EVERETT –- Boeing has been on a hiring spree for several years to meet the demand for new aircraft from world airlines.
But the company is worried about the future. In another decade, its hiring managers believe it may be very difficult to find enough employees with the science and math skills needed to design and build planes.
Enter Katie Davis’s 5th grade class from Discovery Elementary in the Mukilteo School District. At 10 and 11 years old, Davis's students are said to be the youngest kids ever allowed into Boeing's Everett plant -- the world’s biggest building -- to watch from the galleries as 747s, 777s and 787 Dreamliners are put together.
In another 12 years, many of these kids will be graduating from college and looking for jobs. And Boeing wants to make sure they are qualified to work for the aerospace giant.
“We’re talking about walking into this building and saying, 'Wow, this is amazing!'” said Ross Wilson Jr., a 27-year Boeing veteran who’s now leading a special project to expose younger people to the potential of a career in aerospace.
Boeing has conducted outreach to high school and college students for decades. The company operates a big college intern program aimed primarily at recruiting engineers. But the country as a whole has a problem generating enough workers who do well in math and science. And just about everything at Boeing involves math and science, from tracking the millions of parts that go into each plane, to coming up with complex calculations to design efficient new jets, to creating biofuels to power them.
"If we can plant that in them today -- to do their math, to do their science -- by the time they come out of high school they’ll be so much more ahead in their opportunities to come here and work for Boeing,” said Wilson.
“Some of these kids have never been on an airplane before," said teacher Katie Davis. "Just seeing the planes up close, for some of these kids is going to be life changing.”
Davis said Discovery Elementary is a school where many kids come from low-income families. Just like kids who go to a Mariners game and want to become professional ball players, she said kids who visit Boeing's plant may get the inspiration to aim for a job there.
Other fifth grade classes from Discovery Elementary will tour the world’s largest factory as part of a pilot program that could end up expanding to other schools.