Utah's educational system needs to train more skilled workers if it hopes to benefit from the expansion of the world aerospace industry, says the new state director of aerospace development.
Val A. Finlayson said the number of people employed in Utah's aerospace industry can double in the next five years if Utah's educational system is prepared to pare other offerings and focus on vocational training for aerospace workers. Finlayson spoke to the Davis County Private Industry Council at the Davis Area Vocational Center recently."We now turn out 30 machinists a year in the state. We need 3,000 in the next five years," Finlayson said. "We produce cosmetologists and not machinists."
Finlayson was loaned by Utah Power & Light Co. to the state four months ago to help boost the aerospace industry. Since that time he has helped form a task force of 12 Utah aerospace CEOs, which commissioned a strategic plan and is conducting a survey to find out projected employment in five years.
A draft of the survey shows that during the next five years almost 9,000 jobs could be created in fabrication, drafting, machining and computer-controlled equipment operations. That will equal almost half of the 20,000 jobs that companies expect to create in the next five years.
The largest number of jobs will require vocational training rather than technical skills now taught at state colleges and universities. The state is already producing enough quality engineers, Finlayson said. Aerospace employers now need trained equipment and computer operators.
"We are going to be giving this assignment to the educational community. It is going to take a change and a real focus," Finlayson said.
He said both public schools and higher education have for too long allowed the wishes of students dictate what programs they offer. He faulted the educational system for closing down many machine shops in high schools and colleges during recent years just as they are becoming more important.
"I have gotten the feeling that we have gone too far in freedom of programs. We have got to raise our sights higher than that," he said. "Money in the present system is misdirected."
He said that besides its focus on developing the aerospace industry the state will concentrate on three other areas - electronic information, biomedical and natural resource industries.
"We won't put all of our eggs in the aerospace basket," Finlayson said.
He said that state hopes to foster more science and math learning in schools. A video presentation will be ready for use next fall to help spawn students' interest in aerospace careers.
Finlayson said the greatest challenge will be to give students basic skills in school that they can use on the job.
"They need to come out of the education system ready to go to work," he said, noting that high-tech industries want workers that understand math, have computer skills, understand production management and have machine operation skills.