Aerospace urged to up ante for recruitment

Published: Thursday, June 18, 2009 7:00 am By: D.R. Stewart

The Oklahoman

U.S. and Oklahoma aerospace companies must begin thinking about their work force requirements five to 10 years in the future because the industry no longer has the romance and allure it held 40 years ago, industry leaders said Wednesday.

"By and large, industry is not thinking very far ahead about what skill sets we'll need," said Steve Hendrickson, director of state and local relations for Boeing Co. and chairman of the Governor's Council on Workforce and Economic Development. "It's like walking up to a field that's never been plowed or planted and expecting there to be a crop."

Speaking at the 2009 Oklahoma Aerospace Summit & Expo at Crowne Plaza Hotel, officials said competition is increasing for talented students.

Hendrickson, who grew up in Southern California in the 1960s, said some of his classmates were sons of test pilots and astronauts. It was a heady time in Oklahoma, as well.

"North American's (later Rockwell International) lunar module was built in Tulsa," Hendrickson said. "Critical parts of the (Rockwell) B-1 bomber were built in Oklahoma in the 1980s. In the 1990s and 2000s, what inspirations have you seen for youngsters? Repairs for the Hubble (space telescope) and some crashes."

Hendrickson said the state work force will shrink by 200,000 in the next decade, meaning competition for top graduates will rise in health and energy industries.

"If you're an employer and you're not out there working with those (middle school) kids, you might start giving some serious consideration about the quantity of employees and the skill sets you need."

Aerospace industry employers may get information about employee recruitment and training from the Oklahoma Aerospace Alliance, the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute and the Oklahoma Commerce Department.

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