Pierce County can strengthen its place in the competitive aerospace supply chain if government, industry and education institutions collaborate to train workers to meet the growing demand around the world.
That was the key message at the second annual Pierce County Aerospace Summit, held Wednesday at Clover Park Technical College. More than 125 people attended, representing aerospace suppliers, manufacturers, industry service providers, policy makers and educators.
"This is not a pep talk. This is a call to action," said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, a co-host of the summit. "I went to the Paris Air Show last month to help recruit new business to Pierce County, and I witnessed first-hand the intense global competition for this business. We must be ready to show companies all over the world that we have what it takes to build the next generation of aircraft."
Bruce Kendall, president and CEO of the Tacoma-Pierce County Economic Development Board, reported that Pierce County's delegation to the Paris Air Show met with 31 companies and notched three solid leads.
"In the past 24 hours, 76,001 airplanes landed in the United States. Clearly, there is potential for enormous business growth in this industry," said Kendall, another co-host of the summit along with the World Trade Center Tacoma.
Michelle Burreson, workforce development manager for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, described the aerospace giant's programs and partnerships to train workers. It's an ongoing challenge, particularly as Boeing works to ramp up production of the 737 and 787.
"Fifty percent of our U.S.-based workforce will be eligible to retire between 2011 and 2016," she told the audience. "We are building strong relationships with educational institutions to create a highly skilled and readily available workforce for years to come."
Alex Pietsch, director of the Washington State Office of Aerospace, outlined the state's 5-year plan to "protect and grow" aerospace jobs. That includes a concerted effort to win assembly of Boeing's 777X as well as recruit global suppliers who work with Airbus, Embraer, Bombardier and other manufacturers.
"It's clear the world perceives Washington State as a global aerospace leader," Pietsch said. "But there is strong competition. If we work together, we can attract companies from around the world to bring jobs here."
The Aerospace Summit featured presentations on worker training by WorkForce Central, the Pierce County Skills Center, the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, Clover Park Technical College, Washington State University, Toray Composites, CIMtech, Pacific Coast Composites and PNJ Machining.