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Gregoire seeks funds to train engineers, aerospace workers

Fri., Dec. 9, 2011

OLYMPIA – Less than a month after asking the Legislature to cut $2 billion from the state’s General Fund budget, Gov. Chris Gregoire is asking it to add about $8 million to train more engineers and aerospace workers.

Gregoire, state college officials and members of the aerospace industry made a pitch for “Project Pegasus,” which began as an effort to convince Boeing to keep production of the new model of the 737 in Washington state. On Wednesday, aerospace workers ratified a contract that assures the new plane will be built on a new line at the Renton factory.

But Boeing is redesigning its 777, and considering a new “jet family,” Gregoire said. “We want whatever it is to be built right here in Washington state.”

That will require more engineers and more skilled workers.

The University of Washington and Washington State University want to add 775 slots for engineers at campuses across the state, something WSU President Elson Floyd called “strategic investments.”

As many as 12 high schools would have programs to give students a head start in the math and science needed for jobs in aerospace.

Michael Mooney of Triumph Composite Systems, Inc., and a member of the Inland Northwest Aerospace Consortium, said legislators should look beyond the colleges, talk to members of the state’s aerospace industry and consider on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs, not just courses on a college campus.

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