The Boeing Company has announced a $6 million grant program to improve technology education in Washington. The company’s press release says,
The grants are geared toward programs that enhance STEM, workforce training, and educational and career pathway opportunities for students – particularly for underserved students who have not historically pursued these career paths. Included in these grants is $1 million to further support students seeking a STEM education and enhanced learning opportunities at local universities.
Boeing expects a substantial portion of its Washington workforce to retire during the next several years and is working to ensure that students in the state have the education and skills to fill these openings and move with the company into its second century.
The release adds,
“Boeing will be a significant jobs provider in Washington for decades to come. Our hope and goal is that those future jobs will continue to be filled by kids who grow up right here in the state,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner. “We are working hard today to give Washington students opportunities for employment within aerospace, manufacturing and other STEM-related fields when they graduate. Despite the always dynamic aerospace industry, Boeing remains consistent in its investment in our future here in Washington.”
In a phone interview Wednesday, Boeing CEO Ray Conner said the company wants to provide opportunities for tech jobs to a generation that’s growing more racially and ethnically diverse.
About half of Boeing’s technical workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next five to seven years. Boeing has 77,000 workers in Washington state, so it will need to fill tens of thousands of jobs in the coming years.
“We don’t want to go anywhere else to make that happen,” Conner said. “That would be a real failure.
The Puget Sound Business Journal also reports on the grants, adding this:
Boeing is the second most philanthropic corporation in the region after Microsoft Corp., according to the Puget Sound Journal Book of Lists.
Boeing’s charitable donations in 2014 totaled almost $28 million in Washington state and $71 million companywide, including donations to arts organizations, Seattle Goodwill and The Nature Conservancy, according to the most recently available data.
In our foundation report we wrote of the challenge in finding employees with the skills required by employers in the state’s economy.
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) examined the skills gap in Washington state in 2013. BCG found “approximately 25,000 ‘acute’ un lled jobs in Washington as a result of the skills gap. Approximately 80 percent of those openings are in highly skilled STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines…”
It is important to remember that, despite the challenges facing technology employers, the skills mismatch does not exist solely in the tech sector or for those positions requiring advanced degrees.
In 2012, manufacturers told the Association of Washington Business (AWB) that they experience difficulty in recruiting high-level workers (managers and engineers), citing shortfalls in math and critical-thinking skills.
Boeing’s investment in Washington students is a win for today’s students, for the company and for the state economy.