10/21/11 — AAR CEO: Training will help fill jobs

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AAR CEO: Training will help fill jobs

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 21, 2011 1:46 PM

The announcement Thursday morning that 100 new employees will be added to the 379 already at AAR's Goldsboro facility was greeted by local leaders as welcomed news not only for the company, but for the community as well.

What isn't welcome is a lack of people with the mid-level skills needed to fill the jobs and 600 AAR job openings company wide, AAR officials said.

To coincide with comments about growth at the Goldsboro plant, AAR Chairman and CEO David P. Storch and Congressman G.K. Butterfield convened a roundtable discussion with local leaders in education, industry and the nonprofit sector on ways to close the skills gaps in America's work force that they said are creating barriers to hiring and job creation nationwide.

They were joined by Mayor Al King and Roger Strickland, work force director for the N.C. Department of Commerce.

Storch unveiled a new study on why the skills gap exists and explained why the private sector must take the lead in ensuring a steady stream of talent.

Mid-skills describe good-paying, highly specialized mechanical, technical or production jobs that may require industry or government certification, but not necessarily a bachelor's degree. Industries such as manufacturing, aerospace, energy, transportation, technology and construction all demand this type of worker.

The new 100 Goldsboro jobs would be filled by people with those mid-level skills, Storch said. AAR is a global supplier of parts and service for military and commercial aircraft.

The company is looking for welders, skilled machinists, for the 100 jobs, he said.

"In terms of Goldsboro for AAR this is a wonderful facility," Storch said. "I am quite encouraged by the progress that we have made here since we have been in Goldsboro. We have been able to tap into the available labor pool and I think that we are quite pleased with the folks who work for us here.

"We have a requirement to bring on quite a few (of the 100 employees) by Jan. 1 and the sooner that we can hire, the better off we will be."

In today's market, a company not only needs to have to have a great idea; it has got to be able to deliver a product to its customers, Storch said.

"Take a look at what we have done here," he said. "We have done a great job in identifying market opportunities and now we need to fill the employee base so that we can execute.

"We have 100 jobs that we can use to fill here in Goldsboro and basically it is a struggle. It is a struggle finding folks even with 9 plus percent unemployment around the country. Finding people who have the skill sets that meet the demand of industry is critical."

Storch said he thinks the roundtable was the start of a dialogue between government and industry to figure out how to close that skills gap.

Wayne Community College and state community college officials were at the event as well and spoke to AAR officials concerning their training packages and requirements.

Cheryle Jackson, AAR government affairs vice president, who moderated the roundtable, had praise for Wayne Community College and Lenoir Community College for developing a 90-day welding certificate program. Reducing the program from two years to 90 days allows workers to learn more on the job while earning a paycheck, she said.

"The jobs that are going to be added at AAR are a big deal not only for AAR, but our community as well," said Mike Haney, Wayne County Development Alliance existing industry specialist.

"It is critical to most industries including AAR that (potential employees) have their Career Readiness Certificates in hand. They are easier to train. They have the skills already in hand and they make better employees. They have the ability to pick up the skill sets faster and quicker."

Butterfield and Storch agreed a private-public partnership is needed.

"Here is my relationship between business and government -- government does not, in my view, create jobs," Storch said. "The government creates the environment that allows companies to create jobs. Private industry really has to create jobs. We export no jobs as a company. We have businesses outside the United States to service local markets because we have to compete in those local markets, but we do not export any jobs to lower cost (areas).

"I believe we have tremendous talent here in the United States we just have to figure out how to tap into it. With 600 jobs open, it is crazy. I open up the same paper you guys do and read the same about all of the unemployment. I am saying, 'My God, why can't we fill these positions?' We try to hire for what you can't teach. I can't teach intellect. I can't teach drive. I can't teach dedication. I can't teach specific skills. Once you have certain skill sets, I can then take you from there."

"David made a statement a few minutes ago that was very profound and very true," Butterfield said. "He said that government does not create jobs. I could not agree with his comments more. What we must do as the federal government is to create the environment so that businesses can thrive.

"The way you do that, and what I hear most from my friends in the corporate world, is that you need certainty. That is one of the biggest things. We need to revisit t the rules and regulations that affect industry and we need to relax those that have really become a burden on you. We have to have rules. We all agree on that, but there are some that somewhat excessive."

The federal government also needs to bring some certainty to the whole tax structure in this country, he said.

"Education is a key component," Butterfield said. "Anyone who knows anything about this business knows that you cannot create jobs without having a good educational system both on the community college level and at the secondary level."

Storch told Butterfield he was "spot on."

Local governments and even state government lack, for the most part, the financial wherewithal to provide the resources for workforce development, Butterfield said.

"We cannot look with any certainty to our state governments to provide vast resources for workforce development and so what is left is the federal government and we, too, are facing this crisis," he said. "The available funding for workforce development is challenged

"We have to remind our politicians, remind policy makers at all levels of government that there is a relationship between education and technical training and job creation.

Over the next decade around 45 percent of net new jobs that will be created in the state will be the middle-skills jobs, Shackleford said.

One approach to workforce development is the sector partnerships, he said.

"The key to the sector approach to workforce development is that it is industry-led," Shackleford said. "When we talk about industry-led, we are talking about industry being very clear about what their training needs are and working very closely with our education training and workforce development system."

There is another element, Storch said.

"I don't expect government to get kids excited about my industry," he said. "That is my job. My job is to make sure that I am reaching out to the communities at a young age getting people excited about the field of aerospace. Now maybe instead of trying to be an NBA basketball player, where there are 10 a year, here is an opportunity to open up their eyes to real possibility."