By Jennifer Ferrero, APR

AFA logoThe Lynnwood Convention Center was the site for the annual Governor’s Aerospace Summit for AFA this year. Governor Jay Inslee was in attendance and gave a moving talk about the need for short term certifications, and educational alternatives that will drive more people to aerospace careers. He said that there are currently 253,000 jobs in Washington’s aerospace sector – a $76 billion sector of our economy. Aerospace also makes up almost half of our state’s exports at 49%. The Governor is committed to growth in the aerospace sector and is working on initiatives to continue the trend.

Aerospace in Washington: How Competitive Are We?

Tom Captain, retired VP of Deloitte LLP Aerospace and Defense provided a report – here are the highlights: 

  • Aerospace incumbency has created deep roots in WA for civic, cultural and educational support
  • Because of this, there is an entitlement attitude in WA
  • There are many other competitors
  • Lower wages, lower cost of living, less congestion – there are other places to go, and WA cannot take our aerospace business for granted
  • Aerospace is 15% of GDP in WA
  • Why is site location a challenge for companies in WA?
    • Incumbency does have advantages, there is a high cost to move business and we have the infrastructure
    • Our cost of labor is higher here; our cost of housing is too high (Seattle area)
    • Education infrastructure is in place in the area
    • The overall tax burden in WA is about in the middle as compared to other states
  • Government and business support, politics and strategy are good in this area
  • Tom Captain, deloitte

    Tom Captain, Retired Vice Chairman, Deloitte

    Global competitors

    • France
    • England
    • China – 600k direct workers in china for aerospace and defense
    • Canada – 80k people employed in aerospace
    • Germany
    • Poland
    • Czech Republic
    • Brazil
  • US Competition
    • WA is #2 employer of direct aerospace jobs – 2nd to California (Due to Boeing and supply chain)
    • CA, WA, TX, FL, AZ, CT, KS with 50% of total aerospace and defense employment
    • Wages – WA is in the middle of wage costs in the top 7 states
    • WA exports 50 billion; WA accounts for 35% of exports
    • Travel demand is increasing at 5.3% – 3 billion enplanements annually – everyone wants to travel cheaper
    • Ability to fly – passenger flights are 47% cheaper since 1990 – but yet there needs to be an infrastructure to support aerospace

Other highlights of the Summit

Panel: Aerospace through the eyes of the news media 

AFA Summit, media panel, Sept. 2017 (left-right; Emory Thomas, Puget Sound Business Journal; Andrew McIntosh, PSBJ; Jon Ostrower, CNN; Glenn Farley, King 5 News; Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times)

-Moderator, Emory Thomas, Publisher, Puget Sound Business Journal

Dominic Gates, Aerospace for Seattle Times – Seattle’s daily paper, writes for a general audience, but also writes to specialists as well.

  • “There is a gray of doubt where Boeing will build it’s next airplane, for the first time, there’s doubt.”
  • “Boeing is approaching an unfortunate milestone…cutting jobs in this state.”
  • “Boeing is going to move any work that it can, if its cheaper.”
  • “The blue collar machinist jobs are the American dream in Washington state. Where else can you get working class guys earning middle class salaries like that? With Amazon, the types of jobs they are creating are not like that…Boeing has the blue collar, white collar and executive jobs…we need that here. It’s a troubling time, lots of stories ahead.”
  • “It puts us, in Washington state, in a position where absolutely nothing can be take for granted in the next airplane.”

John Ostrower, Aviation for CNN – formerly of the Wall Street Journal; He said, “My audience is the world, there’s a tremendous range of how aviation touches our lives.”

  • “Boeing has taken a calculated bet on its political approach with regard to trade policy, praise of the President’s approach to manufacturing development…there has been controversy with Boeing and Lockheed Martin staying on the trade council, where companies like United Technologies didn’t. Heading to the next 10-years, what will happen with supply chain dynamics?”
  • “There is enormous cost pressure…there are Boeing suppliers seeing this first-hand.”
  • “There is a re-shaping going on underneath Boeing.”
  • “There is a supply base that will survive and thrive in aftermarket.”
  • “In terms of the economy, how will all of these fit together in an interplay here?”

Andrew Macintosh, Puget Sound Business Journal; He said, “We have a unique organization, local and global, part of the chain of 45 newspapers across US. Readers are business owners, CEOs leaders, business executives.”

  • “I am interested in tax incentives, whose purpose was to grow employment, but didn’t.”
  • “What I am hearing from suppliers is that they want to hear more about the government decision on the hundreds of airplanes that Boeing has sold to Iran. That could create a lot of economic activity in the coming years.”
  • “I’ve been covering the Mitsubishi regional jet and why the engine failed.”

Glenn Farley, Aviation reporter for KING TV; He said, “We have a general audience, and an online audience; a big part of our audience are in the (aerospace) business – Boeing, suppliers, Alaska, etc… we need to address this group.”

  • “It’s not the business that it was…It was such a small business in the 60, 70s, even 80s, and the kind of roller coaster of employment that we saw, is over. Yes, the employment has come down by 20,000, but its basically drifted down over time.”
  • “After market services are growing.”
  • “If you look at Boeing and Airbus’ market demand, they are very similar.”
  • “When you look at how many planes are out there now, and what we will see over the next 10-20 years, market services are growing. The political and educational structure here seems to recognize that trying to tamp as many people into (local) companies, sometimes I think we get overly hung up on manufacturing just at the Boeing company and are not inclusive on the wide pallet of the industry, and locations.”

The Workforce of Tomorrow: Training for Innovation

Perspectives from the workforce development panel

Workforce panel (left-right; Dr. Bragg, UW; Mary Rezac, WSU; Larry Clupf, WATR; Lynn Strickland, AJAC; John Bonner, Everett Comm. College

Workforce panel (left-right; Dr. Bragg, UW; Mary Rezac, WSU; Larry Clupf, WATR; Lynn Strickland, AJAC; John Bonner, Everett Comm. College

-Moderator, Dr. Michael B. Bragg, Dean, UW Frank & Julie Jungers College of Engineering

Lynn Strickland, AJAC, CEO

  • “Training to the right technology and maintaining and understanding of the skills gap, is a challenge.”
  • “Some employers say, “I just need someone with a heart beat to show up and work.’ The illiterate of the 21 century will not be those who can’t read or write, but those that can’t learn, change, and re-learn. Collaboration is an essential skill that employers are looking for.”
  • “Part of our focus is to train across industries, so as industries ebb and flow, students can go into other industries.”

John Bonner, VP of Corporate and Continuing Education, Everett Community College 

  • “There’s a projected shortage of 680,000 AMT mechanics over the next 20 years. The capacity, the need to train students in those fields, is almost insurmountable. Building the capacity in things like Mechatronics, is also what we are focused on.”
  • “We’ve had full programs – our new mechatronics program is full – but we still have an interest gap. It’s about the partnerships to steer kids into STEM, and toward these degrees. Wherever they are in that period of their life, it’s not wasting credits and time.”
  • Through partnerships with the Boeing Company…and a number of university partnerships, the students are doing design, build, fly of composite drones. Through this, they are learning to think critically, work on teams; to learn constantly while collaborating. This is critical in the future as technology evolves.”

Larry Cluphf, Executive Director, WATR Center 

  • When asked if the WATR Center is at capacity, “No, the classes aren’t full. Everyone still says ‘I want my kid to get a 4-year degree’ yet, there are plenty of educational courses, and jobs that provide and require, a shorter-term education.”
  • “We are fortunate at WATR that our advisory board is from the industry. They can work with us to solve issues. They also validate our curriculum. The introduction of composites brings opportunity and challenges. One thing we are doing is going from metal to composites – its look at NDI (non-destructive testing) and those technical skills.
  • Regarding graduates, “58% are placed at Boeing, 42% are placed with other suppliers.”

Mary Rezac, Dean, WSU College of Engineering 

  • “The WSU engineering program depends on really strong partnerships with our state’s community colleges. A close, integrated relationship with the (local) colleges makes it work. The students of today are demanding that they have the ability to impact real problems – they want to solve things. This is done in collaboration with industry partners.”
  • “At WSU, we continue to have more demand than the capacity that we can meet.” (Regarding engineering programs)

Award Given to Ray Conner – Titan of Industry

This was a first time award dispersed by AFA, “In recognition of extraordinary leadership, business practices, and community impact. For leading the way in aerospace manufacturing, R&D, technological advances, and education in the State of Washington, and across the globe.”

Ray Conner, vice chairman of The Boeing Company, winner of AFA’s Titan of Industry award in 2017.