Cantwell at Pearson Air Museum

Education key to work force

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Apprenticeship programs could help attract the state’s next generation of aerospace employees.

Establishing pathways between the school system and the aviation industry is another possibility.

And sparking an interest in aerospace careers among even younger students, through enrichment programs and career-exploration activities, wouldn’t hurt either.

Those were among some of the talking points Tuesday morning when U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., hosted a roundtable discussion at Pearson Air Museum in Vancouver.

Cantwell met with representatives of regional aerospace employers and science educators on strategies to maintain U.S. competitiveness in aerospace manufacturing.

The aerospace industry in Washington employs 83,700 people, representing more than one-sixth of all aerospace workers in the nation. However, a big share of them soon will be — or already are — eligible to retire.

Cantwell was joined by Mary Margaret Evans, with Insitu, an unmanned aerial vehicle company and Boeing subsidiary based in the Columbia Gorge; Laura Hopkins, with the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee; Laureano Mier, manager of the Pearson Air Museum; and Anne Kennedy, with Educational Service District 112.

Following the roundtable, a teenager who has taken part in Pearson Air Museum’s summer programs guided Cantwell in a demonstration of a flight simulator.

There are 18 employers in Southwest Washington involved in the aerospace supply chain, including Insitu – a Bingen-based Boeing subsidiary.