Boeing awards $6 million in grants to boost education, training

EVERETT — The Boeing Co. is spreading $6 million around Washington to boost education and training programs in aerospace-related subjects. The grants to more than 50 organizations are the latest in the company’s ongoing effort to steer local kids into careers in the aerospace industry.

A substantial number of Boeing employees in Washington are expected to retire in the next several years. Company leaders have expressed concerns about current programs’ ability to meet the industry’s coming needs for new white-collar and blue-collar workers.

“Our hope and goal is that those future jobs will continue to be filled by kids who grow up right here in the state,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner said in a news release Wednesday.

In recent years, several institutions in the area have expanded or added programs to train future aerospace workers. Concerns about a graying workforce stretch beyond aerospace. More than 20 percent of people working in the state are 55 or older, according to the state’s Employment Security Department.

The $6 million includes $250,000 for new lab equipment and course material at Washington State University North Puget Sound’s Everett campus. The campus’ new Fabrication Lab will be renamed the Boeing Innovation Studio before it opens next year.

The University of Washington is getting $500,000 to support students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in the aerospace industry. Part of the money will go to the school’s Dream Project, which trains UW students to mentor first- generation and low-income high school students.

Seattle University is getting $250,000 to help keep nontraditional students in its undergraduate engineering and computer science programs.

The rest of the money is being divided among about 50 nonprofit groups and education institutions to improve programs in so-called STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We are working hard today to give Washington students opportunities for employment within aerospace, manufacturing and other STEM-related fields when they graduate,” Conner said. “Despite the always dynamic aerospace industry, Boeing remains consistent in its investment in our future here in Washington.”

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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