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Inslee puts Aerospace at Heart of His Jobs Program

Gov. Jay Inslee outlined his plans to bolster aerospace workforce dvelopment at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance's annual conference.

LYNNWOOD — Gov. Jay Inslee wants to add room for 500 more students in aerospace training programs at Washington’s community colleges.

Inslee also told members of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance that he wants to double the number of aerospace training programs for high school students at vocational skills centers statewide.

His goal is to push a strong message to young people, that they can parlay vocational skills into rewarding careers in aerospace manufacturing, the governor said. ”You don’t have to be a four-year graduate to be a success in the state of Washington.”

Inslee said building up Washington’s aerospace industry is at the heart of his economic plan for the state, which he outlined in a speech during the PNAA’s annual awards banquet.

“The most-important thing I can do as governor, to help your business, is to provide a skilled workforce to you,” Inslee said. “I intend to do it.”

Among the specific proposals he outlined were:

  • A series of “return-to-industry” grants that would pay for workforce training educators to spend time on shop floors to ensure what they’re teaching is in line with current industry needs;
  • Increased funding for science, technology, engineering and math education;
  • Business tax reforms to encourage the growth of executive jet completion centers in the state, plus tax credits for carbon-fiber manufacturing;
  • Testing programs to allow vocational skills graduates to earn industry certificates;
  • Creating a national center for biofuels research that would link western Washington’s aerospace industry with eastern Washington’s agricultural researchers;
  • Encouraging the production of unmaned aerial vehicles in Washington, in part by working with the federal government to make the Pentagon’s Yakima Firing Range a Federal Aviation Administration test center for the UAVs;
  • Improving the state’s transportation network so that aerospace companies can move their people and products around easier; and
  • “An all-in push around the world” to help market Washington as a place where aerospace companies can flourish.

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Washington won’t sit back and wait for Boeing or some other aerospace company to announce it’s looking for a new location, Inslee vowed, and he specifically targeted Boeing’s proposed 777-X jet family, saying his goal is to ensure the plane’s final assembly is done here, as well as fabrication of “as many of the components as possible.”

“We want to be proactive, not reactive,” he said. “This means early engagement between Boeing, suppliers, labor and government.”

The state will also encourage Airbus and other aircraft manufacturers to do more business with Washington companies, Inslee said. “In this room, 40 percent of you do business with Airbus, and we think that’s great.”

But amid all of this, workforce training will be key, Inslee said.

“The single-biggest competitive advantage we have is our highly skilled workforce,” the governor said.

“But like it or not, our workforce is about to have a dramatic change,” as Baby Boomers move into retirement, he continued.

To meet that challenge, Inslee vowed to “build a robust pipeline of aerospace workers,” and he promised to work closely with the industry.

“No one knows better the skills sets you need,” he said.

To learn more about District 751, read the Machinists News.

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