Aerospace analyst: Thousands of Boeing employees will retire in next 5 years; great jobs opening up for qualified workers.

Respected aerospace analyst Scott Hamilton reports on the coming transformation of the Boeing workforce. 

Boeing faces thousands of retirements in its engineering and touch-labor force ranks over the next five to 10 years, with a limited worker pool for replacements.

A national economy with a low unemployment rate of about 4.1% exacerbates the challenges of finding talent.

The challenges of finding – building – the successor cohort was discussed last July at an aerospace roundtable sponsored by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.  At the time, GeekWire reported,

The state of the aerospace industry in Washington state is still great, but industry leaders say the educational system will have to be beefed up if it’s going to stay that way for the next generation…

To address the issue, Boeing and other employers have been working with state education officials on a Core Plus curriculum that emphasizes the skills students will need for technical jobs.

Alaska Airlines presents an annual Aviation Day at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, in cooperation with Boeing and the Port of Seattle, to whet the interest of students who may “have no clue what aerospace or aviation jobs look like,” Sprague said.

And post-secondary schools such as Renton Technical College to Central Washington University offer programs to prepare the next generation for jobs ranging from piloting airplanes to building and fixing them. There may be room for still more educational programs to be set up, although Sprague acknowledged that “it’s not for the faint of heart to open a flight school.”

Hamilton writes,

There are 3,823 engineers and technicians ages 55-59 and 1,702 ages 60 and up, according to SPEEA, the engineers’ union. These numbers represent 29% and 27% of the total employment of the two professions who are 55 and older…

The IAM 751 district represents the touch-labor skilled workers here in Puget Sound. A large number of 751 members are approaching retirement age, too.

More than 5,000 of the 27,000 union members are ages 55-59 (19%) and more than 3,700 are ages 60 and up (14%). Of the latter, nearly 1,700 are ages 63 and up.

This means nearly 3,800 are eligible for retirement within five years, or through 2023.

We’ve written about the importance of equipping students with the skills and education required to fill these high-value, family-wage jobs. Hamilton points out that aerospace manufacturing is also changing and making more use of automation. That’s inevitable, but in the short term it’s unlikely to reduce the demand for qualified engineers, technicians and machinists. And that means that there are thousands of great opportunities awaiting students in Washington schools.