the state. High school students will be able to take a nine-credit aerospace certificate program online. The content of the program will be developed using Boeing and aerospace supplier subject matter experts.
"This program ... gives high school seniors interested in aerospace a jumpstart to their career," Gregoire said.
Although the governor, Boeing workers and the community are pleased with Boeing's decision to build the 737 MAX in the state, Gregoire said that Washington still needs to be concerned about its aerospace future.
"In the near future, we expect Boeing to take on its next challenge -- either to redesign the 777, or build a whole new jet family to replace the 777," she said. "Whatever Boeing decides, we want them to keep the 777 -- and any other future aircraft manufacturing -- right here in Washington."
Story tags » 737Governor



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